Friday, June 23, 2017

Seeing Red

I've just been recycled in a supermarket TV commercial. Three years ago, I had a big red hand. This time it’s a little red car.

Around March I get shortlisted for a role as a Mum in an Easter campaign by the supermarket. Don’t get the gig. Then a month or so later I am one of just a few select actors asked to audition for what seems to be the same ad. I say, ‘No, I don’t have any food allergies’ and promise to eat anything they give me—except mushrooms. Don’t get the gig (the mushrooms?). Then I get a call saying I’ve been shortlisted for another ad (same company) and don’t have to audition. Nice. Then I get a call saying they don’t want to cast me in that ad, they want to cast me in a different ad (same company). No eating, a bit more money. Nice. Then they ask me to audition. That day. So at 3.30 pm I shoo my Year 8s out the door, jump in the car and drive for 75 minutes to a five minute audition where I am told they have asked for me especially. Nice. But still no guarantee.

However, the job is confirmed and it’s good to get one of those rare-to-the-point-of-extinction ‘You’ve been cast!’ calls from my agent.

A few days later I spend eleven hours on a rooftop car park. At 6.15 am I’m in wardrobe and make-up and after about thirty minutes of meticulous hair-doing I end up with… a pony-tail! And some eye drops. Apparently they don’t want my five-hour-sleep eyes to match the cars in the ad.

The day consists of standing next to little red cars, sitting in little red cars and singing about ‘little red quotes’. (Two of the guys get to drive little red cars, but not me.) My four fellow cast members (an assortment of friendly blokes) can’t quite manage to sing and gesture in time. What we need is a conductor. And someone to say ‘cut’, as we never know when to stop miming our riotous conversations about car insurance. The director is quite a character but most of his attention is on the lead. She has a heap of lines, lots of smiling to do, two wardrobe people keeping her warm between takes, waterbottles on her feet and a much nicer ponytail than mine. Meanwhile, I’m in flimsy little shoes which barely cover my feet and no socks. In the middle of winter. I jog between takes to stay warm. We mime with joy and deliver our ‘testimonies’ with joy and have literally hundreds of stills done. More joy. They are really getting their money’s worth out of us.

Then as the light fades and the stunt drivers steer their little red cars in joyful synchronisation into the sunset, I steer my medium sized white car out of the car park and off home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dial M for Marlene

December 2016

Well it’s been another year of auditions, of low paid hits and high paid misses. One memorable flop was my audition for a painkiller ad.

The brief I receive is for a mother-in-law who is ‘colourful’ in both personality and appearance, down to her purple lipstick. I dress accordingly and on the drive there psyche myself into a loud and energetic character. However, the woman running the audition wants me to tone it down and tells me my improvised dialogue is too fast. Her direction actually has me wondering whether she’s got the same brief as me, but of course I go with what she says.

Sometime later I see the ad. It’s as per the brief I was given, purple lipstick and all. However, the woman in 'my' role has the added advantage of a big pair of groovy, red glasses, so I probably never stood a chance. Oh well.

I also have a callback for an air show TVC. In the initial audition I know I’ve nailed it but in the callback I know I’ve sort of... screwed it up. (Not an entirely consistent metaphor but you get the idea.)

It’s the end of a work day, at the end of the school year, at the end of a long drive. I’m pretty stuffed but I go in feeling positive. From my eavesdropping on the opposition I know what I have to do but for some reason I’m in my head instead of ‘in the moment’. I do okay with the line but the tape would have shown me listening to the other ‘character’, with a dumb look on my face. It’s not just that I don’t do my best that gets me, it’s that I already know my four hours of driving is a waste of time. I can’t even hope for a congratulatory phone call from my agent. Ah, those phone calls.

These two jobs are reasonably well paid but the two jobs that I do get are at the lower end of the scale. Of course, I’m in it for the love of the art but…

Actually I do wonder why I'm in it sometimes. Still trying to fulfil that childhood dream probably.

Anyway, I do have the thrill of playing the wife of a murder victim in one of those true crime stories for TV. No scripted lines, just improvised dialogue that will probably, at most, provide a background to the voice over. It’s a low budget affair and there’s a few hundred dollars at the end, rather than a few thousand. However, it’s dramatically challenging and I love it. The director is both handsome and lovely, which is an added bonus.

I get the next job via my showreel, unlike the previous one that required two Skype auditions in a dodgy studio in St Kilda and lots of improvisation with different ‘husbands’—I even threw in some tears. (Take that, red glasses lady)

For this one I play an Uberdriver. No lines, just interaction, in a scene that will only last a few seconds. It’s for a video and it must be even more low budget than the last gig ‘cause I don’t even get a cup of tea! But the young actors are fun to work with and the AD, who is the director because the director is the cameraman (I think) is so sweet and cool and lovely, and her direction is so clear, she is a joy to work with. After hours of waiting around the night scene takes about 45 minutes to shoot and then I’m off home again, pleased that at least I’ve got two things to put in my bio for the year. So thank-you. And good-bye 2016.