Sunday, 24 June 2012

Working it!

Last Monday was shoot day for me! And getting myself there was no easy feat. Sunday morning threw me to the rails, or rather the bowl, with a terrible bout of stomach flu. So this morning, with a handful of meds keeping my insides inside I left for Johannesburg.

And who would I park next to, at work, at Clive Morris Productions?

My call time was at 12:00 at Clive Morris Productions in Randburg. I passed various other television orientated buildings on my way there, and even got there without getting lost. I was one of the first of the actors there for my call, and as it would still be a while until we moved to our location we waited in a courtyard, outside in the sun. About half an hour after we arrived a rather skinny women, in well worn high heels and one hell of a pair of boobs entered the courtyard. She sat that there smoking a cigarette, and asked us if we were all waiting for the same shoot. We were indeed (could have guessed she would be a ‘hot stripper chick’ with us).  She then promptly removed a large bottle of Amarula and poured herself a tot. The second one she spilled most of on her skirt. And left again. It was barely 12 in the afternoon and we were about to start working and she was slinging liqueur back in plain view of the producer. Upon her return she asked if we knew what we would be paid for this job. I honestly did not really know, and I would probably have done it for free anyway. Someone gave a number, but she seemed somewhat unsatisfied: “I usually get R2 500 just for my butt, but then I suppose we have clothes on for this shoot”. “Darn tootin we do” I said in my head.

Location, location, location...
 Some time after this encounter pizza arrived. About an hour after that we left to the location for the shoot. The Lollipop Lounge. Now, to those unfamiliar to the Johannesburg area, the Lollipop Lounge is an honest-to-goodness (well, as in I’m speaking the truth, not that the club is ‘goodness’) strip club. Upon entering the premises we walked through strips of hanging plastic that would make any butchery proud and entered the inner circle of the Lollipop Lounge, erotic art work and stripper poles all there in their mid-day glory with the club’s cleaning staff cleaning like crazy (I won’t lie, a small part of my was really relieved to see the bleach and chemicals being liberally applied).

And it was off to wardrobe and makeup for those of us hired to be strippers for the shoot. I was quickly ok’d in my choice of outfit and shoes, and I went off to change. Now one of other ‘hot stripper chicks’ I had never met before but as it would strangely turn out we both grew up in Secunda (not the largest of towns). The two of us became a team quite quickly, especially when confronted with some of the other cast members. As we walked to the bathrooms to change one of which asked me what I did for living. I replied quite sheepishly that I was still a student and trying to working as a freelance actress.  She quite loudly and proudly claimed that she was not only a stripper, I believe it was for 16 years, but that she was also a single parent. I put my head down and changed.

Myself and my hometown companion made the change into our costumes quite quickly and headed off to makeup. I was already on the chair, fringe clipped up, hair tucked behind the ears and eyes closed for eye shadow when I heard a fellow actress enter. From the little experience that I have when I’m off to work on a set I don’t put anything but sunscreen on my face after I washed it for the morning. I gathered from the head of makeup’s voice (from now on Makeup Lady) and questions that the newly arrived actress was applying base behind me. The first question asked was if she was applying Almay. No, she wasn’t. The makeup artist then asked her to remove whatever she had applied on her face so that she could use the products that she trusted and was familiar with. The actress assured her that she had mixed some things together and the resulting product was similar to Almay. Makeup Lady asked her to take it off any way. I heard footsteps, and the clippety clop of heels and then the same voice, do you think I should wear the 8-inch heels? I heard Makeup Lady’s assistant, who was busy doing my makeup, snort and I felt her remove the brush from my face, I looked over my right shoulder, just opening my eyelids enough to see a pair of mule high heels, with the highest platform in the front I have ever seen, in combination with a decently high heel. The sole and heel of the shoe was made of that see-though perspexie plastic stuff. I closed my eyes and moved my head back so that the assistant could carry on with my makeup. I heard Makeup Lady ask how on earth she could walk on those stilts. The balancing actress defended them, apparently the angle is very comfortable (I have no idea what this means) and the heel itself isn’t so high due to the platform on the toe (that bit I could comprehend). The actress sat in the chair next to me so that Makeup Lady could start her makeup:
“What’s on your face?”
“Just base and powder”
“You’ll have to fly the base and powder”
Makeup Lady handed her a wetwipe: “Wipe it all off”
What ensued after this was some argument about her eyes being made bigger to which Makeup Lady said she was instructed to keep the eyes plain and make the lips bolder. Eventually the actress folded, but shortly started as new quest when the producer arrived. The new question was as to whether she should put in her blue contact lenses. At this point, my makeup was finish and I had to leave, even though I genuinely wanted to stay and see how exactly this scenario played out.  I did however have quite a self image boosting moment when the producer after seeing my earlier completely plain faced saw me when my eye makeup was completed: “Wow, eyes. Nice”

As I arrived in full makeup and costume I met my friend, under direction from the director upon a raised stage area complete with two poles. Luckily my job was to strut. As we were being given direction one of the lead actors walked in. I happened to know her from my university days. She greeted and asked if I was eye Candy for the afternoon. “Well would you believe it” was my very sincere reply. As someone who is in a contest of will with the scale, sometimes winning and often losing for many years being considered the ‘eye candy’ is somewhat of an achievement. The actress balancing in her 8inch heels arrived. One of the leads, who is a rather short portly women gave the shoes one look and proclaimed that she would like a donut on stilts if she was ever to wear those… I struggle to call them shoes.

Working, but not working it.

shooting in the lot, well, the parking lot.

No, working with strange people is genuinely one of the things I enjoy about being in the arts. However, one gets very many degrees of strange, as I am learning. Including extras who are more than willing to waltz around with a lit cigarette in a room littered with no smoking signs. As a non-smoker I really don’t appreciate the smell in my clothes, and as an assisted blonde the nicotine in the smoke can make my hair go yellow, so I avoid it like the plague and was quite shocked to said the said extra waving a cigarette around nonchalantly while most of the crew were to dumbstruck to say anything (a staff member had just complained about the actors smoking in the no-smoking areas).
Another incident included an extra running around in a tiny outfit, apparently unaware of the length of the…well…shirt and the fact that it was slightly see-through. I suppose it takes all types to make a cast. Interesting enough most of the male cast was not as an enamoured with her as one might think, considering our location.

So poles were worked, shots were taken, lights turned and the location itself created a lot of the laughter and fun of the day in between the shoots and the scenes. Wigs were worn, wigs moved in takes, and somewhere through the day you stopped realising that all the pictures on the wall had naked women in them. Cameras followed heeled shoes, and costume changes were made and I finished my work just before six. I signed my contract and climbed in my car for what was supposed to be a 45 minute ride home. Not so.

One gridlocked William Nicole, due to a non-function robot gave way to about 5 kilometres of driving at the speed limit, just to toy with me I think, and  then to a gridlocked N1 highway. An hour’s travel on the high only changed the length of the journey on my GPS by 3 minutes. Literally. Add that to the fact the my medication was working out of my system and my insides were desperately trying to become my outsides my journey was not what one would term pleasant.

Two hours and 15 minutes after I left the Lollipop Lounge (a woman looking at me in complete disgust when I walked out of the club and to my car in full ‘stripper’ makeup and a bag over my shoulder) I arrived at my flat in Pretoria. Upon my arrival home my mom jokingly said that since I had worked she would not be sending me my desperately needed pocket money for the month. I claimed that I hadn’t worked that much. My mom laughed: “The 135km back to Secunda would have been faster and when you’re home for a weekend I pay enough to last you the month”.  

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Today I get to be on set again! This time I will be doing featured extra work for a local comedy show called Sketch U Later. The great thing about this job is that I didn’t need to audition for it, which I think is what threw me completely off guard when my agent called me last Friday. Upon answering my phone I was asked if I was free on the 18th, and if I would be prepared to do the work for a local series. My only other commitment was at six that evening, so I told my agent my day was theirs. I was told that the details would be emailed to me. So I waited. And waited. And then I thought the work might not happen anymore. And on Thursday I decided to check. Thursday afternoon was as long as I could wait so I emailed my agent to hear if the work was still on for Monday the 18th. Friday afternoon I received a call sheet in my inbox.  There was my name, albeit spelled incorrectly, upon the call sheet for Monday and right next to it: “Hot stripper chick”. My first reaction was “Oh my gosh my agent thinks I look good enough to play a hot stripper chick!!!” shortly followed by : “Oh my gosh my agent wants me to play a stripper chick!!!”.  The reality set it.

My first work for television, the advert I did in February, I was covered from head to toe in a period costume.  Literally all that showed were my hands, my face and my fringe. Now, role number two, I will be dressed in fishnets, heels and a mini skirt, and shooting in the Lollipop Lounge, a genuinely real strip club in Randburg. Oh the irony. At least getting this past my parents wasn't too hard, as long as nobody expected me to be getting naked . . . no one asked me about it . . . 

These shoes were not made for walking. What I've termed
my 'Hooker Heels' that I'll be wearing for work today.

After this initial shock, and shock it was, I saw the estimated wrap time. At seven in Johannesburg, which meant travelling backwards in time if I were to be in time for my rehearsal in Pretoria at six.  Murphey really has it in for me. For the first quarter of the year I was bored stiff and not getting work. Now, when I had nicely enough work to keep my going at break-neck speed now I get supplied with work I didn’t  even audition for. Needless to say, I called my agent (in true Hollywood style)!

Question one: For the sake of safety, will I need to be taking off my clothes, because if that’s what they hired me for they would be quite disappointed in their purchase.
Question two: Can I leave to be in time for my rehearsal in Pretoria?
Question three: My name is spelled incorrectly in the call sheet, this needs to be fixed if my name is going to be in the credits.

My agent confirmed that firstly my clothes would be staying put. Apparently the show is quite conservative (hmmm….a conservative stripper?) . After calming my nerves my agent joking said that I should take my clothes off if that’s what the part required. I dryly told him that he might have misplaced faith in what I look like without my clothes on.

Secondly, I would be quite in time for my rehearsal in Pretoria, I should expect to leave about four hours after my call time, and thirdly I should speak to someone when I’m there about my name.

Before I was able to reach my agent I think I gave my director for my six o clock show a heart attack as I contacted her, mild panic in tow, to ask if we could possibly start later so that I could get to Pretoria from Johannesburg. Luckily no one will be cursing me under their breath as we can again start on time.
It’s going to be one hell of a day: mail my study supervisor the last work necessary for my proposal for my Masters, to get to Johannesburg to shoot from 12, to get  back to Pretoria to rehearse physical theatre from 6 to 10. I LOVE IT!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Top of the Billing

So Yesterday morning (Sunday) I awoke at 5:30. I washed, devised, drew, painted and constructed myself into some semblance of class and presentability (I hope!) and left my flat two hours later to pick up a friend and then head off to Johannesburg. We arrived at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in the cold and wind and after edging my car assisted by a car guard into a harrowingly narrow parking spot the two of us, CV’s and photographs in tow, headed off for the Top Billing Presenter competition. So we filled out our forms, got our photos stapled, pinned our numbers to our shirts and headed off to sit in the stadium and wait.

Miss Rozanne Mouton, my friend, companion and competitor on Sunday!
Looking much more composed than I did when we arrived!

Before the proceedings for the day were to commence the obligatory shots for Top Billing needed to be taken. We were all told to remove the extra clothing and blankets, and to look ‘glamorous’. I’m not quite sure how possible it is to look ‘glamorous’ on the grass of a cricket pitch on a grey Johannesburg morning in June but some ladies certainly tried. Now for some context. I was wearing two trench coats over each other and I was still getting cold. For the camera shots on the field some girls stripped down to mini dresses, and miniskirts with cleavage and heels. Before we started the takes one of the Top Billing presenters (Ursula) looked at one of these hopefuls in her short, blue one shouldered dress: “Darling, nothing is worth getting pneumonia for”. Now this same presenter I have to say made my day. While we were standing in the cold on the cricket pitch the four presenters delivered their lines for the camera with us in the background (not getting cold for the sake of the camera). One of the other presenters botched her line, and upon doing so blasphemed. Ursula calmly said: “Don’t blame him”. I decided then and there that I would adopt this phrase whenever I was in the presence of someone who did the same.

Me: Dishevelled, wind swept and desperately clutching my flask
for any heat it might still have upon arrival on Sunday morning.

The morning dragged on in rather epic variations of catching a spot of sunshine to shivering in the shade. My friend, Miss Rozanne Mouton and I sat distracting ourselves and talking about everything else other than what we had planned, or not planned, to say during our audition. I eventually asked her if she would like to practice. I think perhaps more out of boredom than anything else. We sat there, she had decided that she would go through it in her head, not out loud. A second later I heard “Damn it. I made a mistake in my head!”

And nine o’clock moved to past noon and eventually our row moved forward, and we would be moved from the stadium seats to the elusive backstage area where we would audition for presenters and various members of the crew and production team. As luck, or fate, or Murphy would  have it Rozanne was number ten for audition room one and I was number one for audition room 2. We were split and would face the rest of the journey alone.  Rozanne hit it lucky with some sort of promotion, who photographed her and sent the photo directly to her phone. Below is the photo they took of her!

I entered the audition room. Bright and smiling and greeting my panel with a great confidence over my shaking body. If it was nerves or the cold I certainly wouldn’t know but I’m an actress. I can fake the hell out of anything, so I did my link. Walking and talking from point A to point B. Apparently according to my panel of judges it could have been smoother, but  good none the less. Again. I’m an actress, we make things interesting when we move, but so I learned. I was told to keep my number and wait and if I didn’t get a phone call by Monday night then I know I didn’t get a call back. I felt quite positive, but then again they might be saying the same thing to everyone. And all that is left is to wait and see i I recieve a phonecall tonight.

So Rozanne and I grabbed our (many) coats and headed for the car. The GPS showed the nearest mall to be Melrose, and after decided I could afford to spend R30 on a cappuccino if that happened to be the price in Melrose and that I would pay it off we went to go discover Melrose. We headed to Europa for a cappuccino for Rozanne and a Chai Tea for me (No caffeine!) and the post-audition-now-tradition phone call to the mothers.

Europa - feeling very European

As we drove  back I jokingly said to Rozanne that I had such a nice time at the coffee shop. It was fantastic that we could fit in the audition as well!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Learning Lessons

I have this joke where I always claim that I will never grow up and remain a kid forever (maybe I watched Peter Pan too often in my childhood). And for all my joking I learned a valuable life lesson today, I grew up a little bit today. Yet simultaneously I feel more childlike and naïve then I have in a long time.

When I was at school I thought that the biggest decision I would have to make for my future would be what I would study, and that after that decision was made it would be easier. I realised, upon completion of my degree that I still didn’t really know what it was that I would do with my life. And after a year of honours I had even more forks in my path, and no singular direction. At every step of the way I thought I would know what would be coming next. And the honest truth is I still don’t. If I will end up being a theatre actress, or a film one. If I will make it at all and end up lecturing of teaching.  If I should focus on writing for now or if I should be doing more auditions. For acting, or musical theatre of physical theatre.

And today I learned a life lesson. I learned how to make my voice heard within difficult circumstances and I learned that sometimes the result can be better than you could have imagined. I knew I needed to speak to a director, and although I dreaded doing it I knew I needed to do it for me. And the result was even better than I could have imagined. Too have somebody respond in the most understanding way when you’re dead frightened of what you feel you need to say was probably one of the most cathartic experiences of my short existence. And it was something I didn’t expect.

I know I will be in similar situations in my career and life, and I know that this time was probably the exception. Sometimes people won't react in a kindly manner. But I also learned that sometimes, if you approach it in the right way, you don't always have to be the one on the short end of the stick. Although I've been in the same circumstances before this is the first time I actually stood up for myself and the lesson was in that.

Maybe what I said was somehow true. Maybe I’ll stay a kid forever in my own way.