Monday, 24 March 2014

“When you see the big rock on your left, turn left”

“Never say I don’t take you to interesting places”

has become a joke between my boyfriend and myself as we’ve ended up in weird places for my auditions, shoots and the occasional festival opening. This time I was reading the directions for a film casting I attended the past week. Which included driving on dirt roads:

“When you see the big rock on your left, turn left”

I couldn’t help laughing

“Now I know I’ve hit the big time”

And so it was that at the big rock, I turned left to my audition venue. As prepped as I could be for a role whose description encompassed a name and “A young Afrikaans woman” So I wore my go-to audition dress and a pair of heels. For the first time this year I actually wore heels to an audition (with my flip flops in my handbag). I met the director and his assistant who promptly looked at me and said:

“How tall are you really?”

as my usually short frame towered over him in my heels.

“Well, I’m a lot more comfortable without them”

“In that case, lets do the whole audition without them”

I was relieved. And we continued with the first scene they wanted me to act out. I was given more character information, a frame of mind and context and we shot the first scene. I did notice when I walked into the audition room that there was no cameras or lighting equipment, as I’m used to for auditions. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was told we would be shooting, and was quite frankly surprised when I realised I was to be filmed on an iPad. Well, there’s a first for everything I suppose.

And then we moved to the second scene. The director and his assistant looked at me seriously:
“For this scene we want tears. Real tears. When was the last time you cried?”

It had been a while:

“So things are going well for you” the director said jovially.

And I had less than five minutes to get myself into the appropriate frame of mind, and I’m not someone who cries easily. It’s something I’ve spent hours talking about with fellow actor-friends. The pros and cons and when is it self-indulgent to cry on stage, and how to really do it. And with not much time I thought about a vivid dream that had upset me and just let go. And although there was a lot of base on my tissue there were also tears on my cheeks. It seems that although I was asked for it, the director and his assistant hadn't expected it:

“Real tears. I’m impressed”

I was surprised.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Call Backs with Major Monologues

This year, so far, has been really slow for me. And after signing with a new agent I’ve been desperate to prove my worth. To prove that signing me was a good thing to do. And although I’ve been trying to stay positive, and my family has been very supportive it has been tough. Last Monday I had the pleasure of auditioning for a theatre piece which will be touring through South Africa and Africa. The show is an actress’s dream. It’s also about women, so as a feminist I really wanted in.

After my initial monologue I was asked to wait outside. When the casting and musical directors walked out I was handed sheet music. And two monologues. One monologue consisting of four pages, and one consisting of five pages. I had a call back. Something to be proud of. Something to show that I was worth keeping on the books. And to prove to myself more than anything that I’m still on the right track.
I was then told what the casting director wanted to see from me in the monologues. The type of energy, the feeling, the beats. I was a little older than the characters, and I had to play. I had to move away from some directions. I had to move toward others. I was bombarded with information. And then told that if I could learn the whole monologues it would be best. But if I couldn’t manage they would understand. They would be seeing me later that week.

I prepped my nine pages of dialogue as well as I could. I knew my song. I was as prepared as I could be when I arrived an hour early for my call back. As was the other 9 girls who arrived for call backs that day. And I assumed there would be about 9 more girls the next day. And we all wanted a slot in the cast of 6. Before we started the casting director spoke to us as a group:

“The reason that you ladies are all here today is because we can see you in the show. Now its just a question of finding the ladies who are the right fit for the show.”

The energy was amazing. A mix of ladies auditioning for the first time and those of us with a little experience. For the first time at an audition that I attended as we all waited for our turn to do our monologues the whole groups sat together and chatted while we waited.

And waited. 

The director for the play is New York based, so the round of call backs had to be recorded so that she can peruse them at her leisure in America. We were also miked for this. Which, as usual, involves some poor guy apologising profusely as he sticks a microphone up your shirt and a mike pack down your pants. It also meant I had to be very wearing of the movement of my clothes I had so meticulously plotted into my monologues. I was the second lady to be recorded so there were still some teething problems. I started my monologue, I was focused, I was on track, and then something toppled off the tripod taking the camera with it. I was commended on the right energy I was giving as I had been told to do. I was also told to relax and enjoy it. I started again. I reached about 2 paragraphs further than the first take when the school’s intercom blared the rehearsal space where we were auditioning. I wasn’t told to cut, so I carried on with the monologue through what we were all hoping to be a quick announcement. But no luck. After literally a minute of me keeping my pose between a monotone voice reading the changed rehearsal space for drumming practice and those pre-teens who had to go to the office I was eventually told I could stop by the casting director. She stared at the tiny intercom box in astonishment as the stream of announcements continued. When it eventually stopped she and the musical director just packed up laughing. This time was congratulated on keeping my focus for so long. And we started again. And thankfully the third time was a charm!

I had gathered that very few of the other girls had prepped the entire monologue, so I was thanked profusely for being very well prepared. I then returned outside to wait to do my second monologue. With a Russian accent. For some reason I was more nervous on my return to the audition space than before. I took a deep breath, was apologised to by the sound guy, and started monologue number two. As I was the first to finish without needing to leave early I asked if they were still going to need to see me. I was thanked again for being prepared. I was thanked for auditioning and I was thanked for coming. I was told it would be a long time before they would know about the casting as it had to be reviewed in America. And then a sweet sweet payoff from the casting director, who I learned afterward is an up-and-coming musical theatre director in South Africa:

“By the way ChandrĂ©, I love your look. It was really lovely to meet you”


Monday, 10 March 2014

Bare it all!

As often happens, I received a casting the night before it took place. Which perhaps is why actors tend be erratic. This casting was different due to a little add on in the email: in the advert the actresses would be appearing in their underwear, and therefore need to be comfortable with this. But there was no notice in casting brief about specific wardrobe. Usually if you need to wear a bikini for a casting you get warned beforehand. Although no amount of sit-ups in one evening is going to make you look better, it’s still worth a try. But then you also know to take a bikini along. I think this little note stuck somewhere in my mind, so when I got dressed for my audition that morning I made sure that my underwear wasn’t see-through at the very least. At the very least.

An hour’s drive became extended somewhat due to the robots being out as we had electricity blackouts in South Africa this past week. And although I arrived early for the casting so many hopefuls had arrived for another role that our casting ended up starting about 45 minutes late. It also gave all us ladies time to obsess as we were told we could change into our bikinis so long. Almost none of the girls had bikinis with them. None of us had been warned by our agents. Those who lived close by could drive quickly and fetch theirs, but others, such as myself, were left with the only other option. Strip

As I talked with three other ladies before the audition I was at least assured that they didn’t have bikinis with them, and would also be stripping for the camera. I couldn't help myself:

"Oh well, its my job"
I joked while I mimed pulling off my blue dress.

As we walked in for the casting we were given our options:

“Ladies, If you don’t have a bikini here that’s fine. Take off as much as you feel comfortable with. If you want to leave your pants on or anything its fine. But remember, for the advert you will be shooting in your underwear. Not a bikini. Just keep that in mind”

In the batch of women I did my casting with only about three ladies had bikinis on. The rest of us stripped down to our underwear and two girls just took their shirts off. I had a maroon bra on, and lime green polka-dotted bottoms on. If nothing else the clashing colours would make me stand out. And I was surprisingly fine with it. We were all in the same boat, and joking about what we were wearing beneath. And quite interesting it was probably the most relaxed casting I’ve ever done.

Fortunately I was finished with my casting before the electricity went out. But I heard some of the other girls had to do their casting in the lobby of the building as they were was no electricity to turn on the lights for the battery powered camera. I suppose there is a first time for everything.