Monday, 29 September 2014

Positive Payoffs - and God's Timing

Making the choice to work in the arts is a difficult one. Performing or otherwise. And every time I have doubted in the path that I'm following, something has happened to help me "keep the faith".

It all started the Monday evening before I pitched up for an extra taekwondo training, not realising that it was specifically extra sparring training. All the other girls knew this, and had decided not to come. So I was the only girl. I knew that I had an audition on Tuesday, so made sure that my face was protected. Which meant sacrificing an elbow and a foot in the process. Which meant that I headed off to my audition on Tuesday with a swollen foot, a bruised elbow, scratches on my decollate from being assaulted with a bouquet that weekend and a lovely burn on my upper arm from a hot restaurant pan. I was quite literally bruised and battered. But I was there, and enthusiastic. And apparently I was funny. As I finished my audition the casting director laughed and sent me on my way.

By Friday my bruises had darkened, but my burn was receding when my agents name flashed on my phone. Every time my previous agent’s name appeared in a similar manner my heart was in a flutter as he only ever called for a call back or the confirmation of a casting. Any other communication was designated to emails. But my present agent calls often to check in, hear about my availability, or if I’m interested in auditioning for a project. So when my phone rang on Friday morning I was non-plussed:

“You have a call back on Monday evening at 5:45. Can I confirm you?”

They most certainly could.

“Are you still available for the shoot dates on Wednesday and Thursday?”

I most certainly was.

On Monday my agent called again. I needed to be on standby for a wardrobe call the next day at 13:00 in Johannesburg.  Which meant that if and when I was confirmed for the role I needed to be in Johannesburg at 13:00 on Tuesday. I had an appointment with our wedding planner at 14:00 on Tuesday. I decided that I wasn’t going to cancel until I knew. If I didn’t get the part I would want to be busy on Tuesday afternoon, not thinking about the girl who got the part flitting around trying on different costume options for the role. I emailed the wedding planner and let her know that I would let her know once the producer had let me know if I had the role and had to be at wardrobe. She was ok with it.

After a glamorous lunch-time beach-look casting I prepared myself for my farm-girl call back. I arrived half an hour early for my call back, as per usual. And I waited. In the corner sat the girl I was up against for the part. I knew it was her as I had googled her CV when I saw the list for the call backs. We were both wearing the exact same blue colour, and her shirt and my dress had the same neckline. The other four roles were set, and it was just our role left to confirm. We sat on opposite sides of the room, each keeping to ourselves as the rest of the cast filtered into the waiting room. As we had to be a family it was important to see both of us with the rest of the cast before the director decided who they would use. About 45 minutes after our designated time the director and producer walked into the waiting room after having battled with peak hour Johannesburg traffic. The cast and the girl in blue in the corner were called into the audition space as she had been there before me.

“Good luck” I said with a smile. I had decided a long time ago that I would be one of those people that build up the competition. I don’t want to get a role by breaking someone else down. Either I’m good enough and the director wants me, or she’s better for the part and the director wants her. It’s nothing personal, simply the nature of our business. The door had barely closed when I was called in.

“We might as well brief both of you at the same time” the producer said to me as I walked into the space.

And literally three minutes later it was over.
The other girl in blue sat between the members of our screen family and did as we were instructed once. Then we swapped. And we were out.

Before we left we were asked to bring some articles of our own clothes in specific styles to set.
“The production team will make a decision about who the final cast is at 11 tomorrow”
We knew it was just about the two of us, but I was thankful that the producer wasn’t making it any more uncomfortable than what it needed to be.
“We will call you to confirm that roles at 11 tomorrow, and then you need to be at wardrobe at 1”
After waiting for more than an hour it was all over in three minutes. As my fiancé and I drove home I think he heard every iteration in existence of “I think it went well.” And the waiting game was afoot.

On Tuesday at 10:50 I messaged my fiancé:

“In ten minutes I’ll know”

“Are you expecting them to let you know punctually?”


By 11:30 the questions and reassurances were running through my head.

Positive: “I’m sure they’re just late and they will still let me know”

Negative: “But maybe they already decided and you just don’t have the part and they’re not going to let you know”

Positive: “You’re learned in the past that they say they’re going to let you know at a specific time. Then you convince yourself 2 hours after the said time that you don’t have the part. And then they call you”

I am in the lucky position that I have never been turned down for a film role after a call back, and only once for a theatre role.

Negative: “It’s too late. Its 12:00. You can’t make it to wardrobe by 13:00. If they were going to use you they would have let you know so that you could be by wardrobe at 13:00”

I emailed my agent to inform them that I would be late for the wardrobe call, if I was cast for the role.

My fiancé suggested that I pack my bag for wardrobe and go to Centurion. If I didn’t get the role I could make my meeting with the wedding planner in Centurion, and if I did get the role I would be closer to Johannesburg. I should have taken his advice in retrospect.

But in that moment I couldn’t. I couldn’t pack a bag full of costume options and then not get the role. It would crush me to have to pack all the clothes back into my cupboard without having gotten the role and done the work.

At 12:15 I couldn’t hold out anymore. As I picked up cell phone to call my agent, my phone started vibrating in my hand…

“Congratulations Chandré”

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fickle Focus

We all tend to do it. I have spells too, although I try to be upbeat. Sometimes we all focus on the negative and forget all the small, positive things that keep us going. And it shames me to say that I have been doing that for the past few months.

My career hasn’t been going as well as I would have wanted. I try to be pragmatic. I know it takes time, and the kind of career I want is a work in progress. I have a fantastic agent, and I’ve been going to a lot of auditions this year. I just haven’t been getting the parts. My "go-to" student production that I’ve been part of for the last three years has changed and become something new entirely, and I'm not part of it anymore. And although I’m technically still a student my Masters is coming to a close, and I know it’s time for me to move on. I can't be part of it anymore. I need to move on from doing university-driven work. I know this, but it doesn’t make it easier. And while I carry on trying to make a career out of what I do (I’ll focus on making a living later) a lot of the people around me are carrying on with their lives. It’s rarely said in as many words, but I’m often asked how much work I do, if I’m able to look after myself, etc.

And I’ve been focusing on that. I’ve disregarded the fact that I wrote the script and lyrics for a musical, and co-wrote the music. I’ve disregarded the fact that for the last two years I’ve been writing a dissertation, creating new research. Without any provocation, and in my own head, I’ve been worried about my agent not wanting to keep me on his books as I am nearing a year with them. 

I auditioned for an Afrikaans South African Soap Opera two weeks ago. I received feedback from my agent, which rarely happens, that I did not get a call back for the show, but I could be proud of my audition. He signed off the email with:

“Onthou: Aanhouer wen!!” which roughly translates to:

“Remember: Those who persevere win” with a double exclamation. Those three words meant the world to me.

And then I went to a wedding this weekend. I met with people I haven’t seen in more than ten years. People who were surprised about my chosen line of work since last seeing me as a 13 year old, but were sincere when saying that it was a brave move and that I should keep at it.

And then it hit me. Literally.

As all the ‘Single Ladies’ entered the grassy dance floor of the outdoor wedding I was standing in the back row. I looked up and said to my friend next to me:

"We're standing under the umbrealla. There is no way that the bouquet is going to reach us."

As I checked the placement of the large garden umbrella to validate my statement the bouquet decided to prove me wrong by hitting me on the collar bone, drawing blood in the process. A bunch of proteas and fynbos exceeded my expectations. I was thankful that a bridesmaid bouquet was thrown when given the actual bouquet which was much larger.

The Bridesmaid's bouquet which was thrown,
and the much larger Bride's bouquet. Which may
have left me concuss if it was thrown.
So I’m focusing on the positive again. I’m focusing on my amazing parents who are supporting me in my choices. Who, in my Mothers words are “in this” with me. I’m focusing on my amazing fiancé who always tells me never to do a job just for the money and who always asks if what I'm auditioning for is the kind of work that I want to do. I’m focusing on making my own career, and not letting auditions dictate how much work I do, and I’m not letting casting agents define my self-image. I know that God has a plan for me, and things will happen for me in His time. I also know that I can't expect things to happen if I'm not creating opportunities for myself.

I will write, and create, and find ways to make theatre, and dance shows and one day movies. I will practice hard, I will carry on improving my acting, and I will do my voice exercises. And maybe next year I’ll follow my mother and fiancé’s advice and throw away my bathroom scale, which both have been threatening to do. But I will not allow negative thoughts to creep in and over-shadow all the good I have in my life.

My Fiancé posted this photo on facebook the day after my friend's wedding. The caption
he used melted my heart, and reminded me once again how very blessed I am.

Monday, 1 September 2014

All work and long-distance plays

I have a love-hate relationship with eisteddfods. For me eisteddfods are so important for children. It teaches them how to talk in front of people and to be confident. And it also creates theatre audiences for the future. Not to mention adjudication keeps me afloat financially. The long hours, travelling away from home, the cramps I get in my writing arm and hearing the same poem 60 times aren’t that great. The hurt feelings and accusations from parents, and the occasional student, aren’t fun either. So as much as I am thankful to be asked to adjudicate an eisteddfod I am also thankful to come home after one.

This week was not without its exceptions. I started off with the Grade R section. I heard roughly 60 versions of “Everybody says I look like my mother. Everybody says my nose looks like my father. But I just want to look like me.” With the same pattern of inflections, and every second girl stamped her foot on the last line. As the youngest person at the table the girls rarely realize that I am the adjudicator. As one of the girls finished she left the stage somewhere between a fast walk and a controlled run and sat in the chair behind me. Her friend asked in a most admirable stage whisper:

“Where you nervous?”
“Yes! But it was ok”

And so my week and a half worked out ok too. 

Especially as my agent let me know about a possible audition at 12 on Tuesday morning in Johannesburg. I really wanted to do the audition, but I had to start adjudicating at 12 and it was an hour and a half's drive from Joburg to where I had to be. I told my agent that if they were able to see me in the morning I would be able to do the audition. My agent left a voicemail on my phone while I was adjudicating on the Monday afternoon:
“They are able to see you at 10”

I called back in my 10 minute tea break. I was going to need at least half an hour more to make it back in time to be at the school as 11:30 to start at 12:00. My agent was sceptical.
“I’ll let you know if they’re willing to see you at 9:30”

They were. 
So when I got back to the guest house, sans wifi, after 8 that evening I started prepping my monologue from a classic play. I was up at 5:30 to paint my face, assemble a flack outfit out of my pink suitcase wolf done a few buffet eggs and head off to Johannesburg. I arrived at 9 for my 9:30 audition. Waited for half an hour. Auditioned for half an hour (including someone walking into the audition space, and then not leaving after realising an audition was afoot). I was thanked for coming in, and thanked for being so well prepared. I was told by the director that he was glad he had been able to see me. And I left again. 150km back to be just on time to adjudicate another 8 hour session. Understandably I was tired by the time I stumbled back to the car I was driving while away.

My fiancé had insisted that I drive his Volvo while I was away as it was safer. His car also unlocks when you open the door as long as the keys are in your hand, pocket, or handbag and then started without the key. I was more than paranoid about making sure the key was always in my handbag or pocket. As I got to the car I noticed something was between the two front seats. In the dark I couldn’t see exactly what it was but about a dozen scenarios ran through my head. Had I left the key in the car or had someone taken the key from my handbag? Had an angry parent left something in my car? Or a thankful student? 

I knew the key was in my handbag when I packed up to leave the school hall. I decided that I had to open the door. When I did what welcomed me was a silver vase filled with beautiful roses. I honed in on the sticky note attached to the vase and immediately recognized the handwriting. I reversed myself out of the car and started looking around. Just in tine to see my fiancé walked around a corner with the biggest smile and spare keys. The staff leaving the parking lot who were working with me we were concerned not knowing who the man was accosting me and bravely called from a car window to find out if I was ok.

I most definitely was.