Monday, 24 November 2014

Doing it "MiWay"...for the advert at least.

The Visage Family for the MiWay advert shoot. And I see now we all have sort of the same nose.

It doesn’t happen often. But sometimes after an audition I get a feeling. A feeling that something just went the way it was supposed to go. Usually it’s because the casting director laughed at the right place. Or the way they say thank you after the audition. But a few times I’ve gotten that feeling. A month ago was no exception. Especially as the casting brief asked for an Afrikaans girl, specifically. Very specifically. My mom also had this feeling. As did my fiancé. And when I got the call for the call back none of us were surprised.

After the call back though, I did keep my expectations under control. We looked different, but we were both trained well. It all came down to what the director wanted. And the director wanted me.
My fiancé was not surprised when I got the part. Although it is his job to believe in me unwaveringly, especially on the days when I don’t believe in myself all that much.

Two days after my call back I was on set. I was excited to be working with comedian Mpho “Popps” Modikoane and South African actress Marga van Rooy. There was also a familiar face on set. I had worked with Altus Theart two years before while shooting a Coke advert for Super Bowl. During lunch he too asked a question I seem to be answering almost daily: 

"So how's the wedding planning going?"

"We're doing it piece by piece, but I feel like it's all under control. I'm not going to let it stress me out"

"Do you have your dress yet?"


"How long before your wedding?"

"Three months"


"Rian! She thinks her wedding planning is going well but she doesn't have a dress yet"

More laughter. My on-screen big brothers were starting to feel like my real big brothers. Especially as they had decided earlier that I was definitely the milkman's child as Tannie Marga and both of them have blue eyes and I have brown eyes. 

Shooting my point of view

Tannie Marga, as she introduced herself to me, is a well-known face in South African stage and screen.

Tannie Marge was a fantastic source of inspiration. She asked me about my career and my agent:

“I wasn’t one of the favourites when studying. I wasn’t deemed good enough by my lecturers to audition for agents while I was studying, so I had to do it alone.”

She looked at me seriously:

“I think the most important thing to make it in this industry is temperament. Neither I, nor Sandra Prinsloo or Katinka Heyns were of Anna’s favourites”

Marga had also studied at the University of Pretoria, which meant that she knew I knew who Anna Neethlig Pohl was, as Anna was the first head of the drama department there. And the women she mentioned were all critically acclaimed actresses and directors. It felt fantastic to know that it wasn’t just me, others who "made it" had had a tough start too. She then told me about her first stage part:

“In my first professional role as an actress the director said to a colleague 'This child can't act' while I was standing right there. Just keep going, and create your own work.”

During my wardrobe call a joke started about “project cleavage”, as in outfit after outfit the director wanted to see more cleavage. Eventually they found a light pink shirt that the director was happy with. But it was very low cut. Which didn’t really bother me, as long as I had a bra on I didn’t really mind. While we were shooting the really sweet makeup artist went and spoke to the wardrobe lady with great concern:

“They’re showing a lot of cleavage”

“I know”

The wardrobe lady told me with a laugh while fixing me up. And when I did eventually see the advert and paused it I did see some bra.

Nice and Salty...
The premise for the advert is that Mpho is dating my character in order to get cheaper car insurance, hence the ‘instant family’. The family is sitting down for Sunday Lunch, and everyone wants the salt, except Mpho keeps it in his hand while he keeps talking. He then passes the salt on, and the rest of us can salt our food. So every time we did a take we threw salt all over the food on the plates in front of us. By the end of the day the food was crusted with salt. It also became tricky as we were required to eat some of the food after salting it. So we tried to salt only a specific veggie, and then eat another vegetable so as not to get a mouth full of salt every time.

“I feel like I’ve been a-salted” said Rian, one of my fellow actors after a particularly salty bite. And on the last take of the day the director left us rolling so that we were all forced into a salty bite of food while the entire crew giggled behind us before we heard “Cut”. 

It's a hard life on set

Monday, 17 November 2014

-Tda -Tda -Tda TA-DA!

have worked really hard on speech and voice. Probably only comparable to the energy I had to put into science in my last year at school. And I still - tda - tda - tda - tda to make sure my slightly audible lisp doesn't hit the spotlight.

I can still remember the first time I was able to sound the rolling 'R' sound required for my father tongue as a child while sitting in my dad’s car (although both my parents are bilingual they had decided that my mother would speak only English to me and my father on Afrikaans). I can almost as vividly remember the first time I managed to sound an 'S'. What it boiled down to was years of speech therapy as a child, and 2 rounds of swallow therapy as a teenager. Yes, you read correctly. I could not swallow correctly, and had to learn by a speech therapist how to do so. My poor parents spent many an afternoon with little Chandwé (as I said my name) going -tda -tda -tda -tda -tde -tde -tde -tde etc etc etc etc.

Which is why I think my parents were so happy and thankful when I got accepted to study drama

"All that speech therapy as a child, and now you're going to talk for a living"

I even had radio as a subject for a semester while studying, and specialized in emotive voice in performance in my third year. And then while doing my Masters I did a three week intensive voice and body workshop with an amazing facilitator from America. Deborah Kinghorn lead myself (and a few notable other South African actors) through three weeks of Lessac Kinesensic training.

A year ago my would-be and now agent recommended I get my voice onto voicebank. One of the reasons why he signed me was because of how my voice sounded on the phone. But I found the process rather intimidating when I looked it up online. I had to write my own copy for a fictitious brand, make an appointment and go into their big expensive studios to record. Despite having all the right training the thought of going into a professional studio, and paying to have a pro record my own copy scared me a little. In the beginning of the year I attempted to open my account to do just that none the less. But when I had technical problems and it became difficult to create the account I allowed myself to opt out. Easily. I had other things to be done after all. I had my Masters work to do, I had to write a show, and a bundle of other excuses. About a month ago I tried again. And didn't allow myself to just opt out again. It was time to make it work. A few phone calls later, and help from the IT department, I managed to open my account. Three weeks ago I went in and recorded two voice clips in English
My agent had suggested a “sexy sell” voice clip, and I had figured a good corporate one would open up many doors. I did my research and wrote my radio copy for two fictitious brands. A lipstick for the sexy sell and an investment company for the corporate. When I got to the studio the friendly technician who put me completely at ease asked me what I was doing:

“A sexy sell, and a corporate”

“To be honest, our most searched categories are corporate, soft sell and conversational. Usually when copy writers write for a sexy voice they already have someone in mind when they write the copy. I suggest that you do a conversation bit instead”


Perhaps I looked a little like a cartoon deer in headlights. I trusted his opinion, he was the one with the experience, but I had practiced my copy in a specific way. And quite frankly I felt out of my depths sitting in the office with my large printed copy in front of my covered in pencil marks indicating how I would perform it.

“Tell you what, lets record you sexy sell, and then lets just try it in a conversational way”

“Lets do that” I was relieved for the option given to me.

I moved into the studio. Sitting behind the microphone with the headphones on my ears I started to relax. We fixed the levels so that I could hear myself, and so that I could hear the technician. It started to feel familiar. I space in which things were created, and less like an office. I did my corporate recording in a handful of takes.

I heard through my headphones while standing in the studio.

“Let’s try the second clip. Do it in the sexy way like you practiced”

After the first take I heard

“Uhm...Let’s try that sexier”

I did.

“Now do your copy in a lighter, conversational way”

One take.

“I really like that. Come out and listen”

It worked. A lot better than the first pseudo-sexy takes. Two weeks later my agent called with good news.

“You’ve been booked to record an advert for radio. After two weeks on voicebank. Well done”