Thoughts from the waiting room, again …

Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

George Burns

My audition was scheduled for 1.40pm. At 2pm I still had not gone in and there were three other blondes waiting with me, looking nervous and eager and far better suited for the role than I did. At 2.10pm the casting director asked if any of us were in a hurry. I had seen them checking their watches and tapping their feet and drumming their fingers. Of course they were in a hurry. Of course they had somewhere else they had to be. It’s not like sitting in a waiting room to audition for a non-speaking role in a local television commercial pays the rent.

“No. I’m fine,” they all giggled through plastered smiles.

“Actually, I do have to get back to work soon.” As I said it I could feel the other blondes settle into the uncomfortable plastic chairs triumphantly thinking one less person to compete with; one step closer to nailing the gig. I suddenly felt like I was a strategically-challenged character from The Hunger Games. I felt sure that if that casting director had asked them to tear me from limb to limb they would have done it without hesitation.

“Always say yes. A casting director likes a can-do attitude,” an over-paid, washed up film and TV “acting tutor” once preached to a class of young, wannabe actors. I was one of the wannabes – sitting there, soaking it all in because, well, this tutor had been a star on some now defunct Australian television series so they would know, right?

“They ask if you can ride a horse, you say yes. You just say yes,” he declared between name-dropping and performing excerpts from the show. The class scribbled down his wise-words.

“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked and all the wannabes stared at me, wide-eyed, not understanding how I could question the oracle who had once been nominated for a Most Popular New Talent TV Week Logie Award. “I mean, if you don’t know how to ride a horse and pretend you can, you could break your neck -”

“It’s not pretending – it’s acting,” one of the wannabes informed me. (I am sure she is probably huge in L.A. now.)

The washed-up tutor looked at me sadly and shook his head of wonderful hair. “You just say yes. OK? To everything. Just say yes. They can work out the logistics later.”

I am always reminded of this brilliant class as I wait for castings and watch the actors respond to any request with this amazing level of enthusiasm that I, personally, would think better suited to winning the lottery or being given a puppy or meeting your long-lost sister for the first time: Can you fill out this form? Can I take your photo now? Are you available for the shoot dates? Have you done a commercial for a similar brand? Can you smack your head against this wall?

There are so many people out there who think they want to be actors (I propose that many of them don’t actually want to be actors; they want to be famous, which is a completely different career choice) that the competition for even a non-speaking role in a pretty ordinary television commercial is fierce and brutal. Because, as all actors are told, “you never know” … that pretty ordinary television commercial could be the Turning Point, the Moment of Discovery, your one chance like Meg Ryan in a Burger King commercial. You just don’t know where this seemingly crappy commercial could lead you. So, we are told, you can’t give the casting director any reason not to consider you for the role.

“So, what’s the latest you could stay around for?” The casting director asked me. “Like five minutes? Ten? Honestly, tell me honestly.”

Honestly? Honestly? Honestly my audition was scheduled for 1.40pm it is now 2.10pm. 2.10pm. Honestly I should have finished the audition and been about to sit back at my desk, back at my boring, soul-destroying, monotonous job any minute now …

I could feel the competition waiting for the casting director to lecture me about the importance of an actor being flexible and available and willing. Waiting for me to leave. Waiting for their moment. Waiting for their big break.

“I can wait. I’ll let my boss know. It’ll be fine,” I smiled through a plastered smile.

It wasn’t like I was lying about my ability to ride a horse or something could actually be dangerous.

“You sure?” Could this casting director see through me? Was my acting this bad?

“Yeah, yeah. I’m happy to be away from my desk to be honest,” and I meant it. That bit was true.

She smiled. I smiled. The competition pretended to smile.

And I waited.

I didn’t get the gig.

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Thoughts from the waiting room; or, Acting is Weird

Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession.

Katharine Hepburn

Nothing like a last-minute casting to brighten your day. And this one was really last minute: a call from the agent at 1.30pm for an audition at 3.30pm. Fortunately, I could take a late, long lunch-break for this audition for a non-speaking role in an ever-so-slightly-but-not-too-much-to-cause-outrage sexist television commercial.

I made it the casting waiting room, got the obligatory up-and-down from another woman possibly auditioning for the same, highly coveted role and waited and filled in the form that wants all my measurements in centimetres and thought (hopefully not out loud):

Acting is weird.

Although I’m not even sure this could be classified as acting. My success in getting this role seemed entirely based upon my ability to smile. Last week, it was based on my ability to look like a model but not too much like a model, like an approachable model, the girl-next-door-meets-Bond-Girl-type (if that’s even a type), and to keep it natural but not so natural that you lose those elements of looking like a model … I didn’t get that gig. Obviously.

But this gig … I can smile. I do it everyday.

I wasn’t nervous, just intrigued to see how on earth the casting director could actually direct a casting for this role.

There were a few auditions for different productions on in the casting offices that day. I watched nervous actors try desperately not to look nervous as they studied scripts and mouthed their lines and checked their watches. I watched mothers whispering encouragement or instructions or threats (or all three)  at their 3-year-old daughters as they fixed their piggy-tails and kept an eye on the casting director’s door. Your audition starts as soon as you enter the waiting room – another tip from another acting class.

I went to an audition for a ‘young mum’ role and was partnered up with a child for the casting. The casting director told me that she looked more like my sister than my daughter which I thought was pretty cool considering this kid was like 9. And a boy. No, no, she was definitely a girl. Now, I am absolutely old enough to have a 9-year-old daughter so I took it as a compliment that I didn’t get that gig – too young to be cast as a ‘young mum’ … Or, possibly, the 9-year old looked more like she was 17 and in that case … No, I’m sticking with my version of the story. Anyway, maybe when called on to audition for ‘young mum’ roles it is safer to ‘bring your own baby’ as I could see was happening in this waiting room.

But, for this audition it didn’t matter.

No children necessary.

I just had to smile.

And that’s exactly what I did about fifteen minutes later as I headed into the audition room.

Smiling and some miming.

They don’t really cover that at Drama School.

The casting director was very positive and said I was in with a very good chance for this one …

I didn’t get the gig.

I think I need to work on my smiling and miming.

Acting is weird.

Things I learnt today (lists made whilst waiting)

Today I had this meet and greet sort of thing for some casting directors. Nothing to get excited about. This is what I learnt:

  1. I’m terrible at waiting
  2. The waiting room at the casting agency is THE weirdest place on the earth
  3. Some people, particularly some actors, are incredibly eager
  4. Some people, particularly some actors, are incredibly weird  (I already knew that one to be honest)
  5. I shouldn’t drink long blacks
  6. I shouldn’t drink long blacks before heading into a waiting room
  7. Women dress up for the role they are auditioning for; men just rock up
  8. I’m still no good at waiting
  9. Always bring a book … or something …
  10. Shoes maketh the outfit
  11. I need some new shoes
  12. Scrap Number 7. Some men do dress up for the role they are auditioning for … Some do a better job at it than others
  13. I need to get better at waiting
  14. Talking to camera is an art in itself
  15. Be yourself but brush your hair (occasionally … and I did … and I was happy I did)
  16. I am interesting
  17. Don’t worry about the unknown – just enjoy the ride … Like Marty in the DeLorean
  18. Lots of people wear yellow – you just have to be on the look out for it

All in all, a  pretty insightful day I think.

Here’s to the next waiting room …