I never talk about my day to day working life as an actor. Most of you know that I am an actress. And I sometimes mention a job I've worked. But the day to day drudgery is something I usually spare you. Mostly because it's...well, drudgery. Or that's how I feel about it anyway. It's not glamorous or exciting. But I guess for people unfamiliar with "the business" it might be kind of interesting. So...
I used to audition MUCH more than I do now. That is in part because of my age, roles dwindle as we women get older, but mostly, it's because when Jude was born I mostly stopped working in television and film, but have continued doing commercials. It's easy to audition for commercials when you have a kid, because bringing them with you isn't a problem. When you read for a tv show, you are given a scene or two to prepare in advance, so you need to concentrate, and allow the other actresses at the audition to focus as well. But for a commercial audition, you are handed material at the last second, and you basically just wing it. So toting a child with you is doable.
Commercials are a crap shoot. When I mention to someone that I had an audition, they inevitably ask "Oooo, what was it for?" and I never tell them. Because I will NOT get the VAST majority of the things I audition for. According to the Screen Actors Guild, the odds are something dismal like...1 job for every 40 auditions. And that's if you're doing pretty well. So I go on these things and then immediately...forget them. It's the only way an actor can handle all of the rejection.
The other day, I had three auditions in one day. And, naturally, they were all within a two hour period. Right when Jude needed to be taken to his swim practice. This is always the way it works. The soonest I know about an audition is the night before, but often I'll find out a couple of hours before, and I have to scramble.
In this case, I was able to reach my friend Carol, whose daughter is also on the swim team, and she was able to take Jude to his practice while I did my thing.
The first audition was at a casting studio in Beverly Hills. Commercials are mostly cast out of large casting offices around the city. Casting directors rent space at the casting office to hold their auditions. These places usually have a large actors waiting area set up in the middle, with a number of small rooms around the periphery where the auditions are actually held. When I arrive at one of these places, the first thing I do is figure out which of these small studios my particular audition is in.
Once you locate the place, you write your name on a sign-in sheet, check to see if you have any "copy" (lines) and take a look at something called a "story board", which is basically a little cartoon drawing of what's going to happen in the commercial. Sometimes, the casting people will call a bunch of you into the little room for what they call a "group explanation", in which the casting assistant who is running the audition session talks you through exactly what they want you to do in the spot.
You then go sit and wait. And wait. And wait. At this particular casting office, all of the actors are forced to sit on stools which I have always referred to inside my brain as "the egg cups". Because they look very much like this...
I consider them to be the most uncomfortable and demeaning place to sit imaginable. I always rebel and just sit on the floor.
This first audition was for a women's calcium supplement, and was particularly heinous. It was "just a look". In other words, it didn't matter if you could walk and talk at the same time, they just wanted to see what you look like. I hate, hate, HATE these. I didn't go to drama school for this! And I almost never book them. Probably because of my bad attitude. The other women there were models. Well, middle-aged models anyway. But they were all very, very thin, and had all had tremendous amounts of Botox injected into their faces.
The "breakdown" for this audition (the information sent by the casting people to the agents) described my character as such - "She’s a woman who tries to stay informed as her bodies’ [sic] needs change. That attitude is reflected in how she looks and how she acts. This woman is slightly more aspirational and youthful for her age." Gag.
For my audition, I had to stand on my mark in front of the camera and "slate". Which one does for every audition. A slate is basically just saying your name and smiling for the camera. Sometimes they'll ask you to show "profiles" and sometimes they (gasp!) want to see your hands. Well for this audition, they not only made me show my profiles and hands, but also 3/4 shots, full-body shots and then they made me walk to the back wall, turn around and strike a series of fricking poses! SO humiliating. I am much too old for this.
After this horror, I got back in my car and fought traffic to get to the next audition was much more my thing. The description for this was "Real to slightly character looking, interesting and expressive face. Typical suburban woman." Whew. This one I could handle.
After signing in, I was grouped with two actors with whom I was to be auditioning. One was playing my husband, and the other, the creepy guy who was living with us. I will spare you the full explanation. It was supposed to be funny. This "husband" thing is very common, I am almost always assigned a husband or a family. You try to have "chemistry" with them - it makes everybody look better. But sometimes it's rough. Usually, you have to create this chemistry with a total stranger, but every now and then I'll go in with someone I actually know (sometimes one of the dads from Jude's school!), which is even stranger.
In this second audition, my "husband" and I were snuggling in bed, with our creepy stranger man in the bed with us. So we arrange ourselves on some chairs under a blanket and they video us snuggling. We then move to the next little scene, in which I'm saying goodbye to my husband and the creepy man as they head off to work in the morning. They both kissed me goodbye. I am often asked to touch and be touched by strangers in ways that would be considered inappropriate in most situations.
The last audition was at the same location (NOTE: This is highly unusual - usually I am driving back and forth across the city all day), so I simply moved to the next little room and signed in there. I had to change clothes into a nice dress with pearls and heels so I could be "Proud mom, attending graduation for her son. Great actress, great with dialogue and improv." Well finally, somebody wanted me to have a bit of talent.
When I'm called in, I am given yet another husband, and we are told to sit on chairs and watch our invisible son walking across an invisible stage to receive his invisible diploma. At this point, an invisible streaker runs across the invisible stage, upsetting my invisible son's graduation. My "husband" and I must react to this upset. There is no snuggling or kissing involved this time. At some point, I had to turn to the side and speak to my invisible daughter, who they were apparently casting at a later date. The aforementioned dialogue which they want me to be "great" with, consisted of two lines.
After this, I ran, literally ran in my heels and pearls, to my car, jumped in and high-tailed it over to pick Jude up at his swim practice. I had texted my friend Carol to tell her I was on the way, and she kindly stayed with Jude on the street in front of the place until I got there. We then drove home and I took a handful of Advil.
So this is what I do.
I'll never forget the time, many years ago, when Mama had come to LA to visit, and she got to go into an audition with me. After watching me stand there in front of the camera staring wistfully at an invisible sunset while contemplating how happy I was with my sinus medication, Mama turned to me and asked "Is that all you do?" It was not her most encouraging mothering moment, but it was, in fact, what I ask myself all the time.
Not as glamorous as you thought, right?
This post was inspired by...
Prompt #1 - Something that gave you a headache.