Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bizness People

I wanted to write a blog about silly audition stories and the crazy personalities involved from the casting staff to the talent.  I wanted to shed some light on the not-so-secret world of what happens when the people you see on TV go into a waiting room with not enough seats among a sea of aesthetically gifted individuals buried in their smart phones.  But I fear if these stories fell in the wrong hands I could potentially embarrass myself or offend someone.  So I need to think about it…

I wanted to tell the story about the time I overslept my alarm clock and rushed out of my house to make an audition for a low-paying job that I highly doubted I’d even book, that in such a hurry I only managed to put on mascara and a horribly mix-matched outfit.  I barely made it on time and was assigned a strange task to perform.  I left feeling so silly and couldn’t help but roll my eyes.  The next day I learned I booked the job with a 100% pay increase.  And to think I was THIS close to shutting off the snooze and returning to sleep.

Granted, that story might make me sound cooler than I actually am, but I also wanted to share an experience where I showed up to an audition in relatively low heels that I could barely walk in.  I walked to the audition in flats before switching to heels and noticed every other girl doing the same.  I sat patiently awaiting my turn whereupon I was instructed to do a full catwalk in two variations, the first being “NYC top fashion model on heroin style” and the second being “upbeat commercial happy style!”  These were the exact words the casting director used.  My chest pounded like a convicted criminal hearing his verdict followed by immediate disbelief.  My brain went to mush and I laughed at my childlike inability to walk in 3 inch heels.  I thought of my former classmates at 8th grade graduation stomping in trashy platform pumps onstage to receive their diplomas taking each step like a circus elephant.  An endless montage of rolled ankles filled my head as my chest filled with hiccups.  My turn to audition.  I walked and turned and walked and turned while peripherally scanning the floor for threatening cords and wet spots.  I survived the walk and stood to the side as four other girls did the same after me, one-by-one.  I felt partial relief at seeing that not everyone was supremely adept at the art of heel-walking and decided to thank my lucky stars I didn’t fall.  Note to self:  Practice!

Another story I wanted to share was the time I attended a cross-generational audition amongst the surliest motherfuckers I ever saw.  I thought I was in the wrong office at the sight of what looked like a North Pole biker gang convening over cigars.  “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe they let you in here!” a tough biker shouted to his fellow cronie, a big bearded man with a cigar hanging from his mouth.  I found a seat next to a senior citizen covered in tattoos including a gnarly tattoo on the back of his scalp.  I overheard a conversation across from me where an old man reported that he almost missed his call time because he got pulled over by a cop for screaming at someone on the street.  As more old biker dudes showed up the models in the room lowered their heads to avoid eye contact.  An old man in a fishing hat remarked to me that we looked like mourners at a funeral.

Oh, here’s a good one!  I went to an audition where we were told to remove all facial accessories and headpieces.  I took off my earrings and waited alongside my audition group.  Once inside the casting director asked a model to remove her eyeglasses and 20s style headband.  “But this is my gimmick!” she shouted.

How can I forget the Dutch bodybuilder who bragged about being the first European member of Chippendales?  Or the kid who wore a suit and tie to a “beach party look” audition.  Or that random white girl at the Asian casting.  Maybe she was hapa?  I couldn’t tell.  Or that well-known girl from a popular reality TV show whom everyone stared at trying to figure out where they recognized her from.  Or that girl I recognized but couldn’t place only to walk into a store and find her picture staring at me every few inches?  Or the audition at the producer’s house where we held a potato war?  And of course, the time a contact lens fell out rendering me half blind.  And then I had to walk like a mummy—arms outstretched—to find the chair I was to sit on.

I also thought to share a cultural reference in the casting process that I discovered by innocent mistake.  In my earlier days I wasn’t quite aware that wearing a loud pattern would cause the camera to internally combust in horror.  I showed up in what I thought was a cute and colorful halter top but was immediately escorted back to the waiting room where a casting assistant asked if I had a change of clothes.  Luckily I did so I changed.  Back in the lobby she told me to never wear that shirt again unless I was auditioning for something in the Latin market.  Yes, it was that loud of a print.

It pains me to keep this one in, but I really wanted to share the one about the two auditions for a principal role in a huge commercial.  I felt elated at receiving a callback audition until I showed up and saw everyone and their mother in the waiting room.  I got a call a few days later from one of the casting directors inviting me to participate in the commercial as an extra.  Wait a minute, what?  “But,” she explained, “the director really loved your look and thinks you have a cute pixie haircut.  We’re going to cast our principals from the extras and you have a really good chance of getting upgraded!  Please say you’ll do it!”  I was pretty convinced, not gonna lie.  I showed up to the set and saw the same faces from the two auditions.  Everyone seemed to have an air of unusual over-confidence in them.  We all felt a little untouchable.  As we sat and chatted one guy informed us that he was hired as a principal but had to work background first.  A puzzled look crossed all our faces.  Another girl added that she was told the director really liked her energy and wanted to cast her as a principal as well.  “Me too!” a breakdancer chimed in.  One by one we all realized what had happened.  Like old world country farmers being promised a better life we stuck around and waited for our chance.  And the best part?  We all believed it would happen!  Just goes to show, appeal to our ego and we’re putty in your hands. 

I think one of my favorite stories is the one where I might have witnessed the most absent-minded woman alive!  She showed up slightly disheveled and confused.  The casting assistants couldn’t quite figure out what she was doing there.  After a few minutes of quiet speculation, one of the assistants gathered a photo and brought it to her.  Holding it in front of her he asked, “Is this you?!”   “Oh my god, is that how I’m supposed to look?!  I’m supposed to be the mom?  I didn’t even know what audition this was!”  I snuck a glance at the photo in hand which depicted her in a ponytail and pastel colored cardigan—the mom look.  But the woman herself wore a crazy, artsy-fartsy outfit, tall heels, and her hair in an afro.  She really had no idea what she was auditioning for.  She eventually auditioned and left.  Moments later I saw a guy frantically searching the waiting room for his car keys.  He searched between the sofa cushions, under the furniture, presumably the entire parking lot, and even asked us all to check our bags.  No one could find his keys.  He decided to jimmy his car open with a broom from the custodial closet.  How could he have possibly misplaced his keys?  As he headed outside with the broom, the aforementioned absent-minded woman walked back in and announced, “I grabbed someone’s keys by mistake!”  She set them on the table and left.  We literally stared at each other in disbelief.  Someone ran out to call to the guy before he tried to break into his own car.

I’m not really sure if these are worth sharing or not but I think I’ll throw them out there…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

History Lesson

With a car of my own and not a single reliable companion, I got in and drove for miles to get as far away as I could without losing track.  My sun visor held my top 10 prized CDs at the time, each one revolving with another providing the soundtrack to my adolescent escape.  I never had a destination or a fixed route, I just wanted to listen to my angst filled tunes and dwell inside myself.

I just didn’t have anyone to talk to, or at least anyone to explain myself.  I carried long and meaningful conversations in my head, amused myself, and provided myself with rich company.  I could memorize any speech, song, list of names, historical facts, and text book because I had already rehearsed it in my mind over and over and over until the very words rolled off my tongue into the back of my mouth, down my throat, into my stomach and back up to my brain.  At least, that’s how I thought the body worked.  How information was passed from day to day.

I dreaded with terror the upcoming weekend because I knew it would be like every other weekend past.  I would sit quietly in my room looking at photography books or maps waiting for the phone to ring, half expecting an invitation to a fun event and half expecting a death warrant.  It was the “news feed” of the time.  I set up a personalized ring tone, a depressing Fiona Apple song that never rang.

When I finally got my own car I somehow believed that everything would be different.  People started inviting me to more things, I suddenly started to have conversations outside my mind and with my mouth, it was almost too much to bear.  Being the only one with a car soon made it clear that I wasn’t all I thought I was cracked up to be.  My mom said I was sweet.

So I opted to rebel, to fight back against the weekend, to give my middle finger to the very notion that as a young American I was supposed to be somewhere doing something with somebody or something like that.  I got in my car and drove away.  East or north tended to be the directions I travelled.  I hardly ventured west for fear I’d be caught and branded with an “I do not belong” on my forehead.  I knew not to go south, that’s where people get killed.  So east and north it was, locked inside my air conditioned box ignoring the top-40 hits on the radio to find whatever it was I was searching so desperately for.

I had seen everything I cared to see.  My curiosity was satiated and I returned to my photography books and maps only to realize I had merely looked upon the scenery through the windows of my car.  I never spoke to anyone or learned anything.  I logged into my MySpace to see the festivities that had prevailed over the weekend, none of which I partook in.  Surely if I had known I would have forced myself to put on a nice shirt, eyeshadow, and carry a shoulder purse with $20 in my wallet.  But it wasn’t meant to be. 

In and out of book stores and toy stores, I made purchases that I intended would keep me company.  I couldn’t understand the point of youth and wished to be 30 already.  In high school I couldn’t even imagine being in college.  It felt like the end of life to me.  That I’d go to college and die with one quarter left to finish my History degree upon which I’d turn in my thesis about Henry II and Thomas Becket and how their loving friendship had gone so awry that it changed the course of medieval European history, that worlds fell apart, lives destroyed, and the idea of God re-examined all because one man instilled upon his best friend the greatest and worst gift of all—trust. 

I fell disastrously out of love with my surroundings that I decided a change was in order.  A very big change.  I flew to Australia by myself for 10 days to find something I had left behind 2 years earlier.  Buried somewhere on George St. around Capitol Square I left a clue to my future self that I would only come to understand upon return. 

Since then I have ventured east, north, and west to find little clues I believe to be scattered around the earth in places I stared at in my maps that were only silly names to my teenage self.  Now they have become real places with vivid memories and sensations, where I’ve found friendship in train tickets, passport stamps, suitcases, foreign books, subways, and sparkling water.  I couldn’t imagine traveling with anyone else, to share the burden and desire to find the missing pieces to my puzzle.  The responsibility was in my hands and in every corner a new clue it left behind.

If Emerson taught me anything, which is pretty much everything, I cannot truly leave behind what remains within me.  A new location, a new scene, and a new air cannot combat the simple fact that this world is fucking running me down.  Maybe in my search for missing clues there’s the familiar feeling of escape I once felt put on a grander level.  I swapped the car for an airplane and the mysteries of Los Angeles for the other side of the ocean.  And I’m running.  Running alone in a foreign language without a phrasebook.