Sunday, May 25, 2008

My First Non-Union Feature Film Audition

After a few really hectic days, I'm happy to have nothing but evening musical run-throughs tonight. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, so lets start with what I think many of you may find most interesting...

This past Tuesday I had an audition for a non-union feature film. A feature film! What does that mean, exactly? Well, "non-union" indicates they don't have the budget to hire SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors andI believe "feature film" means it's full length, as opposed to a short film. So, no, this is not likely a film that will be "coming to a theatre near you..." Unless, of course, it's a good flick and they can get picked-up by a major distribution company. Only time will tell.

I submitted for the supporting role of "Nurse Hicks" via an online posting. The breakdown said it will film in both LAs - Los Angeles and Louisiana with the following story line, "In a series of dramatic 'Crash'-like vignettes, Lafayette citizens' tolerance, thresholds, belief systems and lifestyles transform after individuals face wins, losses, suffering and death. Though many will not see another day break, those who adjust, live on."

I received an email letting me know I'd been selected from the submissions to audition for the part, along with sides (my lines) and a time and location.

I knew from the address that I was going to Beverly Hills, but I did not anticipate being a block from Rodeo Drive! I had given myself an extra half hour, and it's a good thing, because I used every last second of it. Beverly Hills was insane! It was incredibly busy with people everywhere and not a single free parking spot. It was another one of those situations where it was not immediately obvious where the hell all these people were coming from or going! Yes, there were shops, restaurants and business buildings all around, but it was crazy for 2 p.m. on a weekday!

The nice thing is that Beverly Hills does have extra, metered, public parking. I can't really call them garages because they're just two levels with maybe 30 spaces total. They're on the corners, taking up the full width of the block; the frustrating part is that you can only enter from one of the three streets it touches and exit onto aother, even though those streets aren't necessarily one-way. Not realizing this at first, I made the completely honest mistake of entering one of them the wrong way. Of course I felt an immediate reaction of stress, embarrassment and fear that an authority had seen me.

On the other side of the full lot, I sat trying to exit from the entrance, waiting for traffic and beginning to panic that I was going to be late to my audition. Directly in front of me was the exit to another parking lot. I watched two cars leave. Just like that fear and embarrassment disappeared and I zipped across four lanes of traffic, under another "exit only" sign and into a space. Finally! Getting around a single block in Beverly Hills was taking like five minutes!

Nevermind my lines, I rushed down the street repeating the address in my head. After waiting for a light and crossing a street, I realized I must have missed it. Indeed, it was in a two story, nondescript, older looking, brick building that seemed more like a large private residence. Once inside though, there were halls of offices; the names on the door indicated everything from psychologists to PR firms.

Per the instructions, I signed in at a certain door and then waited outside the back door where there was a lovely area shaded by beautiful trees off a private parking area. It had several empty spots in it, but I didn't even allow myself to go down that path of angry, negative thought. I had walked in the building a minute late, but luckily the two people before me were still waiting their turns.

Finally a gentleman escorted me into the room, which was about the size of the large master closet I left in Ohio! I'm talking a cramped 9x9. In it, a woman sat at a small table, behind which a camera and stage light faced the far wall which was covered by a blue backdrop. A square for the actors to stand in was marked with tape on the floor and a second gentleman, the reader, sat on a stool to the right/behind me.

I gave the women the two hard copies of my headshot/resume that the email had requested and clarified the pronunciation of one of the names I had to say. They were all very personable, but unfortunately, the reader gave a deadpan performance, which I have been warned about! He delivered his lines in complete monotone without an ounce of inflection or intention. I've been told sometimes readers are behind-the-scenes types who have no acting ability, sometimes they've read it so many times in a given day they just don't care anymore and other times they do it on purpose to be jackasses, I mean, to test how you act without anything to actually react to.

Rewind - before I began they asked me to slate into the camera whenever I was ready. "SHIT!" I thought to myself... I had slated before and I knew what that meant, but suddenly I wasn't sure what I should say for this exact circumstance. A slate is the black and white sign with the stripped arm that is snapped at the beginning of scenes in a TV show or movie. When you're auditioning "to slate" means verballing giving information about yourself, as producer and directors will later watch your recorded performance. For competitions at IMTA we'd slate with our names and IMTA number and my acting teacher had reminded me not to say my name in a slate like a question - ie: don't inflect up at the end, rather always say your name like a confident statement.

Yet, in that moment, I thought "Shit - is it just my name, or is there other information?" So I looked into the camera and confidently stated "My Name for Nurse Hicks." My roommate later confirmed that what I said was fine and some times they even want you to slate then do a 90 degree turn so the camera captures your profile.

As for the scene itself, it had a bit of a sci-fi feel to it. In short, the nurse has to tell a patient who has just woken up that he now has a robotic limb; she has to physically keep him from getting out of bed, then shoots him with a taser, all the while she's happy the procedure has worked and the project is moving forward. Obviously my ability to perform that forceful action had to be implied with my energy and only slightly mimed. That, along with the monotone reader, was a challenge. I did it once, then the women gave me notes to do it a bit "softer and more feminine," perhaps hinting at the possibility of a history between these two characters. Me, be more feminine? No problem! I took that direction, did it again, and went on my way.

So that was it! Thirty minutes of driving to the location, twenty minutes of trying to find a parking spot and not hit a debutante and her purse dog, fifty cents in a meter and twenty minutes of waiting all for maybe four minutes of acting in a closet-sized room! It's really not that exciting and not at all glamorous!

I've not heard back and in this town, no news is bad news. That's okay though, now I know what that experience is like. Anywhere from six months to a year or two from now, remind me to try to find the film Another Day Break to see if I missed out or was lucky not to be cast and who did get the part!

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