Friday, June 21, 2013

Look at Me! Look at Me!

Look at me!  Look at me!  Look at me...*

That is my life.  Look at me.  Oh, and could you like me too?  And, even better, could you give me a job?

I go to E.P.A.s.  Sometimes I am seen, sometimes I am not. 
(Merrily We Roll Along) 
Sometimes there is just one person behind the table.
(With So Little to be Sure of)

We have all been at those auditions where the young intern behind the table seems to be examining her navel, rather than looking at us:

Lady, look at me, look at me miss, oh

Look at me, please, oh
Favor me, favor me with your glance.*

Or it could be a an important producer examining his navel:

Say, Mister producer,  
I'm talkin' to you, sir.^

That does not mean these auditions are a waste of time.  I hear so many actors complaining when they feel that the important people are not in the room.  Or feeling that the important people behind the table are not paying attention.  Of course, there are horror stories about the casting director texting, etc., etc.  BUT, we have to show up.  We have to keep going.  There are audience members who text during Broadway shows.  Stop being bitter and complaining and consider it part of your training.

Nowadays, though,it is not enough just to show up.  It is expected that actors have an online presence. A website, a reel (still a work in progress for me), Facebook, twitter and so on.  Now I know very successful actors who have none of this.  I was excited when I received my first IMDB credit (thanks to The Austin Pendleton Project) and then went to add my photo to the page.  I was told I needed to pay an annual fee for that privilege (same goes for adding bio, trivia, etc.) Meryl Streep does not have to pay to upload her headshot and resume on IMDB (I'm assuming!)  Not Miss Streep's fault, of course!  For the record, I love her.

And therein lies one of the major problems.  Emerging artists are the ones who really need the help: managers and agents to sell them because this is the point in the career where that stuff is harder.  I am guessing Judi Dench does not have a website and is not doing student films to get stuff for her reel.  She does not have to pay for an event at the Network or One on One to meet a casting director.  Nor should she have to!  She is Judi Dench.  Goddess.

But we do.  And I do.  

What do you, what do you see off 
There in those trees, oh
Won't you give, won't you give me a chance? *

Again, what's the use of complaining about the person behind the table looking out of the window?  There is little we can do.  And we also have to trust that they know.  Sit on the other side of the table if you ever have the chance.  It's a revelation.  We have to embrace the way the business is now and do what we can.  No one is going to discover us sitting in a small cafe in Greenwich village.  There are all these wonderful showbiz stories of being discovered on Youtube etc. (Telsey and Co. have even started a department especially for looking at YouTube videos).  I have not sent a video to Telsey yet.  Maybe I'll be satisfied with one of them in another 10 years or so.  We all know someone who got a big break.  Who got lucky (although for most, there is hard work in the background somewhere  -  I prefer not to focus on the ones who are pure luck and not talent).  And, of course, I dream of someone seeing my talent without me actually having to DO anything (certainly not the self-promotion stuff).

Say, Mr. Producer,
Some girls get the breaks.
Just give me my cue, sir.
I've got what it takes. ^
(lyric appears in music book "All Sondheim: Volume 1" (the yellow book), but I have yet to see or hear it anywhere else.  I like it!)

I have been told over and over again that I've got what it takes.  It is not enough.  I made some half-baked attempts at self-promotion.  Even posing for a headshot is painful for me.  And then I took a life-changing class with Heidi Marshall.  Not only is she a casting director and director, she is the most actor friendly teacher I have met.  She tweets, she posts casting notices, she has a facebook page for actor headshots and websites to help us be seenshe recommends actors to other casting directors, she understands the fragile egos we have, she blogs.

In many ways I have extra struggles being an immigrant.  I realise, though, how lucky I am that I was forced to delve into the world of self-promotion, like it or not.  I do not like it.

Say, Mister producer,  
I'm talkin' to you, sir.
I don't need a lot,
Only what I got,
Plus a tube of grease-paint and a follow spot! ^ a twitter account, a facebook page, a profile on NY Castings, actors access, YouTube, a website, a reel (still waiting for more footage!), IMDB...

Paul Russell just wrote about the whole thing in this week's Backstage:

"How to Audition and Get Cast in Your Sleep"  Although I still got a lot of work to do and all the online media robs me of my sleep  -  I still love the article, Mr. Russell!)

So here I go on the self-promotion bandwagon.  Website, facebook actress page, postcards, twitter (which, as my brother - who has still to write my bio for IMDB because I think he'll do a better job than I can - points out, I'm not much cop at).  I've got work to do.  But I'm trying.

(See - crappy cell phone shot of new postcards from Twitter: my brother is right!)

I've been told I should have been born in a different era.  Born in another decade, I would be working more.  But I was born when I was born.  I am Polly McKie, runt of the litter and I've got what it takes:

Look at me.

* "Ah Miss" from "Sweeney Todd". Stephen Sondheim. 
^ "Broadway Baby" from "Follies". Stephen Sondheim.

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