Actress Miss L anonymously catalogues the horrors of casting calls to a huge Twitter following. Here, she tells Standard Issue about some of the worst ones she’s been to.
Illustration by Laura Swaddle.
It’s October. It’s cold. I’m in a church hall on Tottenham Court Road with a camera crew. Oh, and I’m wearing nothing but a bikini.
For the past 10 minutes, I’ve been running up and down this church hall while a production team film me and judge how my body moves. Each excruciating second is marked by the rhythmic clacking of my thighs and every time I run past the crew, I see that their brows have furrowed a little further.
Welcome to my first ever feature film audition.
I finally leave the room with my bikini on underneath my winter clothes, like an overeager beach volleyball player, thinking that would be the end of the ordeal. But I should’ve known that it wasn’t.
I’d received the first warning sign earlier that week when my agent emailed me the casting call for it: “Strong, athletic, capable of withstanding adverse weather conditions. There is a sex scene and some nudity.”
I must admit, when picturing myself embarking upon my career, I’d hoped pretending to have sex in a blizzard wouldn’t be part of it. I read on. “They smear themselves with the excrement left behind by the elk.”
This was never going to be straightforward.
For the uninitiated, casting calls are what go out to agents when someone needs a few hapless buffoons to help make their script a reality. They tend to fall into three categories.
1: Tempting: Payment: bottle of gin, travelcard, £20.
2: Ridiculous: You will be playing the role of a rubber duck.
3: Horrific: The actress would need an EASY ACCESS SKIRT with LEGGINGS underneath so that the skirt could be lifted up and it would look convincingly like she was being taken from behind. CONSENT to have FAKE VOMIT thrown on her.
By a stroke of misfortune, my wibbly, goose-pimpled body got me a second audition and a week later I found myself in a dance studio with 14 other actors. They all looked strangely like me but taller, prettier and something else I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. We were told we’d be taking part in a three-hour workshop where we’d be performing as Neanderthals for 180 SOLID MINUTES. Ah yes, that was it. They were all dressed correctly whereas I, due to some monumental miscommunication with my Irish agent, was dressed ready to audition for a role in a car insurance advert.
That morning contained many low points and I will never forget the sound of my jeans ripping as I embarked upon hunting an invisible bear. But the moment I actually watched my pride leave the room was about two thirds of the way into this humiliating debacle, as we were all scrabbling around on the floor making pretend fire.
Suddenly, the bank of producers watching us, reached under their chairs and pulled out carrier bags. Right then, I hoped they were going to use them to suffocate us and end this misery. But no. Instead they took out stale loaves of bread, threw them at us and ordered us to fight over them while they filmed us. Chaos ensued. Elbows out, game faces on, crumbs everywhere. At one point I saw an actor reach into another actor’s mouth and remove the half-eaten bread from it, all in the hope of getting a few weeks’ paid work. This was becoming less an audition and more a horrific metaphor for the acting industry.
And no, I didn’t end up getting the job.
It’s not surprising I’ve been a tad wary of casting calls (and carrier bags) ever since.
Unfortunately, for the nine out of 10 actors currently unemployed, these are the realities of our career. Poorly paid, poorly written and poorly executed, these are the ones we generally rely on to help boost our CVs and give us something to talk about when someone asks us the dreaded question: “Are you working on anything at the moment?”/
But it’s worrying, as an actor, when your working life depends on casting calls such as… “Must be willing to have a condom filled with condensed milk thrown at her face”; “She must be enough of a visual aesthetic to be believably the prey of a stalker”; “You’d be scantily clad, stripped, washed down, wrapped in cling film and then killed”.
Yet we put up with it. We grit our teeth and endure. Because, what can be finer than answering that dreaded question with…
“Why yes, I am working on something. Let me tell you about my new role as a rubber duck…”