Saturday, February 12, 2011

School For Scoundrels


That is how much I currently owe in student loans.

Granted, it's far less than what some people are paying for the same education I received, but that sum is now generally in charge of how I spend my time. For example, right now I am sitting at work in the lobby of a hotel. As far as actor survival jobs go, it's not terrible: flexible, easy, pays well, doesn't involve anal glands. But I've discovered that after the fourth time you've heard Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" in the same day, your soul starts to disintegrate into a wet dust, much like wet sawdust but not quite. While I do get seen on my days off and do stand up after work, most of the time I sit here wishing I could be out at auditions. What I wouldn't give to be that smug actor Twitter account: "OMG just got seen at Gersh! Fingers crossed, toes crossed :)" or maybe even a "Meeting with my comm. agent, then MP ECC, then yoga w/ my besties! Great day. :) X) 0)" For real though, if I had anything to be smug about, I'd smug my shit all over the place. This is what my smug would look like right now: "Totes washed my face today! Feeling capable :)" or "Ate lentils, then off to hummus, and later, Nutella with my besties/no one! Great day. :)"

But if there's one thing that makes me happy to not be completely steeped in auditions, it's casting calls for student films. I'm blessed to know a whole mess of extraordinarily talented people who recently graduated or are still attending film school, but fortunately for them (and unfortunately for us actors) they are in the minority. The formula for many film students who post on Actor's Access goes a little something like this:

19 year old a-hole + acceptance at selective film school + access to thousands of desperate female actors + Kangol hat = The fucking worst person ever. Like, the perfect storm of douchebaggitude.

(The Andrea FAIL)

Unleash that monster on the chum bucket of online casting sites, and you've got some real magic goin' on. Like this gem, for example:

Student Film

Ithaca College

Non-Union / No Pay
Housing NOT provided

(It's already good. No housing AND no pay? Tell me more, tell me more, like does he have a car or do I have to provide transportation, too?)

The premise is a dark comedy concerning the unreliability of gossip and rumors. Three friends discuss a sexual abuse that might have occurred between a beautiful girl and a silent lover.

Ok, here's two good rules of thumb(s?): 1 - if a student film has a story line about a possible rape, but they can only bring themselves to call it "a sexual abuse," it will be awful. Especially if they think of rape as "OMG scandal u guyz UH-OHHH!!" kinda thing. 2 - If a student film bills itself as a "black comedy," steer clear. That's code for "People laughed at my serious movie pitch, so now I'm re-branding it." Lest we forget the ultimate black comedy:

(This breakdown is tearing me apart, Lisa.)

[ SILENT ED ] 18-24 years old, tall with creepy eyes. A silent young man known to do strange things for no apparent reason and is suspected of abusing Katie.

Strange things like the r-word? The sex abuse word? I get that, only quiet creepy dudes commit rape.

(Look at this nerd.)

Okay ladies, break out the Shake Weights, cuz it's time to get skinny:

18-24 years old, thin, beautiful. Katie is the kind of girl who boys want to date. She is seen in Silent Ed's company and is suspected of being abused.

Did you catch that? 18-24 + thin + beautiful + only described using passive verbs + possibly a victim = "The kind of girl guys want to date." I love this breakdown so much, I'm like a pig in shit right now.

But truly, the best part of Katie is that she is "suspected of being abused." She is an abuse suspect. "Hur?" says your brain. "What does that make bodies with gunshot wounds, murder suspects?" This dude would totally get along with Bobby Franklin. Amiright? Oh you guys, I'm so glad we're doing this together. We should hang out more!

18-24 years old, thin. She is Katie's close friend and is the voice of reason between herself, Greg, and Steve. She listens to both sides of the story before making a decision.

Wait wait wait, forget Stephanie and how you're too fat to play her, who is this Herself? I am intrigued. Is he the hot Swedish exchange student with a dark past and a lower lip that never quits?

(It's cool, Herself, we don't like talking about our childhood, either.)

Less victim-blaming, more hot after-school scenes in the library involving Herself, a thin skinny beautiful victim girl, and a microfiche scanner. I'm sweating like a whitefish at a lutefisk cookoff.

So there's 2 other characters, but I don't really feel like breaking them down. Long story short: they're white dudes of medium-build with boring names who wanna talk shit about Katie and how much of a skinny slutty rape suspect she is. Fuck this shit.


Where's the Nutella?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Won't Somebody Think Of The Men?!

Friday's post was all these wimmin problems. If all you heard was "Blah blah blah, my period, wah," here's the post for you!

We all know that is a highly reputable organization. That's what "org" stands for. Whether you desperately need to contract bed bugs or are simply looking to break into the sex industry, Craigslist is there to lend a helping hand. The Talent section is chock full of hidden casting gems, such as the following posted on Saturday:

It's okay, I speak Sex Offender. Allow me to translate:

"I am looking for a model..." ----> "I am trolling for disadvantaged youth..."

" come work with me in my space" ----> "...who have minimal mold allergies."

"My images slant toward the artistic side of things" --> "How fast do you bleed?"

"$75" ---> "That covers tattoo removal, right?"

"I do not do commerical work"----> "Here, smell this rag."

Sounds good, right? I'm sure being a semi-consenting part of somebody's private spank bank will help you nab that commerical agent you've been longing for. So if you're interested in being "treated like a professional" (a professional what, exactly?), go ahead and track this guy down. He's the one who's been staring at the mannequins in J.C. Penny's for a little too long.

Here's a non-union short film for all you non-actor actors:

I'm looking for 'non-actor' types, actors with less training than extensive training, people who can connect to the characters, work in a fluid, sometimes improvised way. I admire fearlessness in actors, and appreciate your time reading this.

ERNIE ] (25-35) is mentally ill, but has recovered quite well and is now being released from John George, a mental institution. He is socially awkward, private, and accommodating. He has an inability to communicate his wants/needs because he doesn't know what they are outside institution walls. At first he wanted out, got out, but now what?

Now what, indeed.

Let's say you were a young filmmaker looking to make a film. Because that's what you were made to do. You eat raw emotion and shit brilliance. You see life through the Rectangle of Truth that you make with your hands. You are a camera, and your life is a blockbuster waiting to happen. Your experiences are your shoots. Your drunken blackouts are your editing sessions. Grrahhhh FILMmaking! You are a CAMERA. Also, you have another camera, one that can film on film. Not quite as good as your brain camera, but you're cursed with small ear canals and the 35mm just won't fit, so you take what this dull world can offer. You find some drones to work as grips, editors, and script supervisors, but now, your least favorite part: actors. They're not as pliable as the mindless minions (actually just some freshman you regularly supply with Natty Light). Actors just have so many ideas. Ideas that don't come from your brain! What to do, what to do, what to do... You hump a small framed picture of Martin Scorcese for inspiration. How to accomplish all your "wants/needs?" AH! Yes! You've got it! Write a character who's socially awkward and over-accomodating. That way, they'll be too nervous to say anything back, and they'll cater to your every whim! Ha ha haaaa.... you lean back in your too-tall director's chair, steepling your fingers with satisfaction. But wait!

You look sharply to the right! (That's where the genius of editing helps to tell the story; our hero has realized something crucial.) Just because the character is playing a helpless character doesn't mean he is a helpless character. That's the problem with actors: they just pretend it, they don't live it. You're going to need actors who have no idea what they're doing. While gumming on the knockoff Oscar your godmother bought on Amazon, it hits you!

(This is the climax of the movie, ideally lots of fire and explosions, look into getting one of those stunt guys who can be lit on fire while windmilling his arms and walking slowly.)

NON-ACTOR ACTORS. Why didn't you think of this before? You hop on an actor casting website since there isn't one for actors who don't know how to act and post your heart out. Don't forget to thank them for reading it! People respond well to niceness. Now you just sit back and wait for the responses to pour in.You can't wait to work with people who can "connect to the characters" but who still have absolutely no ability to act. Also, they won't have any extensive training, but are still able to "work in a fluid, sometimes improvised way." Now the only problem left to solve is figuring out where to line up your Palm d'Ors. Right next to good ol' Marty!

You're welcome, boys. Next time: a special feature on one of the most problematic casting calls I have ever read. It's okay, I'll hold your hand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome To Heck

Welcome to Offensive Casting Calls! Here, we aim to please. And by "please" we mean, of course, remind you of how fat you are. Yes, as any actor can tell you, the world of online casting can be a quagmire of poor grammar, unapologetic racism, and one-dimensional girlfriend characters. There are the generous offers of "a couple a pizzas" for 14-hour work days, scores of unpaid nude photoshoots ("totaly classy and artfull"), not to mention the dubious honor of deferred payment. And who doesn't love seeing a good "MUST BE MODEL-TYPE, INCLUDE FULL BODY SHOT TO SHOW PHYSIQUE" after an eating holiday? Today's special: Thanksgiving leftovers, served between two slices of fresh-baked sexism.

We start on the simple side of things. What actress wouldn't jump at this role for an unproduced A&E pilot?

Your heart explodes with excitement and blood. You knew this day would come, this day of all days. The worry slips away and it all becomes clear. Big picture and small picture are suddenly one. You are ready for this. Now everything you learned from that Anne Bogart workshop comes flooding back to you... revelation of space... revelation of hair color... revelation of too-broad age range... That $270 check you send to Sallie Mae every month suddenly seems worth it. Let the breath drop in. Push it out. Let it drop in, and with it, the future you waited for. Now bleach your hair. God dammit, you are ready for this!

Oh look, here's an actual paid gig! Good news: it's a decent wage. Better news: it's a "Twitter contest" for "HOT GIRLS." Better call your Alexander coach now!!

Female, early to mid 20s. Must be comfortable putting sexy photos on web site (no nudity) and comfortable tweeting and answering questions on live internet feed.

It's an online companion project to a new cable show, which merely requires the girls to be photographed wearing skimpy clothing and "compete against the cast of the show." What exactly the hell a "Twitter contest" is is not included in the description, but it involves being questioned by random dudes on the internet about "what they look for in men." They don't call it soft-core porn, so it's not soft-core porn. Nope! Nothing says "not soft-core porn" like "sexy photos on website." And nothing says "child pornographer" like referring to full-grown nudie models as "girls." Freudian slip? We don't even know what that means.

Now here's a worthwhile project: 30 Rock. It's hard for young women to find solid comedic roles on TV, and in New York they're especially few and far between. Well, here's your chance! They're finally casting young women! Surely Tina Fey has something nice and meaty cooked up for your comedy chops...


20-25, to work as a "boat show model." Must be comfortable wearing a bikini. This is a major network show, so nothing too revealing.

Hmm... go ahead, see if your UCB training can help you become more comfortable in a bikini. Can you do it? Sure you can. Think funny thoughts. Funny, like, oh I don't know, a dog wearing a wig! Old people falling down stairs! Spit takes! Oh, that'll do the trick. Coffee spit takes, water spit takes, spit takes that then cause a puddle which causes and old dog wearing a wig to fall down stairs! Ooh, you tied it all together! That's the magic of improv, and you have it on lock down. Now, try on a bikini.

Feel comfortable yet? If no, turn to Page 43. If yes, guess what? Now you have to find a bikini that isn't revealing, you slutty slutty hooker you. Good luck! I wonder if burkinis count...

Now, a boat show model.... you've never played a boat show model before. That could be just the challenge you've been searching for. Just do sensory work on the smell of sea salt, or the cool mist on your face, perhaps the feeling of thermal waves coming up off the asphalt, the garbled voice of the announcer getting your name wrong. Really go there. Feel yourself withdrawing from the University of Phoenix. You say, "Fuck it, I can just model at Dan's Marina for cash." Say it out loud. Say "fuck it." And mean it. Taste the chicken Caesar wrap they got you from Sequa Deli across the street. Notice they used actual egg yolk and anchovies in the dressing. Taste it. Feel impressed. Now, be impressed. Are you impressed? Really, truly impressed? Now, you're impressive.

See how that works? I only know what works for me, but I would hope others could benefit from my experience.

Your fathers will weep with joy, or something akin to joy, to see you book any of these roles. Enjoy your leftovers, and try not to get trampled out there. You've got great work left to do.