Sunday, 9 June 2013

I'm ready for my close up - auditioning for movie musicals

Every time I have an audition for a film, I find myself having to go in the slot after the same West End starlet.  It happened again this week.

Lights, camera, aaaaaaargh!
Let me back track for a sec and give you some context; firstly, I say ‘every time’ but I have only ever had 2 film auditions, both for musicals.  You see, I am so deeply entrenched in the musical theatre casting bracket that I've never had an audition for a TV series, Casualty or even Doctors (I know, anyone who even thinks about being an actor has appeared in Doctors.)  So although auditioning for films may be an average day for some actors, for me it is the ‘once in a blue moon’ exciting opportunity that makes me feel unprepared for the unknown.
But both times I have had to follow the audition of this West End starlet who is both highly successful and highly lovely.  Both her height and her credentials dwarf me, so I can’t help but feel like the unknown support act coming on after the main event. At normal auditions you see your peers at similar places in your careers, but both times I have been at these film auditions I have been surrounded by the West End elite and I am sure my presence is some kind of admin error.
A first-round audition is fairly similar for both stage and screen musicals, you sing at a panel of strangers.  One difference is that for stage you often have to bring your own material and in my ‘huge experience’ of movie castings (yep, I totally say that in a L.A accent) you are given material from the project.  Oh, and there is a camera aimed at your face.

My face fits nicely in the theatrical world; I can never disguise what I am thinking and my eyebrows have a life of their own.  My expressions are large, animated and can be read “from the gods!”  But what works in a West End chorus line translates on screen as somebody “gurn-ing” and probably on some kind of amphetamine.   
I am ready for my close-up......what do ya mean you don't want it?

In my audition for the Les Miserables movie, Tom Hooper asked for the “Lovely Ladies” section but trimmed right back to just show the intention in our eyes.  For those of you who’ve seen the show, you will know that the lovely ladies are highly grotesque and animated.  We are told to be like broken dolls with loads of arm movements to create spiky pictures.  So I needed some kind of theatrical strait-jacket for the audition as my muscle memory kicked in and my arms wanted to repeatedly leap forwards in grand gestures!

My audition this week was for an upcoming musical film adaptation and again I was called in for a grotesque and larger than life character.  (Yes, I have noticed the theme here and I am fully aware that my 'pretty juvenile lead' days are over, sob!)  Anyway, this was my challenge; did I go in and give a naturalistic performance suggesting my mean-ness from my eyes?  Or should I go for it, knowing that even on screen this character would have to be fairly grotesque.  Or a non-committal blend of the two - mean eyes and the odd arm flap?  I have no idea what I actually did because I was in and out quicker than a Donmar Warehouse season sells out.  Suddenly I was back in the waiting room wondering what on earth just happened!  
My barbie's legs fell off when I attempted the box splits,
 it ain't right!
And while I’m talking about the waiting room - just a quick final thought; – why oh why do casting directors insist on making mere mortal actors audition in dance studios?  Auditioning after the starlet is demoralising enough but to be surrounded by leotard-clad dancers who are nonchalantly chatting whilst sitting in the box splits, makes you want to leap out of the nearest window. 
As if auditions aren’t traumatic enough!


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