T Minus 40: Open Call

No matter how much training or preparation you undergo, you are still you.

When you’re first trying to get work a an actor, you go on a lot of open calls. They suck. They suck out your soul, they remind you that you are not special, and most of all they are really, really boring. In 2004 I saw one such call listed in Backstage (the go-to newspaper for casting notices in NYC). They were seeking extras for a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, The Interpreter. I knew it would be a long boring day and the call was open to all types, so I made Yves go with me.

We had a photo shoot in the apartment the night before. I snapped what I thought was a pretty decent headshot for Yves considering I had relatively no photography skills and was using a digital camera with only one megapixel. It was like the dark ages.

The morning of the casting we headed south to The Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Columbus at 60th St. The call was being held in their huge rec room on the lower level. By the time we arrived the line was already down the block, so we queued up and proceeded to wait. For an hour.

There was a woman on line in front of us who looked to be between 35 and 45 years old. I could tell that she’d been doing this for a while without much success. She just had a tired and slightly pissed off look about her. It seemed as though she was annoyed that she was even there. We all stood still for about 30 minutes before the line moved up and we got close enough to the front to see the doorway. They were obviously taking people in smaller groups to deal with the overwhelming response to the ad.

Yves and I had been laughing and talking the whole time. We weren’t taking the whole thing too seriously. I had just turned around to say something to him when I heard a very definite “plop” sound. When I turned back towards the front of the line I saw immediately that our fragile and already annoyed line buddy had been shat on by a passing pigeon. Her expression tightened immediately. Her mood was palpable as it shifted from mildly irked to completely exasperated. The look in her eyes said Why me? How the fuck did I get here?

I pulled a tissue from my bag and offered it to her along with a bit of folk wisdom someone had passed along to me once. They say that’s good luck , ya know.

She shot me a wordless look that spoke volumes. She was not amused. She attempted to clean the bird feces out of her hair half-heartedly as she choked down her rage and rising tears. Then she slung her bag over her should and stormed off. I felt bad for her, but inched right up into her spot in the line. There was now one less actor to go through to get the gig. The show must go on, lady. I wondered later if I had witnessed the end of her dream of an acting career.

After about another 30 minutes outside we made it into the building. We had our polaroids snapped and then we were separated by type. I got lined up with the bland-white-girl types and Yves got sent to the other side of the room to hang with the potential terrorists. Apparently the camera doesn’t care if you’re a Muslim or a Jew, you just have to look middle-easterny.

I stood around with the white girls for a while before the casting assistants thanked us and let us go and then I went to find Yves and the terror squad. I located him, but we couldn’t leave. The assistant casting director wanted Yves to wait for a minute so he could talk to the casting director himself. Um… what?

I waited with him for about another 15 minutes and finally he was called over to the table where the casting director sat reviewing headshots and polaroids. I watched from across the room as they had in depth discussion about something. When Yves returned, he informed me that he had been asked to return for a call back the next day, and had been instructed on how to dress more like a terrorist. They thought they could use him.

What the fuck? What a fickle business!

I had studied for years, I had a professional headshot with a real resume attached to it (ok, some of it was made up) and I got sent away, all white and sad. Meanwhile, my Jewish boyfriend got a call back to be an Arab terrorist in a major motion picture on his first ever casting call. AND to add insult to injury, the casting director gave him feedback on his headshot. He suggested that his face was not framed properly in the shot and maybe he should try working with a different photographer next time. Way to kick a girl when she’s down, casting douche.

Yves never bothered going to his second audition.

Fuck you, hollywood!


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