The scene: A room upstairs at the local library in downtown Burlington
The setup: A famous Vermont filmmaker is holding an open casting call for his new feature film. The casting notice was posted a few days prior to audition in the local paper, encouraging those interested to make an appointment...or just attend.
Starring: Myself, my husband, and a friend who is another Vermont-New York-Vermont performer. And cast of characters/actors of Burlington.
I walked into the library confused. My husband had gone to park the car and I went in alone and didn't see any signs for the casting call. The day before, I had been devastated when my husband received an email with an appointment and I had not. The depression was short lived as I received an appointment towards the end of the day and my husband got to say "I told you so." (There's your Valentine's Day present, Lincoln)My dad had sent us the casting notice from the paper before I saw it online. I attended a film camp the director and his wife used to run in the Northeast Kingdom in high school. I had no hope he would remember me but was a little excited to actually audition for him as a professional actor. Full circle.I walked over to the main desk and asked the librarian (I guess? I don't know what titles everyone in libraries have these days) about the audition location. She directed me upstairs. As I turned to step onto the second flight, I saw a decently large gathering of people. It looked like a typical casting call with a long table with organized sides and a girl at the end with a laptop and notebook. "Hello! Hello! How are you today?" the girl said, waving me over. There was another girl beside her, both dressed very "I work on a movie set" with their beanies, glasses, no makeup, comfy leggings and sweatshirts."Good! I'm Rachel Riendeau. I have a 1:45 appointment." I had to work at 3 that day. I was happy to have gotten a slot before 2 and even with the 15 people around me, I had confidence I'd be in and out quickly because I had an appointment and surely in a small city like Burlington things run smoothly."Ok, how do you spell that?" She scribbled my name down in her notebook. "Ok, here," she said, handing me a few pieces of paper. She didn't confirm my appointment. Strange, I thought, as the other girl took my picture holding the page with the number 32 on it. I heard the number "26" called out. It wouldn't be that long of a wait."Here. You'll be reading for *character name*," the girl said, thrusting another page into my hands. I had read the plot synopsis for the movie and the character descriptions. I didn't remember that character. That was fine. It wasn't a main one but I'm sure it was for my type. The other pages were a basic audition form and then a measurement form which seemed a little premature to me but I filled it out best I could. Who ever knows their glove size?I notice a friend walking in. I made a joke about how surprising it was to see him because it wasn't surprising at all. He's a friend from high school who also transplanted back to Burlington from New York, is in my improv class and a determined performer. He checks in, goes through the same process I did and comes over to me."I'm a little confused. They just handed me these sides, didn't even ask me what I wanted to read or look at me.""Yeah, I had the same reaction. Also I fear our appointment times are more suggestions than real times.""I hope not, I have to go to work. I was hoping to read for one of the leads. Or at least something with substance.""Same. Why give me an appointment if you don't have me in mind for something specific? They sent the entire plot and character list over when they responded. That seems extreme for just a dayplayer role. Hopefully it's smoother than it seems. I'm surprised at how many people are here." He nodded in agreement and we both sat, looking over our sides.An older man sat next to me. He reminded me of Radio, a New York set legend who is in almost every movie/show filmed in Manhattan in the past 30 years. If you've worked on a NYC set, you've probably heard of him and/or met him. If not, here he is in 30 Rock as Les Moonvest."Ever been to one of these before?" he said. I nodded and told him that I had and was an actor. "I've been to over 30 of these." I smiled politely and turned back to my sides. "I've heard of this director. He's pretty good." I smile again. He keeps talking.Another man walks in with intense sideburns and a strange tiny ponytail. He practically runs to the table."Oh, yes, hello," he said in greeting to the girls monitoring the audition. "I am sorry I am late, I just found out about this!" The girl looked up and asked if he had an appointment. "No, no, no appointment, I just found out about this. I'm just glad I made it!" He said it like they should have told him about it sooner. The monitor gives him sides and takes his name down.The old man is still talking to me. He's telling me about the casting call for "Me, Myself, and Irene" that filmed here when I was in high school. I tell him I know all about it. I was there. He keeps going."Well, Jim Carrey, he is just a riot. He can move his face in so many ways. He was real nice, too. That audition there were so many people," he says and I again mention I know all about it. He keeps going. I turn away to indicate I don't want to listen. He doesn't stop.Sideburns comes back: "Can you tell me about this character? What's my motivation? What's the depth to this?" The monitor is polite, gives Sideburns the plot synopsis she gave all of us and nothing much about the character because let's just say it's similar to Grocery Clerk Number 2.I go into my audition. I am not nervous for the first time in years. I read my sides, I feel great, I get asked to stay and read another role.I grab the new sides from the monitor and sit back down. The Radio Wannabe is now chatting up my husband. He tells my husband that he shouldn't go too big because they don't want to see that. I see Lincoln turn the same way I did to end the conversation but it's to no avail.A pretty blonde girl walks up to the monitor in a huff. There is a lot of huffing and panic in this tiny hallway. I get a little deja vu feeling and flashback to New York for a moment."Excuse me? When it says from March to May, do they really expect me to know every date I can't be there? That is actually impossible," she said with excessive force. The one monitor looks a little taken aback but calmly responds that it is just a general question."Still, I can't believe they would ask for all these dates. How is any one going to know that far ahead of time?" The monitor suggests she write down when she works, days or nights, or any long vacations that are planned. The blonde still stands there, clearly looking for a more solid answer."Honestly, you're not going to be needed for more than a few days for any of these roles so you really don't have to put anything," the monitor says. I almost stand up to applaud her. The blonde girl thanks her and sits back down, defeated.A pretty brunette walks up and insists to read one of the lead roles. Any one can read any role it seems but she's pushy about it to the monitor. She acts insulted she was given a role other than the leading female. The monitor obliges, handing her the lead's sides."Thank you. I had an appointment for this. I don't see why I wouldn't be given *character name* to read." The monitor shrugs and slowly backs away. The brunette turns on her heel and goes back to a corner to read.It's at this time I begin to glance around the room more closely. There's Sideburns, Radio Wannabe, still chatting away. Sideburns has not left the one monitor's side, telling her all about his illustrious career in things she has never heard of. There are a lot of women, there are always a lot of women, of all ages. I can tell some are not actors; they appear nervous, uncomfortable, confused, and keep asking questions about the plot, characters, and what happens when they go in the room. The actors are more obvious, they are dressed nicer, wearing makeup, preparing in a corner. There's only a few of them around me.Then a lot of questions start flying at once from various voices. What the budget for the film is. Where it is filming, when it is filming, is it only in Burlington? Are they are having auditions somewhere else about eight minutes after Sideburns had asked the same question. Can you tell us about the plot again? What is this word? What is my motivation? How many days would this part film? When they will find out, how they will find out, do they need our email addresses? I watch like I'm enjoying a play being performed.I await my turn to go in for my second read next to a pretty blonde girl who is a little shorter than me. She has the same sides I do and is waiting to go in again. She has been waiting for a while now."What part did you read before?" I tell her. "Me too." She pauses. "I've never been to one of these before, have you?""Yeah, I've been to a few. More student films than anything else," I admit. She smiles nervously and we talk briefly about the sides. Since we only really know the basic story line, we share our assumptions of what's happening in the scene. Then she lets me go before her because she heard me say I had to go to work."You've been waiting so long though," I say, "That's really kind of you, you don't have to do that. I have time.""No, really, all I have to do is check into a hotel, you have to get to your job," she says. I don't ask where she is coming from because they are ready for me to go back in. I thank her again and enter the room.My second read is great. I receive direction from the director which, for those who don't know, is huge and doesn't happen at large casting calls like this one. I leave the room thinking 'Was that just an audition? Because I don't feel like shit right now.'As I walk past the girl who let me go in first, I tell her to break a leg. I realize that I truly hope her audition went well. That's a new feeling to have an audition.Radio Wannabe is still chatting everyone he can up. A man is venting that he didn't get to read the lead role and that's why he wasn't asked to stay to the monitor. I smile at my husband and we grab our stuff and depart.
This was my first large casting call in Vermont since moving back. It reminded me so much of New York it was almost comforting. The cast of characters was slightly different but not by much.
In the city there are the actors that do not stop questioning the monitors and ask all kinds of inane things that 1. the monitors don't know 2. don't matter because you're just another number to them. They aren't casting it. LEAVE THE MONITORS ALONE. That used to drive me nuts at Equity calls in New York. The monitor is just there to make things run smoothly, not to get you in with the director. That's your job or your agents. I hope the girls monitoring this audition got to have a large glass of wine after it was all over.
The complainers were a little more obvious than usual. They didn't hide the fact they thought the sun was shining only on them. I think maybe they felt that was the way to get noticed. It's not. It's the opposite. In the city, the complainers usually talked among themselves, bitching in the corner about how their appointment is twenty minutes behind and they were called in for this. These complainers were front and center.
As were the name droppers. So many names on the floor. I almost tripped over Jim Carrey's twice! There are only so many big budget movies made in Vermont; we ALL have a celebrity who once worked on a film here encounter, guys. And yes, most of ours are Jim Carrey.
There are always weird, weird people there who just invite themselves to talk to you even when it's clear you are not interested. Everyone is looking for a buddy of some kind. Here, it was less about competition and sizing people up and more about someone to pass the time talking to.
The youngest monitor told me that they had the appointments set but it all went to shit when people just started showing up. I think she had heard me say I was kind of confused as to why they had appointments if they were just letting people in the order they arrived. While they should have stuck to appointment times, letting people without one go in as time allowed, this wasn't the worst organization I had seen at a casting call. They also were pretty great about allowing those who had to leave soon go first. Small city mentality instead of big city response of"Make it work or just leave."
However, while I found this experience to be familiar, my own actions were not. I was confident, I was cool, I wasn't desperate. I don't need this job. I WANT this job, of course, very badly. I want it for the experience and for the opportunity, yes. But I don't need to prove something any more or have the answer to "What are you working on now?" because that used to make me feel better about where I was at. I walked in without begging for it. And I nailed it. I found the key I've been missing.
"You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look... Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don't depend on it. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you."
Amy Poeheler, Yes Please