Commercial Castings

Five improv shows today, and after the last one I had to sneak out before the end and rush across town leaving my girls and boys holding the hippopotamus. I absolutely had to get to a casting at 5.20. It was the last possible slot they could get for me. I had to splash out on an uber. But worth the financial risk for the sheer cash value of the work if won. As long as I was there for 5.20.

I made it, by the skin of my teeth. Expensive but potentially worth it. I rushed up the stairs. Two minutes to go. I stopped in the loo. Threw water in my face. Took a second of calm. Aaah yes. Back in the room. Then up some stairs and into one of THOSE rooms. Two bored 23 year old models sitting behind a desk looking at their laptops and occasionally laconically greeting a steady stream of friendly looking men of unclear ethnicity and of about my age. White walls. Pot plants. Boredom, sweat and desperation. A heady brew. I get handed a form. “Take a seat and fill this in.” There are literally no seats. Someone else says “It’s a bit close in here.” — The receptionist: “Yeah it’s a bit stuffy certainly. But if you look through that door, we’ve just had an air con delivered. So…” “Yeah” says the guy. “But that’s not today.”

Now I’ve filled in the clipboard, which expects me to divulge literally everything about myself. “Is a close family member ill?” “Are you or your wife pregnant and if so when’s it due.” “Do you have rage issues?” “Are we making you angry now?” “Are you happy you’re here?” “Do you like answering questions?” “What’s that smell?” I even had to consent to a credit reference check. It’s like US immigration, but more personal. Essentially “Are you going to screw us over by using some excuse to not do this job after we’ve set our heart on you?” No… No I’m not.

Now sitting in this sweaty room. Bad pop is being played just to keep it all edgy. Everyone is being very polite because nobody wants the receptionist to think they’re a dick just in case the receptionist is the casting assistant as well. It’s 17:40 and there’s no way I’ll be going in that room any time soon. Could’ve easily got the bus by now.

All these casting studios look the same. I wonder how many hours I’ve sat in them. I’m not even sure if I’ve been in this one before. There’s nothing to prepare, which is nice as I can write this while I wait. It’s a commercial. There’s rarely anything to prepare as it’s about faces. I’ll go in, the casting directors will say something like “So you’re bouncing a ball and a dog attacks you. Say ‘Oy, get off,’ but we need it to be gentle comedy with a bit of pathos. Don’t take too long over it. Think Peter Sellars mixed with Ricky Gervaise. But upbeat. Don’t smile though. You don’t like dogs. And we need to feel sad afterwards. But happy. Happy sad. But on brand. And go.”

Last time I did one of these the guy said “you can mime the door if it helps you.” That time I said “It won’t help. There’ll be a real door in the shoot,” and I watched his eyes glaze over. I sometimes forget that it’s also, on top of everything else, important to eat shit if you want the job. These are commercial castings. There’s a lot of money at stake for a short amount of time. The director of that one had extended his hand to shake on a flat horizontal, palm down. I almost knelt and kissed it to make a point, but resisted and let him shake me down. The director runs the room. But If I’d wanted that part I should’ve mimed a door for him like he asked, then have got stuck in a box and pushed a big rock, wearing a beret and red and white stripes. 


Well, I got in just before six. Could’ve saved the price of an uber. It was much as I expected in there but nicer. Mr Bean meets deadpan in a silent comedy type interaction. I thought I heard the thunk as a little bit of my integrity fell off. But mostly I heard the roar of a distant boiler in time for winter, the sound of a plane taking me off somewhere hot to do the shoot, the rustle of a nice new carpet, the splash of a power shower, the crunch of tasty healthy food. And frankly, I have no issue with the company the commercial is for, so I’d do it gladly if they ask. In fact it’s my favourite brand. And I’m not just saying that in case they find this blog. *munch*

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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