Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Casting Call Has Been Made. Who Will Answer?

I recently attended an open casting call for extras here in New York City. What follows is an account of my visit to the offices of Casting Networks in lower Manhattan on a blustery day in February.

10am: I arrive at the office building on Broadway. As I approach the unassuming offices I notice a lengthy line of hopefuls waiting out front on the street frantically trying to keep their hair in order. I sigh to myself and take my place at the end of the line.

10:15am: Strike-up small talk with a strikingly short woman of about 27. Barbara, as she identifies herself, regales me with her storied career as an extra/acting hopeful. Moving to New York from Boston for easier access to acting seminars and classes, Barbara has been featured somewhere in the distance in upwards of twenty films and television shows.
"You should really consider joining one of the Unions. They really take care of you," says Barbara, "You have a look that will probably land you a few roles." I shudder at the consideration of sitting in a crowded cafe well behind the real actors as they shoot scenes to be a "role."
"Yeah man," chimes in Eddie a surly Latino of some weight, "All it takes is one director seeing you around on set and your made." Eddie begins recounting what seems to be his proudest moment in life, which consists of half of his face being in the right frame of a shot in John Leguizamo film. Wait, we'll say "movie," not "film."

10:25am: Begin ignoring Eddie, who has evidently changed his name from Rodrigo to the less ethnic "Eddie" at the behoovment of his agent. Yes, extras apparently have agents.

10:30am: A suspiciously well dressed, ninety pound man, about 25 years old, emerges from the front door and begins handing out personal information sheets. Eddie cracks a bad joke about making us wait in the cold. The waify guy, I later learn his name is Sean, impatiently tells him to "go ahead and leave then." I laugh at Sean's impending bald spot to myself as he awkwardly paces by in jeans that are far too tight for him.

10:45am: I question whether or not to stay. Eddie is far too social, and I keep catching Barbara looking up at me.

10:55am: They allow twelve us in to the building. On the elevator ride up an employee of Casting Networks warns us to "look out for the little gay guys running around up there." No one laughs, and we all pour out of an over-crowded elevator.

11am: We are urged to make ourselves comfortable while they enter the information from the aforementioned sheets into their computer data base. There is no where to sit. I begin noticing people have head-shots with them.

11:10am: My information is keyed in by Sean's "friend" Patrick. Patrick is alarmed at the fact that I am not a union member and have no experience with being an extra.
"Why are you here then? You're totally unprepared for this," Patrick queries.
"I had nothing else to do today. Do I need my own headshot for this?" I asked.
"No, no we'll take a digital photo for you. Stand over by that wall and we'll take it."

11:15am: It is becoming apparent that I am the only one who needs a headshot taken today. Sean approaches me and asks me if I want to check my hair before he takes the photo. I tell him no, "Maybe someone is looking for an unkempt, gloomy guy." He doesn't laugh.

11:16am: I am standing on a large white block in front of a camera.
"I'm going to need a big smile now Tedd," says Sean, sounding like Carson from Queer Eye. I muster something I think looks like a smile.
"Oh c'mon now silly, you look like someone took the cheese off your macaroni."
"What?" is all I could respond with as the flash goes off.
"You just look confused in this one, let's try again," Sean says looking flustered.

11:17am: After repeated camera malfunctions and odd stares from other people in the room Sean finally gets my picture:

"You'll be getting a call if any of the directors are interested," Sean lisps at me, "You leave the same way you came in."

11:18am: Safely back on the elevator the gay-joke guy asks me how it went.
"I don't know, good, whatever," I tell him.
"See what I meant about the faggy kids?" he asks.
"Whatever." I walk off the elevator and back onto Broadway and head for 23rd Street.

11:20am: I stop at a street vendor and purchase a delicous hotdog. Sean, evidently now on some kind of break, walks past and says something regarding my meal choice and the caloric intake of such. I decide that I do not like Sean.

As of yet I have not been contacted. In a city full of the suicidally beautiful and eternally hopeful it doesn't exactly pay-off to have physically banal attributes or be rational I suppose. At least it's not LA.


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