The mommy cam


Chronology of a roller coaster

Thursday, 8:18 PM: CD sends email message seeking talent submissions to be considered for a recurring role in a major television series.  Audition appointments, if offered, will be sent on Friday.  I am in class.

Thursday, 11:41 PM: I send email message to CD, indicating I would love to be considered for the part. 

Friday, 4:13 PM: I receive email message from CD asking me to audition on Saturday at 11 AM.  Sides are attached. 

Friday, 5:02 PM: I email CD indicating I will be at the audition as requested.

Friday, 5:03 PM: I quickly scan the sides provided to get an overview of the role and the character. 

Friday, 5:06 PM: Knowing the character is a dental receptionist, I accost friend Diana, a former dental receptionist, to learn more about her experiences.  

Friday, 5:57 PM: I reserve car for transportation to audition location.

Friday, 6:41 PM: People-watching during dinner provides physical inspiration for the character.

Friday, 8:03 PM: I get down to the business of role preparation. 

Friday, 8:20 PM: I receive email from CD apologizing and indicating that the role has been cast.  I will be kept "in the loop" for other episodes.

Friday, 8:28 PM: I send thank-you email to CD for the audition opportunity.

Friday, 8:31 PM: I cancel car reservation.

Friday, 8:34 PM: I eat chocolate chip cookies.


Call me crazy red! Part II

Last evening I received a voicemail message inviting me to today's "young mom" callback. What distinguished the voicemail message for this callback from others was the addendum near the end, "Oh, and if you could bring your mother with you, that would be great." Bring my mother? Really? Apparently, they were seeking someone 20 years my senior who looked like me to play my mother, but their files had turned up nothing promising. Having me bring my mother was their next best plan. My mom was not available.

I walked into today's callback expecting to see "young moms" and infants in the waiting area. Instead, perplexingly, I saw many real moms and dads sitting next to their pre-teen kids. Boys and girls of all colors and shades, including a redhead, were auditioning. There were also two infants. I saw no other "young moms". I signed in, had my photo taken again, and searched for some information somewhere that might enlighten me about this spot. Unsurprisingly, there was none. No storyboard, no description, nothing. At one point, someone taped to the wall a page ripped from a spiral-bound notebook. Scrawled on it in red marker were words reading, "Shoot Dates 30/31". Well, at least that was something.

My friend Sarah arrived and signed in. I was pleased to see her and she and I got to chatting. Apparently she had been called initially to audition for two parts: "young mom" and "older mom". Knowing herself well, she asked only to audition for "older mom" and got a callback as a result. She is great looking, but is also a real-life mom of four or five kids, between the ages of about 8 and 18. Part of me began to wonder if they had erroneously called me back to audition for "older mom".

So, knowing Sarah was auditioning for "older mom", believing I was auditioning for "young mom" (with an infant), and having overheard that the pre-teens were auditioning for the parts of siblings, I began to think I might have a shot at getting this spot.

A grandmother I had been talking with revealed to me that she had brought her grandson to audition and they had been waiting for an hour and 25 minutes. I began to be concerned about how long I might wait. However, quite quickly I was called into the audition room with a baby I didn't know and hadn't seen at the previous audition. He brought his mom into the room with him.

The casting associate was there, the camera operator was there, and there was a tableful of four or five clients. I slated first and was then instructed to take the baby and hold him in a stationary position for a few seconds so the camera could see him. The next instruction was confusing: "Now, go open the refrigerator." Hmm. The refrigerator? (Let me just say now, there is no refrigerator in this room.) "Behind you." I turned to see a large rectangle taped onto the wall with masking tape, and two vertical lines in the middle representing door pulls. Oh. Mime. Okay. I proceded to open and close the transparent refrigerator while holding my squirmy child.

It would have been helpful for the client to say up front, "For this audition, just pretend you're doing at-home stuff". I should have been more savvy and just asked outright what they wanted. They may not have known that I entered the room with no prior instruction. Anyway, I continued to mime my way around the large space, breaking one of the key rules of auditioning--Don't mime.--and opening and closing fake refrigerators, talking on an invisible telephone, and providing profile shots of the baby and me whenever requested.

I'm not sure what they were hoping to accomplish in this audition, and I'm not certain I gave them what they wanted. When I left the room, though, they did thank me. And they used the right name today.

Call me crazy red!

Just when I begin to doubt myself the craziest stuff happens!  I got a callback for that "young mom" audition I went on last week.  In no way did I expect to be called.  I've been asked to return later today.  So, look for an update to this post later, summarizing or, perhaps, detailing all the nitty-gritty callback details.  Hopefully infant spit-up will not be a part of it.


The reds may have it

Today I auditioned for another "young mom" spot.  I wasn't exactly sure what I was walking into, but I was fairly certain it was for a television commercial.  There was no copy in advance and no storyboard posted anywhere on arrival.  However, what was visibly self-evident was the large number of infants in the waiting area.  Don't worry.  They brought their moms with them.  What was even more obvious was the number of redheads.  There were three redheaded infants between the ages of 6 and 11 months, a few towheaded infants, and one with very dark hair.  All were boys.  There were also three redheaded "moms" and some blonde "moms" loitering about.  I signed in, got my photo taken and began to wait.  Contributing to the child chaos was the fact that another commercial was being cast simultaneously, and all the auditionees were boys between ages 8 and 12. 

I had prepared my best "harried mom" look.  Some of the other moms looked and dressed more like models, having finely coiffed locks, and some looked like they'd had a lot of work done.  After about 15 minutes of waiting, I inquired if there was copy or anything to look at.  I was told it was just "improv work".  I could do improv work.  So, since it seemed they were running late, I started getting to know people.

Soon thereafter, I was called into the room with a cute blonde baby who was 11 months old.  He was a talker.  I was asked to slate first.  The casting associate said, "Okay, Jennifer.  I need you to stand on the blue X and slate your name for the camera."  Assuming the associate meant me, I stepped up to the blue X and said, "Hi.  My name is Alecia Batson."  Then the cute blonde baby took his mom to the blue X and slated for the camera.

The improv consisted of me holding the blonde baby in a few different, static poses.  There were some finger toys to keep him focused.  He was a little active, so I think I moved a bit more than I should have, and, considering there were no lines, I probably talked more than desired to keep him happy and attentive.  But, hopefully, this will illustrate that I am good with infants and could make things easier for the baby and the baby's mom while on-set. 

I just hope they pick a redheaded pair for the spot.


Solo Stints

This morning I showed up at Old South Church early so I could do some vocal warmups before rehearsal. Quite pleasantly, I was again in crazy-good voice, with a very easy range from G3 to G6. (Yes, that's three octaves.) I really think I'm leaving a plateau of vocal stability and growing into something newer and greater. Recently, my ease with melismas returned and I am now in good voice consistently.

It's true, vocal pedagogy dictates that I should have always retained my ease with melismas and a strong voice, but that did not prove true for me. Early on, learning and singing melismas and cadenzi was super-easy for me. Then, there was a period where it was strangely difficult for me to learn and produce these fast patterns, which may evidence some incorrect muscular tension. But, I seemed to have worked things out in the practice room, so it's opened up fun doors for renewing arias like "Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln", "Der Hölle Rache", "Chacun le Sait", and Ophelia's Mad Scene from Thomas' Hamlet.

After some runs, I met the director to find out about this quick solo he had emailed me about last week. Come to find out, it was actually two solos. Fine. They were simple to read, but were quite low in my register, and I had been hoping to sing something high. (I'm always hoping to sing something high.) This first was a spiritual arrangment of "Order my Steps" by Glenn Burleigh and it sat in an easier spot in my range. The second was an arrangement of "Mandamiento Nuevo" by William Loperena and it was sooooo low! Yes, I could sing G3 this morning, but that doesn't mean I sing it well. I had to sing around C4 for about half of this song and that's not my favorite spot.

To top it off, I had to sing the latter selection with a microphone. I don't think I've sung with a microphone before. Ever. But, I surivived and my friend Carrie had some good pointers for me, too. (Thanks, Carrie!)


What I want

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Sometimes, it is helpful to be reminded of this stronghold structure and its needs.

My castles (or at least a few of them):
narrate an episode of Nova
host a show on PBS
work on Mystery! or Masterpiece
work on indie feature films with creative and/or content-heavy screenplays
work on feature films, especially those with an historical bent
sing in high-quality revivals of classic musicals composed by Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, the Gershwins and others

My foundations:
good start to a resume
good casting director connections
good start to a web site
attractive headshots that look like me (always important!)
solid training foundation
name recognition in certain circles
in-demand radio voice

Contacts to make (or at least a few of them):
BBC Four
William Morris
feature film directors

(In support of myself and my best efforts, I would like to say that I have already made preliminary forays into the worlds of WGBH and the BBC.  However, to date, I have received no replies.  But, I am certainly not beyond accepting assistance in the opening of doors...)

Some past productions I dream of being in:
Twilight Zone
Star Trek: TNG (Yes, really folks.  I'm kind of nerdy.)
Almost anything produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock
anything starring Jeremy Brett
anything starring Gene Kelly
old Hollywood musical films

I have a notecard on my bulletin board that states, "Define and claim the life that you want, and the Universe will provide it for you."  Really?  Hmm.  There are some days when I truly believe this is possible and on others it seems like one of so many psychosomatic palliatives--only there as a mental crutch to help one continue the plod.  It's on these latter days that one cold, hard, capitalistic fact seems so much more accurate: all it takes is money.


Everything I've seen

Recently, I've seen a slew of TV commercials for which I've auditioned once or, in some cases, more than once, but in which I haven't been cast.  And, I guess since they're out now, I can actually tell you which spots they are.  In no particular order:

  • American Express: with Tina Fey and Martin Scorsese: the script is quite different than the one we had in draft, and the spot is rather short.  I wonder if they're saving a longer version for later. 
  • Sovereign Bank: I was put on "first refusal" to do background work in this spot.  However, I wasn't booked and a good friend of mine who ended up working the spot told me they "were only casting for color" (i.e., they were only casting non-white people).
  • Dunkin' Donuts: a new lunchtime product, the flatbread chicken sandwichI could have been the business woman or the server at the "mobile table".  Wait.  Did you see them?  They go by so quickly!
  • Honey Dew Donuts: they were auditioning for an actress to play the "counter girl" in the spot with the fellow ordering a very specific drink--with two straws!  (Hmm.  I don't think I blogged about this one.)  I thought it went well, but it looks like they ended up using the girl from the previous spots.  I wonder why they had auditions.
Working commercials isn't my end-all be-all in life, but they're nice to do as they can help pay the bills.  I just need to remind myself: the right role will come along.  My role will come along.


A choice

After weighing options, considering choices and reviewing my calendar and my commitments, I have determined I will not audition for this short film.  It was a tough decision, but choices are necessary parts of the entertainment world; they are necessary parts of life.  And, as I have said before, things happen for a reason.  I don't yet know the future reason for this decision, but I expect I'll know at some point.  In the case of this project, I really want the role and I know if I were cast I would be fantastsic.  However, potentially long or open-ended time commitments as well as an acting class conflict are two of the heavy-hitters in the decision-making process. As I remind myself often, the right project will come along

To go or not to go

So, yesterday, a great-sounding short film opportunity popped up. I campaigned hard to get an audition. I received an email response this morning. This is what part of it says:

OK - Be sure you understand the time commitment, and what the job is
all about, this is a low-paying short film for a website...
I received over 100 emails to try out for [this role] already, and the other
roles are just "showing up" -- so it's going to be BUSY at the [audition location]...
You may have a long wait when you get there...

Call-Back auditions have also been added for TUESDAY, JULY 8, between
10am and Noon, back at [the audition location]

If you're still interested... Check the available audition times at:
[URL here]
So, do I go? I think I'd be great in the part if I got cast. Do I not go? It sounds like it could be a very long wait with a lot of competition, and I already know it's a very low-paying gig with a relatively large time commitment. But, it could have great exposure in the end, especially if it is of a high-quality. I'm feeling diffident.