The Day I Was Not a Movie Star

I woke up late this morning, with barely enough time to get dressed and grab something portable for breakfast before my train to work pulled into the station. I hurriedly pulled on my clothes and was shoving my phone into my bag when it started vibrating. It was my manager, telling me that they were cutting staff because the cruise was small. I was free.

But I was also already up and dressed, so I wasn’t going to go back to bed. Instead, I decided to go for a walk. I live in a historic suburban area, and though I’ve glimpsed the big, beautiful houses that litter the streets around me, I’ve never really gotten to take a close look at them. Also, I’ve noticed that my travel time to and from work is very much time I have set aside for myself to read, listen to music, think, etc., to the point where, when I saw a coworker coming off of the same subway car that I was on my way to work yesterday, I waited for her to get a good block ahead of me before I started walking, too. Since I had been called off right as I was about to walk out the door, I was mentally committed to the me time that had been about the commence. So I took a walk.

After strolling for about an hour, I pulled out my phone to check the time and saw that I had missed a call from my aunt. I listened to the voicemail and she told me that there was a casting call for a movie happening about forty minutes away from me. I hurried home to change, grab something to eat, and find the rest of the information.

I used to go to a lot of these things when I was in my teens- open casting calls for movies, usually big budget ones that happened to be shooting locally as well as films being made on a shoestring. For me, at least, they never garnered anything, and while I never minded waiting around for my two seconds in front of the camera, I eventually stopped attending the calls, choosing instead to go to auditions where I had an appointment and a name.

But my aunt had gone out of her way to get me all of the information as quickly as possible and besides, I didn’t have anything to do until about three, so why not? Who knew what would happen? I got in my car and drove to the audition location.

As soon as I walked in, I knew this was going to be like every other cattle call, at least in the amount of people. It was still early, and I was number 79.

I am only beginning to realize what a different person I am than the one I used to be, and, acting-wise, it’s experiences like this that are showing me that. Sixteen year-old Rachel would have been delighted, overjoyed, to sit on the floor of a basement cafe wearing a numbered sticker on her chest. This time, I was happy to be there, but I was glad I had brought constructive things to do. I used to feel amazed and green compared to the people at these calls. Now… maybe I’m a snob, but I felt out of place because, based on the conversations I was overhearing, I was way overqualified to be there.

However. If I were that much better than these people, I’d have an agent that would get me an appointment to be seen on my own, without a handwritten number stuck to my chest. I didn’t have an appointment, so I swallowed my snobbery, took my number, and killed time by working on some writing.

Still, as equal as my status was to everyone around me, I could barely stand to be there. Between seeing people dressed in full historical regalia to the girl next to me practically hyperventilating over the fairly emotionless sides, which included a typo I couldn’t overlook, to hearing the woman next to her give her totally ridiculous advice and then say sagely, “You know, I went to acting school,” I had to will myself to stay in my seat. Then, about five minutes into the auditions, the director came out and was like, “Everyone, when you come into the room, don’t worry about offending me or anyone in the room. If the sides call for you to swear or hate on somebody, just do it. Acting is about…” He went on, but I was fidgeting. While commitment can certainly be a problem for a lot of actors, myself included, there was something about this coddling of us that weirded me out. I appreciated that he wasn’t being all cold-director-man, but it almost made me uncomfortable to have my hand held like that at a cattle call.

The only thing that kept me there for as long as I lasted was the director himself. He came in a little late, fresh off the plane from L.A. He’s semi-famous (I’ve never heard of him, but a lot of people were there just for him), but he stopped and gave everyone a really nice talk about how starting small was just the first step of a successful career and we needed to hold onto our dreams. He gave anyone who asked for it the time of day and was just a very nice, encouraging guy. We had been told before he came that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted in the audition room- sing, juggle, etc. in addition to the sides or a monologue- and I felt like this guy would actually watch and be interested in every single person that came in. I wanted to audition for him.

But I just couldn’t do it. I knew I had to be on the train to my appointment no later than three-fifteen, which meant I had to leave from the audition early enough to get said train, and by twelve-thirty, they were only on person number six. There was no way I would be seen by the time I had to leave. Also, all of those people around me talking about their time at “acting school” and comparing background credits, trying to disguise one-upping as friendly conversation… I felt like my insides were being gnawed at by something. It was all really, really depressing and I knew that if I stayed there, I would be in a really bad place, mentally, during my appointment, and I needed to be in a good, confident state of mind when I got there.

So though I could sense the old Rachel watching in horror as I picked up my things, peeled my number off my shirt, and left, I did it anyway. And you know what? I feel pretty okay about it. Now that I’m back from all of my obligations, I’m happy that I chose to prioritize my state of mind and not force myself to wait for an audition I probably wasn’t even going to be seen for, which would inevitably make me feel angry for bothering to wait, sad that I wasn’t seen, harried as I rushed into the city, and, most likely, upset later when I blew something that really mattered to me because I hadn’t given myself the time to concentrate. Of course, part of the old Rachel- and the general actor- in me is still crying, “But you might have been seen and then he would have seen you perform and put you in his movie and then you would achieve INSTANT FAME,” I’ve been to enough of these things that, while anything can happen, I’m glad I decided that the chance was less important than fully committing to a true obligation.

I am by no means ungrateful to my aunt for finding me the opportunity- I’m sure I would have had a wonderful time if I had gotten into the room. Also, it showed me what I don’t want to do, and to me, learning what those things are is just as, if not more, important than seeing what I do want. I tend to discover those things as I experience them.

This is one of those days where I almost feel like I’m watching from outside myself, seeing the kind of person I’m becoming, slowly but surely. It’s bizarre, but almost always good.

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