My Brief Brush with Acting and the secret Evils within the Media Industry…
Throughout this blog, my loathing of the advertising industry and its extended family is no secret, you’ll literally see it scattered across all of my posts. So I don’t need to go into detail why I despise the industry as a whole.
However what I want to do today is pinpoint one of its major wrongs and how this issue affects all of us in the grand scheme of things.
This might help clarify my stance on it a little better. At the very least, I hope it makes you look at the next piece of media you watch in a very different light.
So back during a seriously skint period of my life as a student (I was literally a bank transaction away from sucking dick for dust), I thought I could make some quick cash doing work as an extra on shows, adverts, films etc and this would solve all my financial woes. Wooohoo,
I had been informed by a close relative that one of their friends featured on the rugby world cup campaign and if you get a decent reputation out of this extra malarkey, you could make a tidy penny without paying any tax, being a student and all.
Then of course come all the prospects which cultivate when your face is everywhere, that’s not to say I have a face that causes genitals to spontaneously combust but it is certainly a unique one you’re not likely to forget anytime soon. So I thought, what the hell, who knows, an extra in Eastenders one week, Hollywood the next.
So I signed up to one of these free agencies for five years with a wacky password and username, passed on all my physical details, put a picture of my ugly mug up there (featured below) and I started applying for various roles.
Except of course it didn’t work out that way,
I couldn’t actually apply for any of the roles on the site. You were only allowed to apply for roles where you met the strict criteria of the ad placed. So I couldn’t randomly find myself in a casting call for Scarlett Johansen body double for instance (ps my ass is better).
Heck, the criteria was so strict that even if you were half an inch shorter than specified, you couldn’t be considered. I think the site’s selection criteria was automated, so it wasn’t like you could even call up and plead your case to get picked. Plus there were tens of thousands of people in my position, so the agency would always find people to fill these roles no matter what.
Another thing I never realised is that a lot of these extra roles required specific skillsets, alongside physical characteristics to get cast. Of course yours truly has about as much skill as a frog in a board meeting so you’d understand if I started to croak.
Tap dancing, BMX stunt riding, Grade 8 on the cello, being able to wank with your left hand, these ads were asking for some real novel shit I wasn’t going to pick up anytime soon. Fuck, I can’t even smile without getting 7 year’s bad luck, there goes my million dollar contract with Colgate. So that left me in the lurch.
What I could do in the meantime (while jacking off like a sane person) was browse the type of extra roles available. I did find this aspect pretty interesting. As a candid watcher of TV and Movies at the time, it gave me a good insight of what future productions were coming to our big and domestic screens alike. They wouldn’t mention the show’s names directly but from the descriptions, a little detective work and some intuition, you could always tell roughly what they were.
So seeing these campaigns come up kept me in high spirits in the beginning, thinking I could end up on parts of my favourite shows.
However after some time, it dawned on me Movie Santa Claus wasn’t real. I noticed on a forum that some people had been registered on the site for YEARS and only managed a few successful applications, if any (even then, there were issues of them getting paid etc).
On aggregate, the movie industry wasn’t going to get me out of my shit, so rather than riding on it being a major source of income, I decided to try something steadier and just left my details on the site and waited for the phone to ring.
And then boom, one day out of the blue a few years later, I have my email and phone going crazy as they are trying to contact me.
Woohoo, stardom hear I come.
Now from my CV application days, normally when I got pestered from an agent, before replying, I would prep myself for what they wanted to offer me so I knew how much extra cash I could squeeze outta them.
So after 15 minutes of trying to remember my cryptic password, I logged back on the casting website and BOOM, I saw the message title glowing at me.
The production of SHAMELESS want you…
Shameless, that is an awesome comedy, unbelievably funny, well written with well-developed characters. In its Hayday it had a massive audience too.
I had already imagined being in the show, not telling friends and family, only for them all to catch me in one of the episodes out of the blue. Everyone would be chortling and having a good ol giggle about my experience, Sharing the screen with the infamous Frank Gallagher and my incredibly naff acting skills.
It’s one of my worse traits but I do let my imagination run away with me on the cusp of something great.
So after dousing myself in the rapture of imaginary applause, my thoughts finally sobered on what type of part they wanted me to play., I clicked on blinking message in my inbox.
So I looked in further details and it was for a role as…
A homeless drug addict…
Negative Ghost Rider, the Pattern is full!
I thought to myself, my pictures show me nicely dressed in a suit with a funky picture, my profile clearly highlights that I am studying for my PhD.
Then I thought about my future prospects. I am in a job interview for a manager role in a multinational oil company, I’m finally down to the last two, when my prospective future boss says…
Weren’t you that dick sucking tramp on Shameless?
All of a sudden the glitz and glam of Hollywood didn’t seem that appealing and I had a horrid taste in my mouth I needed to get rid of.
Don’t get me wrong, the money was fucking excellent, it was like 120 squid for a day’s shooting and I was booked for at least 3 days but man it just didn’t seem right.
I had looked at all the other ad campaigns and there were plenty going and a good amount I thought I could fit the bill for but I wasn’t being allowed to apply for those jobs.
So why were they calling me for a dirty tramp role?
And furthermore why couldn’t I apply for their normal extra type work?
I had put the whole exercise down to my hairstyle at the time, which I honestly describe as tramp chic but I think the casting crew decided to ignore the chic side and wanted the entire tramp bit.
Still though, was this really going to be the role that gives me that wonderful story? Now you should all know I love taking part in things for the sake of a great tale but this specific one was becoming more and more of a burden on weighing it up.
I then began to think of legacy. Family legacy. Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe all my actions have been carried out in the best light or even with the best intentions but most of that shit is completely kept private (and if no one knows about it, it doesn’t count).
I believe the surname is a crest and all your actions must uphold it. Therefore any public actions you take directly reflects on all those who bear the same lineage.
I didn’t come into this world on my own and I stand on a shoulder of generations of sacrifices to get me to where I am today. This is ultimately the culmination of their stories I narrate too.
Deep down in my heart, I knew that few hundred quid wasn’t worth a lifetime of knowing I’ve misrepresented my heritage.
I just couldn’t follow through with this and decided to just ride the storm. Besides, at this time, being in the entertainment industry was only an afterthought and I wasn’t even that desperate for cash, so taking part was more for the novelty of the experience.
I rationalised they do productions all the time, something will definitely come my way which is a good fit.
All good things come to those who wait, or so I thought…
The next opportunity I got (which was a over a year later) was a little bit Grander.
Same set up as before, a barrage of emails and missed calls, lots of hoo ha. So I finally remembered my password again (I really should have written that thing down) and lo and behold…
The Production of This is England wants you
Now ‘This is England’ is kinda a big deal.
By now the franchise had created a couple of films, 2 tv series, was about to embark on their third and this was arguably a role for life if I played my cards right.
The story tells the tale of the same group of normal folk across the ages throughout iconic periods of modern British history. It was great story telling with hard hitting writing, addressing the socio-economic perils and opinions of the time.
This was a real chance to get my face on something that was iconic and was going to make a lasting impact on society. It was an opportunity to be part of something that was more than just entertainment but brought to life was it really was like back then, not the sugar coated version we get from media and the history books. The writers of the show also had that wonderful way of highlighting many of the issues our parents and grandparents were facing are still in place today and focus on how little we’ve progressed as a society.
Fan fucking tastic, something with real relevance and a social footprint I could take part in that I would be proud of.
After writing my acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for speech and my Prime Minster election winning campaign, I decided to find out what role would be my launching point to international stardom.
On further inspection it was *drumroll*….
A Prisoner in a Jail cell
I don’t fink so Guv’nor
Now at this point, I was trying super hard to not connect any type of dots because I’ve never been brought up to be that type of person but I’m a firm believer that Lightning simply doesn’t strike twice…
But let’s be fair.
At the end of the day, they were offering me an opportunity to make some serious money (including the first role, this was now a total of £720 for six day’s work). So it wasn’t as if there was a fundamental barrier within the industry for diversity. It’s just the roles I was being offered weren’t ones I was willing to accept.
These two opportunities may have been perfectly fine for others but, I didn’t think the cost was worth it, infact, there is no amount of cash that would make me take a role that ends up being detrimental in the long term (not just to me but as a whole).
I now had a serious thought, was I being snobbish here or in the wrong? Was I being spoilt and ungrateful?
There are tens of thousands of people in my position who aren’t getting anything and here I am throwing away nearly £1000 pounds for very little work at all. Shouldn’t I be jumping up for the opportunity since I turned the last one down (it’s not often people come back to you once you haven’t made them money the first time round).
Call it pride, call it whatever, I just couldn’t wake up the next day, look myself in the miiror and justify such a thing.
What made this ever more puzzling was why I still couldn’t apply for the hoards and hoards of normal xtra roles on their website, where I clearly fit the bill?
So even though it was significantly harder, I ignored my call to arms and let this role slide as well.
At this point, I was starting to notice some trends I wasn’t willing to fully accept and thought to myself that this acting malarkey was only going to be a pipe dream and just wasn’t going to be one of the stories I end up telling to my grandchildren.
So I never actively went on the site and pursued any other roles after that point and put my dream of stardom to bed.
So skip forward a couple of years, I had finished my PhD and managed to find myself a proper line of employment and have moved all the way to Aberdeen to start my life a new and work on my long term goals, to get my ass emigrated.
And again out of the blue, I get these messages and calls around Christmas time and this time, they are seriously seriously hounding me, like two calls and day, missed messages, emails, the fucking works.
Now I’ve never been pestered like this before, there must have been something they just couldn’t manage to do without me, it sounded like someone big had stumbled across my profile and wanted me for something pronto. Because it was around Christmas time, I started to think about the abundance of Designer adverts you see around the time and it piqued my interest to say the least.
If say a fashion designer wants you to be the face of their next advertising campaign (billboards, ads, magazines), they will pay out an OBSCENE amount of money to get you. This is like that kinda £2000-£5000 a day plus travel accommodation, food and all expenses. Of course this is literally chicken shit money to them because they make millions off of you but this is serious cheddar to the likes of you and I.
So again my mind plays tricks with me and starts to think, it must be something Fucking HUGE if they won’t stop harassing me around this time of year. Someone has caught the Tramp chic bug and wants to cash in on it, around the festive period. A big of designer perhaps, maybe, Calvin Klein, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, perhaps I could be the new David Gandy and the face of their up and coming Dolce and Gabana advert. Humina Humina humina…
Even the story and lineage aspects seemed to perfectly fit this time round. You see my mom did a little modelling when she was younger and ended up being canvassed across billboards and showed up on the big screen for Dove. This would be a nice little story if her son followed suit. Start a family trend perhaps.
So against my best judgement and leaving aside my thoughts on the previous two experiences, I thought this big ticket venture would more than make up for the woes of the past.
After hours of trying to remember my fucking stupid password (seriously folks, never set your password to ‘password’), I get on and start salivating which one of the big designers wanted my face on their shit.
And boy, was I gobsmacked to find out
Africa mud hut dancers wanted for Christmas TV Show special
Now this was the one that got me and I’ll tell you why….
Firstly, like is stated earlier, I have no reference to any additional skills on my profile, no juggling, no singing, and definitely nothing on dancing at all.
So based on this alone, I should had been disqualified based on not meeting the fundamental critique for the role. They wanted a ‘Dancer’
Now looks wise, my profile still had my old picture and I know for a FACT native African men don’t have the long hair, they consider long hair a female trait, associated with homosexuals (not opening up that can of worms here, don’t shoot the messenger). So everyone is well groomed, especially the tribal folk.
So if they were looking for an authentic looking African character, I shouldn’t have passed based on my looks either.
Double Nil point.
Furthermore, I still couldn’t understand why I couldn’t apply to the plethora of normal xtra roles on the website?
Triple Nil Point!!!!
So I thought to myself long and hard about this in conjunction with my other two experiences.
- Why did they want me for the role of an African tribal dancer I was underqualified for?
- Why were they wanting me for the role of a Homeless person?
- Why did they want me for the role of a Prison inmate?
- Why couldn’t I apply to the hundred of other generic extra roles available?
I’m sorry it’s come to this but I could find no other equivocal answer other than it was purely based on the colour of my skin.
I was being racially typecast. And not in a good way.
That’s a wrap
You wanna know why I don’t like Advertising? It’s because their processes perpetuates shit like this, just to make money.
Not only that but they do so by taking educated intelligent people and forcing them to play out dated stereotypical roles, just to earn a basic living. The real sad part is even though I didn’t take any of these roles, someone did and that’s not only unnecessary, it’s sad.
You find any actor that isn’t a blue eyed caucasian male and you’ll find in their filmography at least one role, they weren’t proud to take, because it pushed the equality cause back 10 years. However, they were coerced into taking it by an agent because there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
So next time you have a gross generalisation about a group of people, ask yourself where you got that from? Furthermore if you could speak to the people who portrayed those roles, what do you think they’d say about those same generalisations.
Somehow I’d doubt they buy into them.