Last night I went to an audition for a TV show. It was a very slightly odd experience. News of the audition was distributed to a few local am-dram groups, so around 30 people arrived at a local village hall wondering what to expect.
We were met by two guys: one from the production company and an actor who has written the show. The actor greeted everyone and explained that they were making a pilot for a sketch show, to be filmed over about 10 days in September. Because their budget was non-existent, they were unable to pay actors anything more than expenses, hence they were looking for amateurs. Is this false economy? I keep saying that there are plenty of amateur performers who are just as good as the pros, but surely you need people who can slot straight into the filming? And I assume that if the show is picked up the amateurs would not be involved.
We were also told that TV doctor and vet Christopher Timothy was signed on for both the pilot and the full series. Right then, vitnary. Happen.
Anyway, the evening started off with some exercises that were quite familiar to anyone who has done the slightest bit of drama training. First off was a movement exercise which is, I believe, based on some Laban theory, though I know it is also used in Complicite work. Everyone in the group stands waiting and then starts moving when they think the time is right. Each person moves in a straight line, though you can turn when you get to the edge of the space. When you feel the time is right, you stop. The idea is to keep starting and stopping in a group as one. Then we did the same exercise, but we were allowed to move in curves. Much more freedom to fill the space.
We also went through a short Stanislavsky exercise of emotional scaling. We were asked to think of an emotion which we associated with a particular event in our lives. Lying down quietly we thought of how that emotion felt. That feeling was given a value of 5. Gradually, the group leader counted down from 5 to 1; as he did so we were to feel the emotion more and more strongly until it was almost overwhelming. Then we counted back up to 5 and further up to 10, where the emotion was almost totally absent. Finally, we went back to 5 to re-create the feeling.
It was interesting that, in the subsequent discussion, most people said that they had chosen a 'negative' emotion; usually anger. I had some trouble with summoning up an angry state of mind during a similar exercise early on at NODA. I think that in the rest of the week, I started to learn how to access those areas of my emotions more easily, but I wasn't confident of doing that, so I decided to choose a positive emotion for this exercise. So I chose the exhilarated happiness that I felt after we had performed our devised play at the NODA summer school presentations, just a week ago. I felt like I was 'cheating' slightly. It was a great emotion to choose and very recent, so I was able to recall it easily, but I was still surprised at how intense the feeling became when we counted down to number 1. I wanted to get up and run about and shout!
Finally, the evening concluded with some improvs. Some props were put in the middle of the room and people were invited, one at a time, to pick one up and impro a short scene around it.
Unfortunately, by the time we got around to this section, time was very short and there was only time for 4 or 5 people to do something. Now, the producers told us they were looking for 10-12 people for their show, so I'm not sure how they will achieve that, given that they only saw a few individual 'performances'. But maybe there's just a 'look' or 'attitude' that they want from some people and the earlier exercises were enough for them.
Anyway, the evening ended there and we were told that we would find out by Monday if we were wanted for the show.
It was difficult to tell how serious and professional the whole effort is. No offence to the producers, but I do wonder why a 'real' show would need to use amateur actors. I also felt, as I said above, that they spent a long time on warm-up type exercises and maybe not enough on looking at the capabilities of each actor there. But 90 minutes is, I think, the bare minimum you need to do some serious group work and to get some of the more self-conscious people comfortable with moving out of their usual zones. Then again, I think the producers were suprised by the number of people who turned up, so it's possible that they will just be have to make the best out of the situation.
All in all, it was a fun evening. I don't usually have the chance to do 'serious' drama exercises outside NODA summer school, so to do some less than a week after this year's school was great. It was like pulling on a big, warm, woolly jumper and enveloping myself in a safe, comforting environment once more.