Sunday, August 31, 2008

adventures in show biz

I took DD for a modeling/acting audition this afternoon. If you've ever wondered if anything ever comes of those mall-kiosk on-the-spot video auditions, the answer is yes. I got a message on my cellphone early this week inviting her to an open audition this weekend where she was interviewed by a rep from ACT and filmed a 30-second spot in front of an agent from The Gersch Agency.

I'd been hearing radio ads about the open audition - "Be one of the first 200 people to call" - but they called us, so I suppose that means something. (Not much, but something). It was a cattle call in the Hyatt's Regency Ballroom, nicely done. First come, first served, with ushers to show us to a seat and to keep the peace while the auditions proceeded. We had been told to arrive at 45 minutes early for her 1PM appointment, and were only 5 minutes late (I used the valet parking). The timing turned out to be crucial, because we ended up seated near the aisle in the third row, so we did get out of there much more quickly than the lollygaggers who straggled in at 12:58PM. We were both well-prepared for the wait, but I had paperwork to attend to: the application and disclaimer, plus a brochure for the ACT school. DD had to write a 100-word essay on why she wanted to do this and why she thought she would be good at it. She dictated, I transcribed and made suggestions. The whole thing was completely legit and on the level, completely professional, and there wasn't even a hint of anything weird or off.

We got underway a few minutes after 1PM with a little talk from an ACT rep first, and then each child got to do his thing. The talk covered the basics: this won't work unless the child is very motivated and the parents are supportive, so if you dragged your kid here because you think he's cute, don't get your hopes up. Also, most kids won't get a call back because they simply do not have the talent. I loved, loved, loved how blunt she was about this. It's not enough to be cute and to want this, you actually have to have the ability. At the same time, she encouraged everyone who is really into it to keep trying, telling a cute story about how Mylie Cyrus had to audition 8 times before she got the lead role in Hannah Montana. The rep also stressed that they won't work with anyone that isn't doing well in school. California has an industry regulation that says they can't work with kids who have below a 2.5 GPA, which she acknowledged is very low. They won't work with less than B average kids because if their grades drop, they'll have to get pulled off the shoot. She also commented that the smarter kids are more likely to be successful in this business.

Last, she explained the interview and audition processes, which involved one brief interview with the ACT rep, and the audition, which involved filming a 30-second spot for the Gersh agent. For the audition, the kids had to "slate", state their names and ages. The rep asked for three volunteers, and DD raised her hand enthusiastically. Since we were in the third row near the center aisle, she was perfectly positioned to be noticed by the rep, and she was selected. She had to get up in front of a room of about 200 people and state her name and age. She did very well, certainly better than one of the others who was so nervous she couldn't remember to say her full name. I was especially impressed because she went last, and had to stand there watching the other girls do it. During that time she wasn't nervous or impatient, she just waited calmly. Honestly? I didn't know she had it in her, but then again, I'd never given it much thought.

Clearly the primary purpose of these open calls is to get new recruits for ACT's workshops, where starting tuition is close to $2000 for the "Basic Development" 20-week workshop that gets your kid camera-ready . ACT is not an agency but the spiel their rep gave sounded as if the kids do get auditions somehow as well, but that's not clear. We find out if DD made the cut with ACT when we call at 9:30AM, but I'm fairly sure that DH doesn't want to pursue that. One factoid the ACT rep dropped is that a national commercial pays $30-60,000, which is a lot more than I expected. Even a single local spot would more than cover the cost of the workshop, right? I'm sure that's how they suck parents into paying for their kids' pipe dreams.

In an ideal world, the Gersh rep would just ring us up and say, "We want to represent your daughter," in which case we would laugh and decide what to do. I made a point of peeking at her score sheet as we were walking out, and she had several highest scores circled, but that doesn't mean anything. She attracted positive attention from the beginning when she was selected as a volunteer. The ACT rep liked her a lot. She told DD she was "cute" and liked her enthusiasm and my flexibility with regards to this whole affair -- who knows where it will go? Most likely: no where, but DD had a lot of fun today anyway.

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