The immediate assumption of actors in Los Angeles to a lot of people (well lets face it...to 99.97 percent of people) is that we want to be big stars. Replete with paparazzi, and big homes, and pools and fans/gawkers/stalkers. It is immediately assumed if all of us had the means...we would put down a red carpet in our homes and have our own plastic hanging tarp filled with logos of our favorite television/production/product behind us so every once in a while we can stand in front of it in rented clothes and jewelry.
It is immediately assumed that we want our star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. That street here in Los Angeles where when it rains you can slip and slide down where the star of Zasu Pitts resides.
There are a lot of broken dreams, promises and horror stories in this town for us who decided to move here. Some of us (that .03 percent) who did not move here for any of that. That just might have moved here for other reasons.
People also forget that the end "By Product" of acting is not a Hollywood Contract. Some of us, that percentage that might or might not be higher than .03 percent...just might be here to do good work. The best work that we can manage as actors/artists.
Yea. I know. That is crazy talk. Especially for the ones who *DO* want that red carpet and fame/money/groupies to complain about.
But this town puts a number on you. A huge number.
So witnessed by yesterday. A true Hollywood Horror Story.
Without getting too much into detail (because of the NDA that I signed that I did not get a return copy signed back)...I was in a room full of actors of all shapes and sizes in a dumpy little building that holds belly dancing classes. With due respect for belly dancing purposes...it is a decent space filled with drums and tambourines and badly put down dance flooring with mirrors to see your belly dancing prowess.
We were not there to belly dance. We were there for what all of us believed was an actual movie/television/commercial project.
This town does a number on you. It also brings in elements outside that truly preys on the desperation of the supposed "Need to be a star"
The audition that I went in for was for the role of Mama Johnson. The breakdown touted that it needed actors who could improvise. It is what I did with a screaming woman named Bunny who was a germaphobe who would not shake my hand. Bunny was not there. I guess she did not make the "Cut"
When you read auditions that specifically says television or commercial or film...literally 100% of actors will believe that. When you hold auditions at a place that is pretty well respected in holding auditions? 100% of actors will believe that the role you are going out for is the one listed. No matter why you are in Los Angeles (or for that matter *any town that holds any auditions. All of them. Even ones without walks of fame lining their streets).
That role for me was "Mama Johnson" I was 100% certain that I would be improvising around this idea. I was sent an email saying I booked. As always, it is nice that someone thinks that I'm talented enough to be a part of their own work.
I just wish to be told the truth. I know. That is crazy talk.
I'm sitting in a room full of actors. Children. Adults. There were a lot of blondes there. A lot of them. There was only one African American Man. There was me and a much thinner/younger African American Woman.
...and there was an African American little girl. She had little pom pom like hair all braided up. Her mom was there. The little girl looked pretty much like this:
Yes. If I tried...this little girl could have been mine. I could have easily walked out with this child and no one would have known the difference. Well...maybe her mom.
We all get there at two. There are not enough seats for everyone...so people popped a squat on the badly put down dance floor. I decided to stand in the back next to a woman who is a fitness trainer who during the whole thing had the nervous tick of "splat laughing" too loud and "splat talking" too much.
Warm bottled water was there not taken out of the package. Having bought this brand of water...a huge expense was not put out. Ice cost more. Probably why it was not chilled.
And there we waited. And waited. The "Director" was there. We were waiting for his "partner" It was that actor moment on sets of the pinnacle of "Hurray up and wait" Actors start getting antsy. Why are we here? Why are there so many of us? Wait...YOU auditioned TOO for Mama Johnson? So did I...what is going on here? Where is this "Producer Guy"
PRO TIP: Unless your project is an observation on how actors co mingle with each other being videotaped without us knowing? Never leave actors to talk amongst themselves for any period of time. A group of us combined means we start figuring things out on our own the horror that is about to occur.
For all purposes...by the time the director started talking without his "Partner" all of us were ready to leave. But because we are actors....we decided to stick this out. Just like a classic horror movie: Sure...we are sitting on tribal land that everyone was slain on and you can still hear their voices that this camp was built on...lets stay!
So there he stood talking about the project...and the more he talked the more faces started to turn. How bodies started to slink. How arms became folded in laps. The grimaces. The we have been hornswoggled looks.
This was not for a television/film/commercial project. Far from it. With respect to signing a Non Disclosure Agreement I can only say this to my group of peers: No. If it was explained in the breakdown they would have never gotten professional actors. I would have never submitted myself for this audition. For you horror buffs: I would have never gone to the campsite.
I stood there and looked at all the actors and the parents of the children. In less than three minutes speaking? There were a lot of broken dreams and promises in that room.
About twenty minutes past the time we were asked to be there the "Partner" arrives.
First impressions are everything. Professionalism in a town truly lacking it is key.
PRO TIP: When you arrive twenty minutes late to your own meeting (and a Current President of The United States is in town is not an excuse as everyone seemed to arrive on time) sporting rumpled clothing and a pair of cut off pants exposing your Lydia the Tattooed Lady Tats up and down your legs? Actors (who took the time to be on time and dress decently and even cover their tattoos) are going to be a little hostile.
Here is another pro tip: When you sign a NDA...you sort of expect transparency to the people who gave it to you. Hemming and hawing and not answering the simple questions like: "May I see your resume" sends up flags. Not small one. The sort of flags that fly over big buildings. Actors turn hostile.
...and boy did they ever. Two women walked out. Dreams and hopes crushed. Not having the time for this monkey shit was the general look as they picked up and split.
I'm now in this to win it. Not for the gig. But for this horror story.
This is now a Hollywood Horror Story. One that far supersedes the "Bunny Audition" In my mind I'm thinking as I'm seeing some actors faces drop "Bunny is lucky she is a shitty improviser. I bet she is happily being the germaphobe she is in the comfort of her hermetically sealed apartment."
One my favorite moments was Crumpled Tattoo Partner saying about this "Project": We don't want to show the bad side of Hollywood.
I said audibly "Like the hurry up and wait side?" The irony was lost on the idea actors just waited twenty minutes for him squatting on a belly dancing floor drinking cheap, warm bottled water.
The horror of this moment wasn't just depressing from the producing side. It was truly depressing from some of the actors.
One woman after this whole round about talk was done said "Look I'm in this. It's work. I WILL DO ANYTHING AT THIS POINT" A small audible groan went up from other adult actors. It was like she was pleading for her life.
That was the pinnacle of The Hollywood Horror Moment for me. That desperation. That need to eat. That reverse of Hollywood Shuffle's "There is always work at the post office" The idea they would rather do "This" than work at the post office.
It is also (as a writer and actor) one of the most incredible real lines to come out of an actor I have heard in my life.
That solid statement of desperation. This moment in a belly dancing building filled with non belly dancers. That moment of horrified, angry actors. The look of condescending smugness from the man who showed up twenty minutes late to the two actors asking legitimate questions who left who had the balls to say to themselves and everyone there: "Fuck being nice. Fuck sticking this out. Just fuck this and what everyone thinks."
Those two in terms of Hollywood Horror Movies decided to leave the campground before the axe guy did them in.
The continual loop of the words "I know we will probably lose you when you become famous and have your star on the Hollywood walk of fame" from the director. This man said it literally twice. It sounded like an insane ice cream truck broken music loop the second time. As though this was the end all product for everyone in that room.
I stayed. This horry story screenplay on Hollywood is writing itself. I'm the one with the video camera in my head documenting the horror story. I'm the woman behind the camera in Blair Witch Project.
While one actor with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is having negotiation talks with Stephen Spielberg to produce a movie with Tom Hanks? Somewhere in a seedy little place a few miles away...Actors are saying they will do anything while two have fled trying to save themselves and the rest of their day.
This screenplay on the worst of Hollywood Horror Stories has written itself and I lived to tell the tale. This screenplay should have been the thing we were going to actually be a part of.
By the end of it all I walked up to say goodbye to the man in the crumpled clothes with his leg tats. I shook his hand. I was so glad I met him for all the wrong reasons. I shook his hand and said to him: When you do the black parody version of Pulp Fiction...give me a call and I left.
It's classic me being snarky. I wish I could explain it in full context. But I can't. I respect the NDA.
The end of horror stories generally ends with some redemption. I get to my car and the little African American girl with her mom came up to the car (they were parked in front of me).
Really sweet people. Good, honest people. She asked me what I thought of this whole thing.
Putting my own NDA on the conversation? I told her. I ended it with "She reminds me of me when I was a kid. I think its wonderful that you are letting her explore her dreams so young" I then stuck my head out of the window and waved at her. She smiled and said hi. I said to her"You be safe okay? You be a great actress? You promise?"
Okay! she said and we both gave each other a thumbs up. I said "I believe you. You are going to be great at 46. I got a feeling"
She gave me a quizzical look as though 46 is a million years away. She reminds me a lot of me at that age. I drove off into the sunset with my words of advise ringng over the campground with the sun slowly setting.
Slow fade to black. Credits.
I hope her stories from this point on are less "Hollywood Horror Stories"
This morning I got an email from the director thanking us for coming. He then went into a much longer explanation on how his Polo Ralph Lauren sunglasses went MIA from the back of the belly dancing space asking us if someone "Accidently put them in their bag"
The thank you was six words. The rest of the email was trying to find the actor who apparently took his sunglasses. Either by "Accident"...
...or for a door prize for attending this meeting. Maybe to keep them for the moment they get their star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This screenplay just keeps writing itself...Hollywood Horror Stories Two: The Attack of the Renegade Sunglasses.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.