created by Sofia Greenacre
It's tough out there for an aspiring actor. Sofia tells us about the hardships, disappointments and redemptive moments of being a performer in the opening act of their career.
“So, what do you do?” My favourite question.
“I’m an actor,”
“Oh wow, really? What could I have seen you in?” Ha.
“Oh nothing yet. You know, tough industry and all that,”
“Oh I bet. My friend’s an actor. Yeah, they just got cast in a play at the Old Vic. They didn’t even go to drama school!” Sigh.
“That’s great. That’s so great for the people that happens to.”
Yep, that’s right - I’m one of those “struggling actors” you hear about. And this is a conversation I have on an almost daily basis. Now, I’m fully aware that I sound like a miser. Like a bitter actor who’s jealous of other peoples’ success. That’s not the case. I love talented people, I love it when talented people get the recognition and success they deserve. I also love what I do, the unknown, the excitement of my future career. I’m aware of the “industry”, of it’s injustices, it’s lack of logic, it’s temperament and how much work it takes to reach some form of success – what’s more, I’m ready to do it.
What I don't love is being made to feel like I have to justify my lack of success. Like I can’t call myself an actor if I don’t have a BBC or West End credit to prove it.
It goes without saying that I’m pursuing this seemingly impossible dream in London. I’m here for the same reasons that every other great British performer gravitates to the city. It’s where the work is. It's where the history is.
Being an actor is a strange thing. It’s simultaneously a luxury and a sacrifice. You decide that you are unique and talented enough to do what you love for a living, yet you also take on a lifestyle that has no certainties, no security of a nine-to-five job and you will – I 100% guarantee this – be expected to work for free, on numerous occasions, until you are ‘established’ enough to be allowed to demand more.
Last week, I spent two hours recording and editing a “self-tape”, which consisted of me performing a duologue with myself (as I had no-one to read opposite) and singing a song. This hard work, much to my delight, paid off as I was invited to an audition in London Fields. So on a Tuesday morning, I travelled 45 minutes to said audition. Once there, I had to wait a further 40 minutes before I was seen by the casting director. In the room I was asked to perform the prepared duologue again, this time opposite a real person, who was sitting in the corner with their face in the script, reading in what can only be described as an intentionally monotone manner, giving me very little to work with. I performed it a couple of times to the best of my ability, pausing in between each attempt to take on direction.
I left the audition feeling positive, I’d spent more time in the room than usual, it can so often be over in 30 seconds and you’ll be left wondering what the point was. Instead, I was left trying to discern the way in which the casting director had said, “Thanks, that was great, we’ll definitely be in touch”. It was the “definitely” that got me. That must mean something. They would have omitted the “definitely” if I was crap, or is this the way they speak to everyone?
This analytic mantra is something that plagues most actors post-audition. The best advice I’ve been given is to be prepared, go in the room, give it your all, leave and then forget about it. That way, a recall comes as a surprise, a bonus of sorts. It also stops you from going crazy.
There’s a common misconception about the acting industry that we are all constantly auditioning, battling it out for the handful of jobs available. Now that may be true for some, but for me, an actor who is starting out, one of the hardest things is just getting in the door. It’s staying in the game, when there’s nothing to necessarily keep you there. I have an agent, albeit a terrible one, but an agent nonetheless. She has got me five auditions for rubbish jobs in the nine months I’ve been with her and none have resulted in work. I would leave her if I hadn’t already tried and failed at going solo.
I try to take it in my stride – once I’m in the door I can handle anything. The rejection you face after an audition is nothing compared to the frustration of not getting one in the first place. So what do you do? Well, you stay engaged, go to class, apply for auditions independently and hope for the best. The funny thing is that it’s the tiniest of victories that make it all worth it. You’re feeling down about the industry and wondering why you’re putting yourself through this when you get a *ping* in your inbox and it’s that small time ad agency you auditioned for months ago and never heard anything back asking to see you for another job. This is what gets you up and out of the door in the morning to work that promo job you hate, but desperately need to pay the rent.
Even better than that, is when you get an email about an audition for THE job. Now don’t get me wrong, an audition is an audition and right now I’m grateful for anything that’s thrown my way. But I’m talking about an audition for the job that would start your career. It’s only happened a couple of times so far, but getting the opportunity to stand in a room, in front of a reputable casting director, who could give you that job, gives you a buzz that is next to standing down-stage centre at the Palladium. Even if you don’t get a recall, it’s the fact that you were in the running and one day, if you persist, you will be what they want. That’s what makes it worth it.
If you’re wondering what came of the audition, let me tell you. A week and a half passed when I received the following email:
Thanks for attending our audition last week, we were really impressed by you. Unfortunately we’ve decided to make this part a male one so you aren’t suitable. We will keep you in mind for future projects.
Did I mention the role in question was unpaid? Ah well. You live and you learn.
Sofia studied at the Laine Theatre Arts, the very same institution attended by Victoria Beckham (neé Adams). We believe Sofia's achievements will far surpass her fellow alum's.
Follow Sofia on Twitter: @SofiaGreenacre