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Brave New Comedy Series Targets Casting Directors Who Charge Actors for Auditions
Actors turn their frustration with the industry standard of paid-for auditions into an improvised comedic web series which chronicles one actress' pursuit of professional respect.
After outrageous experiences at paid auditions advertised as "casting director workshops" - where each actor paid around $40 for eight minutes performing for a casting director - Cheetham and Hauck started to improvise scenes based on their experiences. From those scenes came the inspiration for a ten-episode web series launching July 11th on YouTube and on their website http://
The pay-to-play topic is a hotly debated one in the film and television industry, and legislation has been passed in California to regulate - and in some cases, outlaw - the practice. Organizations advertising "casting director workshops" are required to use disclaimers and to ensure there is a substantial educational component which includes a written curriculum.
Critics say "workshops" are not being policed, and the disclaimer does nothing to deter actors who will do anything for their big break. In a 2002 "20/20" piece on the topic featuring Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") and the late Tom Bosley ("Happy Days," "Maude"), Bosley says that casting directors "have no business taking money from kids and giving them hope that they might get a part" this way.
Cheetham and Hauck leveraged the controversial topic of paid auditions into an experimental art project in film and improvisation, and it quickly grew into a full web series. "We started with the premise of a relationship between a casting director and an actress at one of his 'workshops,' started shooting with little prep, and from there the series basically wrote itself. It was extraordinarily easy to figure out what happens and what could happen when an actor is faced with paying a casting director for an audition as opposed to landing an audition legitimately,"
"My character endures a lot," says Cheetham, who plays the actress to Hauck's casting director. "She is faced with disrespect, humiliation, and downright bad behavior, but must field it all with a smile and a 'thank-you.' There are no refunds at these things, but if you want to be seen for a project that you can't get in on in any other way, paid auditions may be your only shot. That drives my character to continue to pay to see this casting director."
Cheetham is a rising star in the independent film scene and has studied improvisation at both The Second City and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Hauck has been acting for over twenty years and has taught long-form improv internationally. His book titled "Long-Form Improv: The Complete Guide to Creating Characters, Sustaining Scenes, and Performing Extraordinary Harolds" will be published in September by Allworth Press.
Hauck and Cheetham co-produced the web series, yet it was a collaborative process for all involved - right down to the camera operators. Second City alumni Heather Smith and Chris Lutkin and actor-improvisers Matt Kaplan and Dawn Luebbe all operated camera as well as played important characters in the episodes. Each actor-improviser who appeared on camera in the web series also received a writing credit for their improvised dialogue.
Despite the awarding of writing credits, all of the dialogue for the web series was unscripted except for short scripts characters read in a few of the episodes. Cheetham chose in advance of the shoot not to read these scripts written by Hauck. "He would text me laughing about what he was going to have me do, but I wouldn't find out what I was doing until we were actually in the midst of a take. My reactions to the material you see in the series are my honest reactions to what Ben is having me do."
"I loved dreaming up excruciating things to have Mandy go through," explains Hauck. "Mandy is fearless."
The team shot "The Infinite Need" on two Flipcams, enabling them to improvise the takes without worrying about hitting marks or focusing cameras. The entire series was shot in about ten hours over the course of five different days in May to June, 2012. Several episodes were wrapped after a single take. The entire series was produced for under $300, with most of the money used toward renting a rehearsal space in which to shoot.
To market "The Infinite Need," Cheetham and Hauck have created promo videos that mash up voices from the "20/20" episode with footage from the web series. They have also been collecting and blogging audition horror stories they call "Tales from the Script." Actors may submit their own horror stories anonymously from website for "The Infinite Need."
Promotional videos: http://www.youtube.com/
First episode: http://youtube.com/
Page Updated Last on: Jul 11, 2012