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Two Actors Score a Surprise Hit with Brave Comedy Web Series Lambasting Casting Director Workshops
Toronto International Film Festival darling Mandy May Cheetham and improv author Ben Hauck improvise their way through a series repeatedly dubbed "hilarious" and "painful"
Viewers continually were resounding in their praise for the web series. Said one viewer commenting on the series, “Oh my! This is hilariously painful and painfully hilarious. Brilliant. Brilliant.” Said another viewer, “Oh my god. This is so good that it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s funny, but also so true to life that it makes me ill how actors get used. What a sick business.”
The web series - which was completely improvised by the Hauck, Cheetham, and a handful of other actors - drew comparisons to NBC's television series "The Office" and HBO's television series "Girls," both of which feature casts with improvisation backgrounds. Both television series are also hyper-realistic and showcase the ignorant and cruel sides of their characters. With these comparisons, it is no surprise that "The Infinite Need" has become a must-see web series, especially in advance of the International Academy of Web Television Awards and the Streamy Awards. "The Infinite Need" is an official entrant in both contests.
"The series has been subversive since its conception,"
That thesis seems to be that "casting workshops" - the euphemism for what are essentially job interviews actors are paying for - are unethical and a professional conflict of interest for the casting directors who hold them. They are perhaps even illegal, according to a "20/20" segment on them from 2002. Paid auditions have become rampant in recent years in cities with a large population of actors, as actors see paid auditions as a more practical way of getting their work seen by casting directors than by mailing a headshot and résumé.
However, in some cases paid auditions, which notoriously provide little constructive insight and often last merely eight minutes for a large fee, have inspired legislation inhibiting their operation, notably in California. "All too many casting directors see actors as cash cows when their casting jobs are slow," said Hauck. "They know that actors want to see them, and they believe they have something to teach that is of value to the actor."
Hauck continued. "An actor is often paying $40 for eight minutes with the casting director, which is akin to paying the casting director $300 per hour. Rarely is something that valuable ever gained from these experiences,"
Hauck added, "Casting directors should have professional ethics that bar this exploitation of talented workers."
"I've been Bette Moore," said Cheetham, who plays the aspiring actress in the series and who was a popular fixture at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. "The first episode mirrors an experience I had at a paid audition earlier this year, and every episode shows something that can happen at these unregulated types of meetings. You can pay $40 for a paired scene, and then the other actor can dominate the audition so much that you can't get in a word edgewise about yourself. And refunds are practically out of the question."
It was no surprise that actors watching the series identified with the story. Said one actor after watching several episodes, "I know that I love it but it's also a little bit tragic and sad. I guess maybe if you've never been in that situation it would be a little more funny, but as someone who has definitely done those casting 'classes' it hits a little close to home."
However, Hauck and Cheetham were astonished when general audiences unfamiliar with the casting process or the intimate workings of the entertainment industry identified with the characters and eagerly followed the series. "Nonactors have told me, 'I hate Scott!'" said Hauck of his casting director character. "They know that the things he says to Bette are wrong. What they can't believe is that these kinds of things are realities for actors."
Both Cheetham and Hauck have done paid auditions, and both will probably continue to do them - though hopefully not for much longer. 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. She has worked in over 35 projects in the last year, and she has a feature film lined up for the fall starring a major comedy star. 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" was recently published by Allworth Press and has appeared for a number of weeks on the Amazon Hot New Releases list.
Asked what his favorite review was from viewers of the series, Hauck was immediate in his reply. "One person wrote that she's waiting for the actor to punch the casting director in the kidney." He laughs. "That kind of visceral response to the series makes me incredibly happy. One of the best compliments an artist can get is for his or her audience to feel something strongly. 'The Infinite Need' did just that."
For more information about "The Infinite Need" and to watch all ten episodes, visit its website, http://theinfiniteneed.com.
The entire series in order: http://www.youtube.com/
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