I recently had the opportunity of being scouted for a TV commercial. I went for my first casting, second casting, was called back for a third casting to check one more time and then heard nothing. The company involved is an American company who I can only assume has come to “Africa” (as they called it) to get an inexpensive commercial made. I know from friends how difficult this industry is and how it really weighs on one’s confidence but I feel someone needs to say a few things about this process:
First, a bit of a music rant, for an industry that pays people a minimum of R5000 a day to R100 000 a day, you would think they would have some respect for another industry. The fact that we (all the musicians) were asked to come in, over and over, on our time was just ridiculous. If you even suggested you had something else on it was seen as bad faith on your part (not by the South African studio but by the American company)
Secondly, considering how much flack the media is getting over ‘real body’ models overseas I found it slightly disturbing that following the third casting a number of adverts went around looking for a ‘skinny’ trombonist. Many colleagues and acquaintances referred them to me not knowing that I (nor any of the other musicians who play the required instrument) had already been to three castings – and none of us were sufficiently ‘skinny’ enough for the company. I found the outcome of the final choice really disappointing. None of the musicians that were auditioned were over-weight, but none of them made it because basically we were the ‘wrong body type’. The last time I heard the words ‘wrong body type’ was from my size 4 ballet teacher when I was 10 years old. The company eventually settled on a musician – not one that could actually play the instrument they were looking for and so was to mimic playing. The person’s qualification was that they were a very very skinny person. Huh? Considering all the hours they told each of us that they wanted authenticity, this was a quite a turn around. Also as a musician, and not an actor, I found it slightly insulting that after years of practise, looks were placed above the ability of each musician that auditioned.
I guess the “authentic” non-airbrushed campaigns we hear about, remain the few isolated examples of companies that care about “real” people and being authentic.
I think it is great when overseas companies come to “Africa” to shoot their films/commercials etc. because they bring money and help the industry but I also think we South Africans need to be very careful on what we are willing to sell ourselves for. I heard a disastrous story from another actress where a South African company went around the agents to cast actors only to save money (if you go through the agency you have to stick to contract). Luckily, the actors all realised but sjoe! The dishonesty! This experience made me glad that I’m a musician and I don’t have to deal with the challenges my friends do on a day to day basis in this industry – it must be like a rollercoaster of ups and downs.
Anyhow, I best get back to doing what I love – practise!