The Background Actress’s Guide to Costuming


(Circa: Late July 2017 on the set of "Isn't It Romantic?")

Originally I had pitched this idea to Racked.com as a contributing writer. However they declined because they had articles of a similar nature. I was going to pass on writing this for my own blog. However, the store that I purchased the above cocktail dress from is hiring, so now this essay has become relevant.

Where to start? The beauty about working a background scene is that they give you a list of examples of how you need to dress for the scene. Like:

Gucci
Zara
Tory Burch
Prada
Etc.

They will also give you visual examples of cuts and fabric, plus what tones they need you to wear. Much of this depends on the scene you are shooting too. If you are playing a lawyer, obviously you would be expected to wear a suit of some kind. Playing a hipster would require a different wardrobe and so on and so forth. If they give you specific brand names as the type of look they are going for, it would behoove you to do some research. The best place for this is Instagram, with the next being Pinterest. Look at how your favorite celebrities dress and that will help you.

The roles I typically get picked for require me to be a wealthy, socialite type. Think Hillary from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air:


(Source: IMDB.com)

When you're in my position of very little money and expected to look rich; what do you do?

This is where my friend the consignment store comes to play! The gold dress I'm wearing above is from a higher end retail chain. It's original price is closer to, if not above, $100. Yet I only paid $16 for the dress and an additional $20 for all of the jewelry. (The purse I received as a gift and the shoes were on loan from the wardrobe department, since my original pair were considered to be too shiny.)

The next thing you need to do is to bring options. Yes, I bought and used this dress specifically for this shoot. However, if the director's vision for this scene has changed in any way, it is as simple as changing into a different outfit.

A warning though: if you only brought one option this will force the wardrobe department to loan out an outfit and take your pay voucher (and maybe your driver's license too) for safe keeping until it's returned. This also means that you have to be extremely careful with the clothes (which you should anyway whether it's yours or theirs) and make sure you don't cause damage of any kind. (Or that could affect your pay or chances of being hired for other shoots in the future. One of the shoots I did, an actor walked out with a suit that was loaned to them. Needless to say that person didn't get paid and is more than likely not working for that agency ever again.)

A few other things I keep on me for the shoot as well:

A jacket or hoodie (for when it gets cold.)

A luggage lock (so no one tries to break into your bag.)

Lotion that absorbs well. (So it doesn't damage the clothes.)

A stain removal pen.

Deodorant that dries clear.

A robe or some kind of covering you can wear while eating or applying makeup.

A couple of other things I would add would be:

1) never bring real jewelry to a set. There was an unfortunate instance of an actress that brought real gold bracelets to the set and lost them, only to never find them again. Even if you get camera time, no one is going to know the difference; so keep it fake at all costs.

2) don't wear anything with a very distinct pattern or logo. Production crews do a magic trick what's called "cheating the shot." Meaning to make a scene look like it has more people than there really are hired on set. They do this in many different ways, by adding an accessory, or changing your hair or putting you in deep background. This means more camera time for you, so help them out!

I hoped you liked this essay as much as I liked writing it. I also hope I get the job at this particular consignment store since I do get a lot of my clothes from there. Fingers Crossed 🤞

It May Be a Good Thing

My relative and I reached out to officials at my school to discuss the issues of my funding to see if there was anything I can do or not. One thing I'm starting to notice is that there is more than one chain of command and I don't think everyone is communicating with each other.

I received an email today from a different official about something that I addressed last week with an official I'm working with and it was CC'ed with that person. So I replied and received an automatic response, which means they didn't read what I wrote.

This is not to bash the school, because they are doing what they can with what they have. My concern is that if I have to jump through this many hoops to convey the same message, this just may not be the school for me. It's a little upsetting since my relative works for this school and their name and my name is attached. (I feel that I'm making them look really bad.)

So now I'm looking at alternatives for training. I really had my heart set on moving to Dublin and that may still happen but with a different school. I have 2 options I can do now:

The Gaiety School of Acting, which is where Colin Farrell and Olivia Wilde attended.

The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art in Trinity College; whose courses were developed by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England.

Both are very fine schools. Applications and auditions for The Lir happen in October so I will have to move very quickly on this. The next thing is to pick up a regular job and store all of the cash that I can to hustle my butt over there.

Industrial Epiphany


(Circa July 2017. On site of the commercial for MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Center.)

If you saw my Instagram post (which is featured on the bottom of this site) you would have seen that I took a walk this afternoon. I was severely depressed and I wanted to clear my head. After taking that walk I went to Starbucks and saw my friend Gail from Reedy Point. She asked me about the shenanigans that happened on Saturday. She also talked about industrial shoots and gave me a new casting agency to check out. During that conversation, I realized that I made more money doing industrial type work than anything I have ever done for tv and film as an extra. Even if I don't have lines, I have a featured part or the production company has a better budget.

The shoot I participated in where the photo above was taken, only took about 4 hours to shoot and I made double what I did working 14 hours on a national television show or major film. So I think I have found my niche.

I would still love speaking parts, but more than likely that would be from live theatre. I submitted myself to several things after I got back home that either were related to medical, industrial, or commercial. We'll see who calls me back.

Motherhood

I took one of those mini quizzes on Facebook this morning. I wanted to distract myself from the shenanigans I call my daily life, and it seemed like the fun thing to do. Until I got my result. It was about what big event will happen to me this month. The answer…I Will Get Pregnant.

Wow.

Actually, being a mother is something I have always wanted to be. However, I had this idea in my head that I will meet a man I would call the love of my life and we would start a family together. The chances of meeting that guy are extremely low, but motherhood is still on an all time high.


(Source: piecomic.com and John McNamee)

I did have a small taste of what it would be like to be a mom when my late friend and her infant son lived with me over a decade ago. It was a lot of work, but it didn't scare me away from being a mom. Even now, I have come to the conclusion that although there will be no man in the picture, I am still going to become a mom.

Just not this month.

My Patience is Thin

I made it to the location. My period started on the way there. Come to find out that the casting director, who paid no attention to my emails, is starring in this film in One of the only Two female speaking roles in this film. She also had the nerve to stare at me and tell the makeup artist to check on me and another woman's makeup. The whole situation kept getting shadier by the moment so I walked out. Maybe I'm being cranky and unreasonable about what happened…maybe I'm not. This was just really unprofessional in my opinion and I followed up by doing something unprofessional. However in this instance an Irish Goodbye was better than the choice words I had for the "Casting Director".

I have one last PAYING background coming up and that's it for this portion of the industry. I am so done.

Even More Updates

This shoot is going to have live updates all the way through so strap in, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

I should have just followed my intuition when I got the email for this project this morning. My fault for being stupid, not wording my responses strong enough, and not sticking to my gut.

Pretty much from the jump I told the casting director of this project that if not having a reel would disqualify me from having a part to disregard my application.

Instead they felt that I was qualified enough to be a part of it. The next email I received included the part about being
willing to be a part of the background.

.

And here was my mistake…I should have said "No, I'm not willing" instead of

I'm really pissed at myself for this whole situation. Part of me does not want to show up, but as I already confirmed to be there (after receiving the script BTW which I shouldn't see if I'm not talking) would be unprofessional on my part. I'm not getting paid for this, I have to bring my own costuming, I have to pay for train fare to get there just to waste my time and money. And now I feel even worse for complaining about this as it makes me sound like a Diva. The only reason I'm still going is because the production company probably has no idea that I wanted a speaking part as this entire booking was done through a casting director. Do you see why I was seeking out an agent? So I wouldn't get screwed like this. Not only am I the Goddess of Poor Timing but of Poor Wording as well. Fuck my life.

An Update to the Update


(Source: Yuri!!! On Ice. Viktor Nikiforov 💗)

So what I thought was "No" was actually a very delayed "Yes" the film project wrote me back and sent me a script. I still have no idea what part I'm playing (there are only 2 female speaking parts and the rest are background.) I sincerely hope I have one of the parts as I really need the experience to list on my resume. The only reason why I agreed is because of the concept of the script.

I can't go into too much detail but what I will say is that I could be a witch in this shoot. (Since I'm a crystal hoarding, tarot reading, incense burning, somewhat clairvoyant woman with a very loose Christian affiliation; playing a witch is probably closer to who I really am.) This also fulfills my dream role of playing Hecate in The Scottish Play. (Which was already cast when I came to audition last year 😢 However, I'm not playing Hecate in this shoot.)

Another good thing about this film is that they want us to wear as much black as possible. (Easy enough for me, that is the staple color in my wardrobe.) They also want us to bring a prop.(My tarot cards of course!)

One more thing to add about this film is that it is structured very similarly like my story writing prompts. This is a film competition with the contest runners making up strict rules that the production crew has to follow.

•A specific set of lines need to be included.

•A specific character and their background has to be included

•The production company has a time limit as to how long this film will run (roughly about 5 to 6 minutes.)

Both the lines and the character were selected in a random drawing last night and the writers had to structure the story around that. All of this shoots tonight and be a completely finished product by tomorrow night. (Talk about pressure!)

Hopefully, with their permission, I can share the final product with you on a later post.

Film Update

So I did hear back from the production group who were looking to cast actors for their film project. They added me on as a potential actor for the film. However, it's still a crapshoot if I actually get a speaking part or not; and I won't find out until tomorrow night (the film shoots on Saturday.)

A couple of positives to take away from this are 1) they still wanted me to be a part of their film and 2) if I'm not selected for a speaking part, they gave me the option to turn down a background part. That second one is important as I do enough background work already. They know that some people really do need speaking parts for their resume and don't want to waste our time.

The biggest frustration I have had is not being able to book too many film roles; and for some reason, even extreme low budget student films are putting a figurative wall up for potential talent by asking for a reel. (Customized reels are expensive and not a good return on investment if you're only booking non-paying parts. Though I get it, they want the most professional actors for their project.This is another reason why I was walking away from film, I really can't afford to pay for a reel and I'm not booking enough parts to build one organically. )

We'll see with this project though. Maybe they will take a chance on me, who knows.

Audition Review

I just got out from my audition for the role of Orlando in As You Like It, and I feel pretty damn good about it!

Will I be offered the part? Who knows.

When I auditioned for my very first production (which happened to be Troilus and Cressida) I will admit that I had the "nervous poops". This time I felt confident with the text and speaking the language. Much of that is to do with the sheer number and quality of productions I have performed in prior (and a little bit of studying too.)

No matter what happens, I felt like I was home again. Auditioning for Shakespeare was the correct choice for my confidence.

Anticipated Rejection

I recently put in a pitch for a unique writing segment based upon my background experience. So far they like the concept and when I submitted my writing samples…crickets.

I'm not trying to take this as a "No" quite yet, however, it would not surprise me.

If you've been following my blog so far, the overall theme has been rejection and lots of very sad pitfalls. It's been very frustrating, but many of the "No's" have been to my advantage (keeping me away from things that didn't serve me well.) So I'm trying to keep this in mind.


(Source: A Random Share on Facebook)

Which leads me to this: there may be a reason why I am not going to school in Ireland. There also may be a reason why I'm not signed by an agent. Why I haven't been able to book any further film projects; and why I haven't been able to pick up any additional side income since the beginning of the year.

Although how it got to be this way was really shitty if I say so myself.

So what to do now? Well, I still have that audition for As You Like It coming up. The movie I shot background in asked me if I was available for additional days (still contemplating it since it was such a struggle to get to on Friday and it's not an official booking, just an availability check.) I also may have a possibility of a regular job soon.

Still, no guarantees. No rejections either.

Just more financial limbo.