So last week I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. The problem here in the LT with screening calls is that, well, you can’t. There is no answer-phone system easily discernible (which is to say I can’t access it. I think one exists but the instructions are in Lithuanian and besides, I get very few phone calls and the ones I get are usually students and since this was the last week of instruction and studying for finals was about to begin, my initial thought was that the call was from a panicked student wanting to know what chapters in the book were absolutely going to be on the exam because, well, job and no time to actually study.
Except it wasn’t. It was from someone I didn’t know and being that I was underground at the train station when the call came through, I didn’t really catch almost any of the information. What finally got sorted out was that the person on the other end was going to email me some sort of information once I texted them my email address. Fine. If this was a scam, I have email addresses for that and that’s what I gave them. I was promised information shortly, I said “okay,” and went about my business.
Sometime between 1 and 2 am that following morning, the promised information arrived. The person who had called was a casting person and they were currently working on a Lithuanian film. There was a small (tiny, miniscule, dust mote) sized part in it for a group of drunk foreigners who interact with he leading lady on her way to the airport and would I like to audition?
Sure, why not? I’d done this once before about 6 months ago and that led to a fun day shooting the (cancelled before my episode could air) ABC series The Assets. So after a few email exchanges I found out exactly where I was supposed to go and when and what I needed to do to prepare. The fact this took a few email exchanges should have been my first warning sign.
See, maybe I’m wrong (and I always leave room for that possibility) but after I said I’d come up from Kaunas to Vilnius for this audition, it would have made sense to me, had I been the casting people, to have a set piece of writing I could copy and paste into an email document explaining how to get from the train/bus station to the office. Honestly, in any city where a good percentage of the population relies on public transportation, it would make sense to have a standard “this is where our office is” type of document for new people. But okay, fair enough. So our email conversation went something like this (each line being a new email):
THEM – Do you want to come in to audition?
ME – I can come on Tuesday from Kaunas.
THEM – Great.
ME – Just tell me when and where.
THEM – around 11 and here’s the address (and a photo of the building)
ME – Can you tell me how to get there from the train station?
THEM – Take this trollybus. Maybe you could bring a lithuanian friend?
Okay, so I found a LIthuanian friend to bring with me. Which really didn’t make much sense since she doesn’t spend much time in Vilnius so she didn’t know where we were going any better than I did.
Also in that first email was a song to learn, the song the drunk people were going to sing to the actress. Originally, it was a Savage Garden tune but the version I was to learn was from a Puma ad with a bunch of VERY english lads singing it as a football dirge. No problem. I could learn this. Naturally, every time I had blocked out the time to really learn it, some school work came up and obviously that took priority so I didn’t end up getting it in my head until the train ride Tuesday morning into Vilnius. My bad, certainly. But I figured I had it down. Not only did I have it, but I had it in the accent they were singing in in the video.
So away we went to the office. We find the place, arriving about 25 minutes late (combined bus and train schedules). When we got there, I poked my head into an office with several young women working. As soon as I said “hello” in English one of them looked up and asked if I was me. I said yes and apologized for being late. “Not a problem,” she said and directed me to have a seat in the lobby and to fill out a form. Then she asked the friend who was with me to fill out a form as well. I thought this was slightly odd, but didn’t say anything yet.
As we’re filling out the form, a general informational sheet, asking all the basic height, weight, hair and eye color, languages and skills, etc, a girl comes in from the door we had come in from, basically the hallway. She looks down at my form and points to a blank line and says something in Lithuanian. Now, the form I was working on was written in English so I could tell the line she was pointing to was asking for a friend’s phone number. Evidently, it was very important I fill this in. I asked why. In Lithuanian she told my friend it was in case I was sent abroad. I wasn’t being sent abroad for this role and why in the world would they need a friend’s number anyway. I assumed they must mean an emergency contact but even that was still a bit premature so I told her I would be happy to give over that information when I was sent abroad. The girl wasn’t happy but said fine. Then she asked us both to come with her.
At this point, we had no idea who she was. Yes, she had a camera around her neck, but she’d had no contact with anyone in the office, she had never intorduced herself or even actually proffered that she worked at the agency itself. As we were walking back down the hallway, I actually asked her who she was. She told me her name, and I recommended she might want to introduce herself to clients. She shrugged, unlocked a door and showed us into a room with a white cyc and lights set up for photographs.
“What are you here for?” she asked and to be honest, by this point I was a little uncooperative. I was tired off being treated like a piece of meat. I had traveled on my own dime becuase I was asked to come in and this girl wasn’t clued in. Had she introduced herself, had she explained what was happening and what she was going to be doing, fine, I probably just would have gone with it, but I was tired. So when she asked why I was there, I responded by telling her I had been asked to come in and didn’t she know why I was there. All of a sudden, she did. She knew I was there for the the singing piece. Then she asked my friend to stand on the cyc and pose for pictures. My friend seemed to having a good time so I let it go, figuring I knew what they were up to. When the finished her set, the girl asked me to stand in front of the camera. I asked “why”?
By this time, another girl had come in to the room and she took over the camera while the first girl left in frustration and anger. The second girl just started right in with asking me to pose. That’s when I asked how they got my information and I was told it was through The Assets. “So,” I asked “the director has already seen me?” I knew he had because that was in the original email. So I asked why they were taking my picture now. I was told they wanted the pictures for their files for possible future work. I explained it would be polite to ask if I was okay with that, considering I was there for a specific role. The girl apologized and I acquiesced. Then I asked her who she was since she hadn’t identified herself either. Turns out she was the person I’d been emailing with. So I extended my hand, said nice to meet you, and we continued with the standard generic casting photo set.
I was worked up by this point so naturally, I forgot the lines of the song. Add in the fact I can’t sing to begin with and I was pretty miserable. I did get through the song, twice. Once in my horrendous singing voice and once in the accent, which, ironically, I thought sounded better. Then she had me do a couple of lines, which I did fine, and that was it. As I recall, there was an awkward moment when we weren’t sure what was happening so I had to ask if that was it, if they needed anything else. They didn’t so we were free to go.
My friend, generously, said I did great (she also said she’d never sseen me angry before, so there’s that). Overall I’d say it wasn’t my best day, either personally or professionally. I’d say I highly doubt I’ll get the part. Before we left she did ask again about my availability – and I asked about pay. If this was a Lithuanian prroduction, it might cost me more to take the train out and stay over night if it’s an early morning call than I’d make. Her response was to ask me my rate. When I asked for more details in order to determine a fair wage, we figued out it would be best to just deal with the AD.
We left, met a friend for a coffee then hopped the train back home. When I lamented coming, especially since I had end of semester stuff to do, asking out loud “why did I agree to this?” my friend answered with the best answer there is: For the adventure!
4 thoughts on “The Audition”
I loved this post. The cultural differences are glaring. I loved how you questioned everything and had certain expectations coming in (like the introduction ). Had it been me, I would have thought everything was pretty normal. It was fascinating to get into someone else’s head and see the situation from the eyes of ‘another’. Thanks for posting!
That’s one of the fun things about living in a different culture! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Obviously you were being recruited by a local office to star in travel advertisements for the Kanamit planet.