Film: Star Wars open-casting in Glasgow

..spot me in the queue of hopefuls in my black and white winter cardigan.
..spot me in the queue of hopefuls in my black and white winter cardigan.

Date: 1/12/14

First impressions mean everything. We can spend hours, if not days preparing ourselves for that important initial introduction which could change our lives. Take an interview, or an audition. A ream of questions constantly scroll through your head as you approach the room where your destiny could be forged. Do you shake hands? How firm should the handshake be? This particular issue was quickly solved within 3 seconds of my audition for a role in the next part of the Star Wars franchise when the casting director stared down blankly at my outstretched hand. Great start.

I have always loved to perform, so when the chance of an acting role in a major Disney film was offered to the public in Glasgow, it was too good to pass up. Even though, deep down, I knew how it would end.

Queues of over 1500 people lined the car park of Glasgow Science Centre to reach an elusive blue casting tent for their chance to star in the next instalment. As I approached the snaking line, I asked a group who were leaving how they had fared in the harsh glare of the casting spotlight. No one was crying at this point, which I took as a promising indicator of what lay ahead.

Frances Bonner, a small curly-haired 18 year-old performing arts student from Coatbridge College, was one of the lucky few who were given a ‘Yes’ by 1pm on December 1.

According to Kate Bone, a UK casting agent, successful applicants need to have “the right look” to progress onto an acting audition. She was looking for a “beautiful, tough cookie” to play a street-wise orphan.

“I do think they’re trying to get that mix of people, but obviously they’re doing it on looks more,” said Frances.

Instead of filling me with hope, this statement raised my tolerance for disappointment as I realised that this girl looked nothing like me. At this point, I considered ducking behind the venue to smear some mud on my face in a bid to embody the ‘tough cookie’ brief. An attempt at a cheeky scowl during my audition would have to do.

From this initial flurry of excitement from getting to meet a ‘chosen one’, the buzz soon died down as I joined a winding queue, filled with ambivalent looking young twenty-somethings. There was a tangible level of judgement which passed over each new face which joined the end of the line, as those who had been waiting for the previous hour scoffed at the audacity of this latecomer.

However, there was a distinct shift of atmosphere evident compared with previous open casting calls that I had attended as an optimistic nine year-old. Whilst the queue feigned a sense of detachment from the situation as ‘just a bit of fun’, you could sense a surge of excitement and hope which rippled through the crowd as the queue moved painstakingly forward. The magic of an open audition can be cruel at times- it makes you feel like anything is possible. Even if the closest anyone would have been to calling you ‘street-wise’ previously was that time you managed to guide a visitor to Glasgow from the top of Buchanan Street towards their desired destination at the bottom of the same street.

Two hours later, I made it to a room filled with mirrors which wound the queue round to the casting tent. It was fascinating to see how the sea of faces which I had stood next to in the cold changed as soon as we hit the reflective zone. For the girls, hair was fluffed, lipstick was re-applied and winter coats were discarded to reveal the carefully planned outfits. For the boys, they removed their jackets.

Reports of the Saturday auditions on November 30 talk of this part of the audition lasting about ten minutes. For the lucky group I joined at 3pm in the tent on Sunday, the audition lasted for the best part of 30 seconds. After a steward briefly spoke to me about how cold it was outside, he sent me to meet my fate and walk up to one woman out of a long line of casting directors.

The force was evidently not with me on this occasion as my carefully planned not-too-firm-not-too-soft handshake was denied. The next twenty seconds consisted of my designated casting woman looking directly into my eyes disconcertingly as I answered her questions:

Q: What is your acting experience?

A: I have always loved acting, and musical theatre has been my main hobby growing up. I was also a zombie in the 2.8 Hours Later game and chased people around Glasgow.

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Her blank expression told me that she did not appreciate my zombie skills.

Q: Who is your favourite actress?

A: I’m really impressed with Jennifer Lawrence, as she is appearing in so many films at the same time right now, she is really inspirational. I also enjoy watching Emily Stone as I can’t take my eyes of her on screen as she has such a commanding presence.

Upon reflection, none of my answers particularly screamed ‘Street-wise Orphan’. I was then dismissed and told to “register my photo with the man.” As I walked out of the tent, ‘the man’ looked at my headshot (an A4 print-out filled with my most respectable Facebook profile picture) and sent me to the right.

Those successful were told to leave via the left-hand side of the casting tent where their acting ability would be tested. Long processions of unsuccessful applicants appearing bemused after their rapid meet-and-greet were instructed to exit from the right.

As I staggered out blinking into the sunlight after my brief flirtation with fame, I caught up with a man who simultaneously left through my designated exit. John Henderson, a 27 year-old actor and tutor, shared his experience from past open calls.

“Unless they specifically see something they like, you’re on your way,” he said.

“It’s just pot luck.”

I am still waiting on my call-back.

“It’s just pot luck.”

I am still waiting on my call-back.

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