Escaping Your Day Job: The Truth About Open Calls Part 1
Labor Day weekend has become a distant memory and, with the summer behind us, it awakens a yearly occurrence which can simply be known as The Season in New York City. For musicians, actors and various performers alike that simply means a slew of auditions opening up after a very dead summer. As we all know, auditions can be tricky due to the infamous open calls’ surprising effect on one’s psyche. Fortunately, for all of you broke-ass artists out there I’ve been around the block more than the Ice Cream Man and I would like to share some important things to remember before you have to stand in front of the casting directors, before you print your headshots/resume, and even before you decide to show up for that cattle call posted on Playbill.com.
When you’re broke, an open call can signal a number of emotional red flags. We all have those days when we wake up and get ready for an audition simply hoping that this will be the reason we can quit that shitty day job—at least, for the time being. However, experience has taught me that this can be the worst reason to go out for the part. We’d all like to think that our lives could change in an instant. (For that matter, we’d all like to think that our financial situations can change in an instant.) The hard truth is it will, but not before, what will likely feel like, a lifetime of work. To give you a little more insight, I’d like to share a few of my successes, but more importantly, a number of my failures in the notorious open-call circuit.
Years ago, when I originally set out to perform full time and consequently decided to be a broke ass, I took up residence on the floor of my brother’s apartment. An opportunity arose to audition for Andre Harrell and Angie Stone of Universal Music Group to compete with 49 other artists through an Ourstage.com competition. The grand prize was a $10,000 online distribution deal for a single. In a similar style to X-Factor, we packed into a crowded club and sang a verse and chorus in front of each other and an assortment of progressively inebriated guests. All I could think about was how this was my shot at quickly getting enough money to get my own place and sleep in a bed (which at that point I hadn’t done in a month). Unfortunately, I was eliminated in round one. The winner was a young man who’d already recorded and produced his own music and wrote his own songs. This wasn’t an amateur, and this wasn’t someone they had to groom or develop. The winner of the competition was polished and ready to go.
Truthfully, I was more concerned with changing my immediate circumstances than starting a career. I was in it for the money and not the joy and excitement of my craft: recording music. In retrospect, this sort of desperation comes out in your voice and body language. I have since learned that being relaxed, confident and focusing on what I actually showed up to do—which was to perform—would have served me much better than simply approaching it as a solution to my financial situation.
I have found that big businesses and corporations are strategically cunning when the announcements of open calls are made for performers. The American Idol Experience at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios conducts a small competition each day that allows talented hopefuls to act as idol contestants. The experience is complete with a vocal coach, make-up artist, ‘Idol’ judge look-a-likes, and a live studio audience that will ultimately decide their fate—all within a 2 hour timeframe. The grand prize is an actual opportunity to skip the line and audition for American Idol. In this instance, I was well aware that it was a numbers game and when you’re playing a numbers game, talent will always be a lower priority.
Once again, my numbers didn’t match my singing capability and I was eliminated. Oftentimes, no matter how talented or prepared one is, politics will come into play leaving the situation out of your control.
Photo Credit: zimbio.com