Friday morning had arrived. I was up earlier than the norm. I went through my exercise ritual. One hundred push ups, a hearty run up all sixteen floors of my apartment block (twice,) followed by a steaming hot bath. Dried off, fully dressed and one hearty breakfast later, I was ready. Ready and prepared for the audition. At 10am I would be auditioning for a theatre production of ‘The Looking Glass House”. God, I wanted this.
The audition would be taking place at Babel Studios, 82 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1. I knew Southwark Bridge and checking my GPS, found the Road, led directly on from the Bridge itself. I knew where I was going. I would forgo Public Transport, I could easily walk there. Southwark Bridge was the next Bridge after The Millennium Bridge that linked St. Paul’s Cathedral on the North Bank with The Tate Modern on the Southbank. Fond memories but that is the subject of another story.
So I left home at 8.45 that morning. I wanted to leave nothing to chance. I was making this journey on foot and after working out so early, I wanted to pace myself. Didn’t want to wear myself out before I got there. I was eager, I was hungry, I was determined to put in my best effort and land this job.
I got to Babel Studios at 9.25 – I had made good progress, even though I had a slight problem with the street numbering. I was here nevertheless. Shortly after, a bearded fellow arrived on a push bike. His name escapes me now but he was the director’s brother and owner of the building. On letting me in I was met with something I had never experience in my ten years in the business. The building was in the process of renovation. In other words, it was a building site. The Gentleman apologised for this and informed me this was where the production was going to be held. ‘Oh,’ I thought to myself and wondered what I had let myself in for but dismissed the thought as a result of my surprise at where I was to be auditioned. Work – Potential work was work after all. Did it really matter where one auditioned?
His Sister was late but she arrived some fifteen minutes later, walked in, discussed something with her brother, walk past me saying hello, without breaking her stride (despite my saying who I was,) to the back of the building for a while before reappearing and again passing me without saying another word to me. Shortly after, a young lady arrived (clearly an actress,) was greeted by the director, and shown to the back of the building, both walked past me and I finally realised that she had no intention of auditioning me whatsoever. She had taken one look at me and decided she wanted nothing to do with me. Given that, I collected my things and walked out of the building without saying a thing. I was fuming but controlled myself, as well as my temper, for a realised all the signs were there.
There was very little in terms of details about the production. What it was about, how long it would run for, the role I would be auditioning for and more importantly, no mention was made about money. All the classic clues this was a production not to touch. To this day, I have no idea whether it was a paying job. The lead came from a good source, which is why I didn’t investigate any further as I had to supply my Spotlight Pin Number, which is always a good indication that a production is on the level, as whoever is casting wants professionally trained actors who are registered with The Spotlight.
Two-thirds of the way home, I pulled out my iPhone and emailed Ms. Imogen Watson and informed her of my dismay, annoyance and displeasure in the way I was treated or rather not treated. If she had bothered to do any kind of research (which I believe she did not,) she would have known what I looked like, as well as my acting credentials (for what they are worth,) and advised me that I was not what she was looking for, rather than inviting me to audition, then completely ignoring me as if I didn’t exist. To date, I have not received any kind of response from her, which kind of rests my case on a few fronts.
I then did some research and put out a few feelers on the professional actor groups on Facebook as well as commenting on my FB Status as to what had transpired. Someone contacted me and advised me that Imogen Watson had done something similar to a friend of theirs. In this case their friend was an actor of twenty years experience of good standing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Old Vic Theatre here in London. She refused to work with him on the basis that he lacked formal paper qualifications. Can you believe this!? Apparently (and I researched this myself,) Dear Stupid Imogen’s only qualification and claim to any kind of fame, is an MA Theatre, Pathway into Directing and because of this (as I was told,) she has an attitude. All too clear! I have seen it firsthand for myself.
I have worked with many people over the past ten years, who have little or any paper qualifications. Some if they work in Special Effects, Make-up, Prosthetics etc, will have some kind of arts qualification but I have also worked with boom operators, first class film editors – Phil Sanderson, worked for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who learned his trade and skills from the ground up. Sadly Phil is no longer with us and that is sad because he was a truly lovely man and a true gentleman, as are many of the people who have long careers throughout showbiz. That doesn’t mean the Industry doesn’t have its fair share of bastards and bitches because it does and Imogen Watson so clearly falls into that category.
I have met my fair share of good people while working as an actor (the majority,) but I have also met my fair share of not so good people (the minority,) and the latter are those that I have no intention of working with if I can possibly help it. Where Dear Stupid Imogen differs is that while she has the trait common to the latter category of arrogance and megalomania, she does not have the other trait also common in that she does not have any kind of track record that backs up her attitude and behaviour. She had not produced any kind of work that is truly worth any kind of critical claim. At least not yet. Her attitude (while probably inherent,) stems from the fact she has a Masters Degree in Theatre. And as such she probably thinks she is up there with the best of them. When in actual fact, she yet to do anything of any significance. To be blunt she has done nothing!
Again in my ten years in the business I have never heard any professional (at least in film and television,) talk about qualifications, their degrees or what school they went to. The only time I hear this is from people who went to the more prestigious drama schools and crow on about it at auditions, rather than focussing on the job at hand, which is to actually land the job. That is after all why they are sitting in the waiting area. For myself, I went to drama school and did some formal training but no director, producer or casting director has ever asked me whether I did formal training or not. That is not what they are interested in. They are interested in one’s credentials as an actor and what one has done over the course of their career. Qualifications? Do me a favour!
The Case of Imogen Watson just gets better and better. A contact wrote and told me that she may have been casting for a production called ‘Shine on Harvey Moon’. Unbelievable! I was told the production was called ‘The Looking Glass House’, now I am told it is called something else. This elevates Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as ‘The Producers’ to the level of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Cameron Mackintosh. But then The Producers was actually funny. Imogen Watson, her behaviour and attitude to her fellow professionals, clearly is not. Especially when they have far more of a track record than she has.
Look, I like every performer has been through more than a few rough auditions. That is the nature of the business we are in. I have had rough experiences from students at the London Film School and other institutions. But I have never in my career arrived at a venue for an audition and the person concerned, point blankly refused to see me or have anything to do with me, purely based on what I looked like and my appearance. For the record, I turned up, smartly and casually dressed.
As I said, the warning signs were there. No information was provided as to what role I would be auditioning for. There was no breakdown as to what the production was, only the name, which now seems false or was changed at the eleventh hour. No information about the proposed run of the production and more importantly, there was no mention of any money whatsoever. The lead did not come from either of my agents but from a reliable source which is why I followed through on it. Still I walked in blind and I have no one to blame but myself. However, it does demonstrate to me once again, just what one has to deal with. I had thought after a ten year track record of work as a jobbing actor, I had to some extent distanced myself from these kinds of people and was now dealing with people who were consummate professionals and wanted good hard working actors on their projects. Clearly I am still going to be coming up against the Imogen Watsons of the showbiz world who want a great deal for very little and if you don’t fit the profile of what they deem perfection then you are nothing in their eyes.
Once again I am reminded that you are never too old to learn the same lessons over and over again. I just need to look at what is being offered and if the details are not there, then don’t bother. Still I think Ms. Imogen Watson’s behaviour was totally out of order. As one of my correspondents said, she will realise one day that her piece of paper is worth nothing when she disrespects her cast and crew. And I don’t think I could have put it better myself. She has many hard lessons to learn ahead of her. My only regret is I won’t be there to see it all unravel before her very eyes. I will be too busy working with good, effective and creative people who display the kind of good professional behaviour I have come to expect from people who know what they are doing and to how to get the best out of people – My kind of people.