“I Have Dreamed A Dream….”

14 02 2012

I had a rough night last night. I couldn’t really sleep.

This is the 24 hours leading up to 3am last night.

Monday the 13th February

3:00am –
Lying awake on Pats sofa in Battersea trying to foresee ever possible scenario for the audition that afternoon. Went over my pieces again and settled on the piece I would use for singing if they wanted to see it and listened to the song on my iPhone a few times. Finally drifted off to sleep between 4 and 5am.

8:30am –
I’m shook awake by Pat whose already getting ready for work. I’m blinded by the sunlight coming in through the living room window. Forgot to close the curtains the night before. I’m feeling crap already from the lack of sleep. I can hear Pat’s landlady in the kitchen asking him why I’m actually in London. He tells her about my audition, must have forgot to mention it to her when I got there on Saturday. Spend the next few hours pottering about, relaxing. I make the decision to skip all food and drink until after my audition, would rather not have anything that could upset my stomach between now and then. Showered, went over my pieces again and watched TV for a bit before setting out towards Barbican.

1:00pm –
Arrive at Sundial Court and make my way down to the basement. The Guildhall’s SU bar area. Few people already there, most of them look younger. I’m already feeling uneasy but I put it down to nerves. I go and get changed in the mens and then come out to see a few more people have turned up. We’re lead off to a room off one side of the SU bar and are given the schedule for the afternoon. Introductions are done. Everyone here is younger than my by at least 4 years. I feel old.

1:25pm –
We’re given numbers, the order in which we’re going be auditioning. I’m 8, there’s 13 of us altogether. We’re asked to write our number, names and what pieces we’re doing on a slip of paper. We’re still waiting for one more girl to arrive before we go in to meet the judging panel and have a warm up. There’s three students who have already graduated from the BA acting course looking after us. I’m older than them too. I am the only one auditioning for the MA in this group. The last girl finally turns up and we’re taken through to another room for the warm up.

1:45pm –
In the process of the warm up we’re playing a game called the wolf and sheep. Idea is that everyone is crouched on the floor as stones. One person is nominated as the sheep, one as the wolf. Wolf chases the sheep but if the sheep jumps over one of the “stones” that person then becomes the wolf and the wolf becomes the sheep. Quite a fun game, very hectic, having to change direction very quickly in small quarters without tripping over anyone else. As the game is stopped, I’m the sheep, guy chasing me catches my leg and sends me flying, I’m heading shoulder first into a cute redhead that caught my eye in the holding room. Not wanting to subject her to the flying weight of my 13 stone body coming at her, I managed to twist body enough to land my hands the other side of her and leverage my body enough to turn the fall into a roll. She was grateful.

2:10pm –
Warm up done and introductions to the judging panel complete, we’re taken back to the first room and after 10 minutes the first person is taken in to do their audition. Everyone is chatting. I get to know that most of the kids come from theatre backgrounds already. Parents working in the industry or some other family member. Most of them have been auditioning since they were 16. I feel very out of place.

3:45pm –
Time comes for my audition, I’m led back the warm up room with Harry, one of the graduates looking after us. We talk shop outside the room for a few minutes before we’re called in. I’m asked which piece I would like to do first. So I go with my Boardwalk Empire piece as I’m the most comfortable with that. Goes fine. They then ask to see my Shakespeare piece. The weakest of my three. I do it. Got the order of the words wrong in one line and rushed the next line in panic but got through it. They tell me to pull up a chair and we chat a bit about how it’s going. I tell them about finishing uni, taking up magic, moving to London and doing extra work. They ask to see my third piece, the monologue from A Few Good Men, the play, not the film. I’m half way through the first section when they say stop. Ask me to start again and this time take a little more time with it. I get halfway through when they stop me and say that’s all they need to see. I’m not too worried about this, some of the guys that have gone before me had similar experiences and some of them didn’t even get to do their third piece. I’m starving so I nip out to go and get some food.

5:00pm –
The 2 ladies who were on the judging panel come in and tell us that we all did great and so on but on this occasion they will only be taking one person in for a recall. It’s the girl that went in first. C’est La Vie. I knew was facing some immense odds at this stage. Something like 4000 applications for 26 places. So I don’t feel terrible. I sit around for the next hour or so waiting to see where to go next. I had arranged to meet with some friends at the school after my audition.

6:00pm –
I meet with Sophie and Dagmar and we head up to the Barbican centre for a coffee. They offer their words of consolation about the audition and asked how it went. I tell them that the panel said they were looking for a something specific but they didn’t tell us what. Whatever is was I obviously didn’t fit the bill. Sophie agrees, I don’t really fit the type of actors they see walking around the school  but that’s a positive thing according to them, which gets me thinking but again I maintained that I was fine. It’s a learning process and what not. We spent the rest of the time just talking about nothing in particular until I had to leave to get my coach back to oxford.

8:00pm –
On the coach back to Oxford, it’s gonna take 2 and a half hours so I decide to get some sleep.

10:10pm –
Arrive in Oxford, I got the stop where I need to get my bus home from. No busses until ten past eleven. Fantastic. Waiting around in the cold I decide to call Nai and tell her how it went. She offers me her own words of consolation. I tell her I’m okay, just gotta think about where to go next. We talk about plans for the next year.

11:10pm –
Bus finally turns up, don’t get home till midnight. Make myself a snack and a cup of tea. Unpacking can wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday the 14th February 

3:00am –
I’ve been lying awake for almost 3 hours now. That little spark of self doubt has taken hold and is being fanned into something bigger, my initial proclamation of being fine might have been wrong. At this stage I feel anything but fine. I’m replaying the audition over and over in my head and cursing the slip up on my Shakespeare piece. I’m wondering if I should spoken more about why I wanted to come to Guildhall instead of what I’ve been up to and a million other things. I’m now in a full on silent rage mood which is being perpetuated by a 90 minute google binge on articles of how drama school is only for the privileged few and other articles of a similar vein. I curse every person who was born with the means and waste as no talent so called “celebrity personalities”. I have to get out of my head so I leave the house and go for walk to nowhere in particular.

5:00am –
My walk has taken me across town to the 24 hour Tesco and it’s petrol station. I’m smoking a Marlboro light. 6 weeks work destroyed in one night. So much for that, I walk back home and finally get to sleep.

I finally rolled out of bed earlier today at about 3 in the afternoon. The events of last night a  bit of a haze, I smell the tobacco on my fingers. Not my proudest moment. But live and learn. I’m genuinely fine now. I got it all out my system last night, now to figure out what to do next. This year was off to a good start and I maintain that hopefully it will carry on that way, the last 24 hours are a minor bump in the road. And who doesn’t have those at the best of times.

In the mean time, I’ll keep practicing my Shakespeare and keep looking for the next opportunity. :-)

Until next time

Kal x

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The Name is Khan……..James Khan……

6 02 2012

Well it’s been a month since we last spoke and what a month it has been!

First things first, the title. It is referring to my MI6 ID (see below) from the upcoming James Bond movie entitled “Skyfall.” To put it into context, as much as I would love to say I am Bond indian counterpart in the equivalent agency this is not the case. I am an extra in the scene where the new Q Branch is introduced. We started shooting in the second week of January. Here’s my journey through that time.

On the 9th of January I made my way to Pinewood, situated in Uxbridge. Bit of a pain in the ass having to get there as coming from Oxford you sorta go past Uxbridge to have to get to London first and then back to Pinewood. But no matter, I turned up about 11 and met some of my fellow extras there. This was just going to be a costume fitting. Now from my experience on working on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the costume department on that set was very simple. They asked me to bring a pair of shoes and black trousers and they provided me with a shirt. Very simple. On Skyfall however the attention to detail is incredible. I was dressed in almost 6 different outfits before they found one they liked, changing one outfit because they didn’t like how the buttons on my sweater clashed with the tie I was wearing! BUTTONS! Just wow, but I did love the outfit they put me in, was very office chic, lol. I think I was dressed primarily in Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic. Very nice. So that was that.

On the friday, I came back for the first day of shooting and got to meet all the other extras involved. One of them actually being from Solent Uni, never ceases to amaze me how small this world is sometimes. In the interest of keeping the mystique of the film alive, I won’t reveal any plot details but needless to say, the set design was incredible. I saw two of the sets that are going to be used, one of which I would be spending the majority of my time over the next few weeks. I can however say that from everything I’ve seen, I am very excited about this Bond film and believe that it may well be the best of Daniel Craig’s so far.

So that Friday we were shooting a scene with Daniel Craig who is of course James Bond and Mr Ben Whishaw who is the new Q. Now we were told that this would be the only day that DC would be on set the same time as us so I made it my mission to try to talk to him before the end of the day, that gave me roughly 8 hours. Just to explain, I didn’t want to talk to him to mob him like an insane fan, no I wanted to get some advice on my upcoming audition at Guildhall, a school from which he had graduated himself a few years ago.

Now anyone whose done any extra work will know that the majority of the time is spent sat around not really doing a whole lot. So that Friday out of the 10 odd hours I was at Pinewood I maybe had only 3 hours of actual contact time within which to grab him. The other that most people who will have done extra work will know is that you are kept very separate from the talent. However, the production assistant, Ollie,  who was looking after us seemed like a nice enough guy and I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to press my luck for an introduction. As we wrapped our last part for the day, we were being led off set and I got caught at the back of the crowd, Ollie was at the front leading me and the rest of the extras back to our holding area. I tried to make my way up to him quickly to ask him for this introduction. Half way to him I spotted a flash of a smart grey suit out of the corner of my eye to my right. Who else should it be but the man himself! I thought to myself that I would never get a chance like this again and did a 180 and walked straight up to him and said hi. I do feel a little bad about interrupting the chap who was speaking to him when I walked up and if you’re reading this I apologise profusely. The conversation went something like this,

Me: Hi!
DC: Hello. (Smiles)
Me: First of all, I’m a big fan of your work. (Thought it wise to open with a compliment rather than be blunt)
DC: (Smiles) Thanks. (Goes to walk away)
Me: Actually, I did want to ask your advice on something. (DC turns back towards me) My name is Kalam, and I have an audition at Guildhall coming up next month.
DC: (Laughs heartily but genuinely interested look on his, I thought anyway)  Good Luck!
Me: I know right! But I was basically wondering if you had any advice for me, I know you graduated from there a few years ago.
DC: Well, sure, okay, firstly, make sure you know your lines! And be yourself around them, they don’t like posers. Try and do pieces that will set you apart from the crowd and pieces that will make them remember you. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get in the first time, I didn’t get in the first time myself, but they remembered me from the year before. But yeah, make sure they remember you, just be yourself and give it your best shot.
Me: That’s amazing. Thank you for the advice.
DC: Not a problem at all, good luck!

We shook hands and went off in different directions. Sound advice from Mr Bond himself and it definitely solidified in my mind that Guildhall is definitely where I wanted to go to carry on my training. And it was an absolute pleasure to talk to that big of a movie star and see that actually they are just regular people and if you’re polite and respectful you’ll get it in return.

The next few days passed fairly uneventfully, the waiting around got steadily longer and longer with one day where we didn’t actually get used at all! I did however meet some wonderful people on the job, a few of which I will be staying touch with. Our “holding area” was basically on a catering bus where we spent most of our time, by the third day we wised up and people had started to bring books, handheld consoles etc in with them for entertainment. But mostly it was just great banter between folk.

On one of the last days I decided to jump off the bus as it was getting quite stuffy in there. It happened from time to time, 30 bodies and a fairly powerful heater on the bus, so I wanted some air. As I came off, I was faced with the back of a man who was on the phone and I didn’t recognise from any of the extras as he had his arm in a sling. Thinking nothing of I walked past him to take a little stroll and turned round after a few steps not  wanting to wander too far from the bus in case we were called back on to set. When I did, who else would the man turn out to be but Ralph Fiennes.

I must have had a bit of a deer caught in the headlights expression on my face as he grinned when he spotted me. Again that thought of not having opportunities like this flashed across my mind. So I waited until he was off the phone and approached him. This conversation I don’t remember as well as the one with Daniel Craig as it was a bit more broad, but we had a nice little discussion about his time at RADA and his brothers time at Guildhall. Again just lovely to speak to someone who encourages you in that way.

Shortly after that was done for my time on Bond. I loved every second of it even thought in the total amount of days I spent on set, I was only maybe used for about 4/5 hours of it! Quite insane lol! But I enjoyed it, got to speak to some major players of british acting and made a friend or two out of it too.

Now onwards and upwards, this time next week I’ll know if I’ve gotten through to the next round of auditions in Guildhall as I have my preliminary audition next Monday afternoon. I’m a little nervous as this is the first time I’m going back into performing since uni and I feel rusty.

But following DC’s advice, I know my lines down pat, I have no problem being myself around strangers and I hope the pieces I’ve chosen to do will set me apart from the crowd. So fingers crossed, and wish me luck. This year has had a good start to it and I hope that’s a trend I can keep going for the next few months :-)

Adios Cabrons! x