I often get cast in those episodic documentary re-enactments as seen on cable networks like TLC, National Geographic Channel, and Court TV. For us nonunion folk, these are very important for our demo reels, to add something of clout for potential casting directors, mainly because it still is cable TV.
I filmed one such show back in December 2005 in Santa Clarita, Calif. I had several good scenes, and I was sure when it aired I'd have something nice for my reel. They've yet to air it. I constantly keep in contact with other actors who did it with me, and they've contacted the production company in efforts to find out what happened. Their well-mannered inquiries—which were made every four months or so—have only been met with cold shoulders, rude retorts, and comments like, "We don't know already. Quit asking!" The title has been changed three times now, and as far as getting a copy, they keep telling us to check the website, and when it comes out, just tape it or buy it.
Should I assume this thing is going to get lost as a "nonair"? I'm thinking at this point there is nothing we can do. Was it too pushy and perhaps unprofessional to keep asking the company when the show would air? I know the people who called to ask used only the utmost tact and finesse, but they were just told to "learn some patience" and to look for the show to air and tape it. This would be easier if we knew the show's final name.
—Out of Patience
Far from a nonunion issue, your predicament is likely familiar to actors at all levels. After reading your letter, I immediately contacted you to ask whether the production company ever promised you a copy of the show. You told me yes, the company repeatedly assured the actors they'd receive a copy—but it did so orally and not in writing. Oral agreements are the easiest to forget, especially when the production company has undoubtedly moved on to other projects and concerns. That repeated attempts to get information have been rebuffed might suggest you and your colleagues give up and move on.
I suggest, however, that you toss aside the production assistant's rudeness and keep trying. Persistence is not pushy or unprofessional. You and your castmates should take turns continuing to call the company once every three months. It's possible the show is being reworked or re-edited and a final version may not be ready. The show may have been shelved until the company secures finishing funds, or it may have been canceled altogether. Keep calling until you know its fate. If nothing else, your calls can keep you abreast of the show's current working title.
If you eventually hear that the show is complete, politely ask for the long-ago promised copies. Remind the company of its promise. Follow up in writing. Offer to pick up the DVDs instead of agreeing to wait for them to be mailed. Offer to bring your own blank DVDs or take one copy and make copies among yourselves. Be very polite, but be consistent. And don't stop there. Dig out that call sheet and check out the client's name. Look to the network, which may be more apt to at least fill you in on the show's current title. In the case of commercials, I've gotten tapes mailed to me by kind executives from the manufacturers when the production and advertising companies suffered selective amnesia.
When I used to produce commercials, I hated those calls from actors requesting copies, because it seemed like such a pain to dig out old spots and get copies made. It only cost a few bucks, but I was busy and the request got in the way of the million other things I had to do on deadline. But as an actor I understood the importance of the tape, and I got the copies made. If I hadn't had experience on the other side of the issue, however, I probably would have, to be blunt, flaked out. That is the single-biggest reason actors don't end up with tape they were promised, whether from national commercials, television shows, student films, or nonunion re-enactments. Overworked production people suffer no consequence for not getting you your tape. They don't have to follow through, so they don't. And what can you do? Sue them? Yell at them? Refuse to work for them again? The situation is maddeningly unfair. It's as rotten as it is pervasive.
I wish I had a better solution for you, but polite persistence is your best shot. If those blokes at the production company are immovable, you and your colleagues may not only be out of patience but also out of luck.
One last-ditch effort: Get Grandma Mary and Uncle Bill on VCR alert. I can't tell you how much tape I have gotten from friends through TiVo recordings of soaps or baseball games.
Do you have any suggestions for interesting places to look for a woman's classical monologue? I am so sick of choosing among the standards. I can't do another Juliet/ Rosalind/Viola/Julia/Portia.
via the Internet
Classical doesn't mean Shakespeare. Get your glasses on because it's time to get a-readin'.
To stick with a Shakespearean vibe, check out Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair; Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Edward II; Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women and The Changeling; and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. John Webster's The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi boast strong leading women. If the audition calls for verse, you'll be more limited, but often you can use anything from Sophocles to Molière with impunity. Greek, Roman, Medieval, and Jacobean dramas are open to you. Or look into Restoration comedies such as The Country Wife, by William Wycherley. Selections from the plays of relatively modern playwrights such as Anton Chekhov, August Strindberg, and Henrik Ibsen are acceptable in some cases.
As for Shakespeare, don't assume there's nothing unusual to be found in your Complete Works. If you take the time to read the plays, you'll find plenty of selections that don't make it into the monologue books. Auditors usually ask for a one- to two-minute piece, so you don't need a whopping soliloquy. You may want to cut and paste lines from several consecutive passages. Often the right 20 or 30 lines—skipped over by other actors who are scanning for one large chunk of text—can be more than enough.