As I have whined about enough in my recent posts, lately I have been low on work and am struggling to find ways to earn a living in bangkok. When I was out a few nights ago, I received a phone call from a Bangkok agent I had applied for Extra work with a few months back. As this was the first time I’d heard from this agent yet, I wanted to keep them sweet, and so agreed to go to a casting for an acting job in Bangkok – I normally decline attending castings as I am well aware that there are plenty of other professional actors kicking around… and me – I’m completely clueless and uncharismatic with that sort of thing… Not to mention I hate being the centre of attention.
To be honest, I wasn’t just doing it to get on the good side of this new agent… life in Bangkok has been kind of uneventful recently and I’ve been starting to go a little stir crazy. I also decided to investigate acting as a career in Thailand and take one for the team, for the all-of-about five people that ever actually read my blog. Or anybody who happens to want to know what they shoud expect at a casting in Bangkok. I’ve got nothing better to do anyway, I’d just waste my time mincing around eating fried chicken and bubble teas otherwise.
Acting work in Bangkok
There are many acting and extras groups you can join on facebook that advertise this kind of work in Thailand. You can just search ‘casting thailand’ and there will be loads to join up to. Agents are also quite keen to send whoever they can to castings because it simply increases the probability of one of their clients being picked, and them getting their commission from the job. You can find a list of agents to contact under my tips for extra work in Bangkok. It’s difficult to get parts, especially with no experience, but although it can seem time consuming and not worth the effort, the pay can actually be very rewarding. If I had actually gotten this particular part, I would have been paid a minimum of 20,000 baht (about $700 or £450) minus the agency fees – 15,000 baht. Minimum. For one day’s acting work.
There is a lot more pressure than when just doing extra work in Bangkok though. Although you get treated much better (e.g. you get your own umbrella-and-fan man and you get to eat the nice food), it is basically all down to you when they are shooting. If you can’t get it right, then all the extras and all the film crew – they all have to work longer because of you! It’s all your fault! Man, that would seriously stress me out, the thought of that… and all those people watching you try to act. At least when you work as an extra, it doesnt really matter what you’re doing – nobody really cares, you’re just a minion picking your nose in the background. I like it that way though, being the invisible minion with no responsibility…
But most people aren’t insecure wrecks like me, so if you are a confident, outgoing person you may consider giving acting work in Thailand a try and perservering simply because the pay is so good. A lot of other people at the casting I spoke too were not actually experienced actors either. It’s much easier than normal to obtain acting work in Thailand as the community of foreigners is small and the demand for ‘farang’ high. There are many acting workshops you can attend and I have personally heard from people who have been to them that they are very useful and helpful. Which actually surprises me. These can cost from 6000 baht to 10,000 baht for a few weekends of workshops. When you think about the potential amount you could be paid from a typical acting part in Thailand though, it seems easily worth a try to improve your acting skills.
My first – and my last – casting in Bangkok
To start with, the details I was sent about the casting itself were not particularly clear. I was told to dress like a young, affluent and successful world traveller. To dress upscale but casual as if staying at a five star hotel. To dress uniquely with style, but to not look like a model.. and no suits either! I was pretty confused by these conflicting descriptions but nonetheless I interpreted this as dressing like a gnarly, hardcore traveller with lots of money. I opted for some ethnic, leather jewellery and a casual outfit with a funky, smart suit jacket. I know, it said no suits – but I do not own ‘upscale clothing’ so it was all I could think of.
When I arrived at the hotel that the casting was arranged at in Bangkok, I got to the floor of the casting and found about three or four other male actors dressed quite smart and fashionably. I took a seat with them and then one of the Thai crew members came out and gave me a form to fill in with my measurements and contact details. I remained sat, waiting for about 40 minutes… -_- Some of the other people were taken off to a sitting area behind me and had their photos taken in various positions and situations. I heard the photographer behind saying ‘Ok now laugh, someone just did something very funny… HAHAHAHA’… then I heard the model let out an awkward, fake laugh and agonized myself over how douchey I was gonna feel when it was my turn.
Ok, I thought, no problem, this is a piece of cake, I got this job in the bag! All I’ve got to do is pretend I’m doing whatever they say – it’s easy. And I don’t have to be embarassed because everybodies in the same boat here. I think this was more to pump myself up than out of arrogance but I figured – how hard can it be? Anybody can act. Eventually, I got called into the room for the castings and took a seat on a prepared set. Two other girls entered dressed much more glamourously than me and took a seat either side of me.
Basically, I misinterpreted the prior description of the job. We were meant to play three best friends staying in a hotel who were basically rich and went on holiday all the time – not hardcore world travellers. After explaining the setting to us and telling us we would need to improvise (!) a scene of ‘three besties hanging out together and teasing eachother’, the casting woman took a look at me up and down and let out a displeased groan. ‘Take off you jacket so you look comfortable inside your hotel room…’ she asked. Then she took another scrutinising glance at me and continued ‘ok take off you shoes’. ..I was feeling a little unloved at this point.
This was when it got awkward though. I’ve never acted before let alone improvised, so I just could not think what to say. Considering my inexperience though, I think I did pretty well really. It lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes where they took a few takes of us socialising and laughing together. At the end, the casting woman laughed hard and said to the the girl to my right ‘I feel so sorry for you, you are trying so hard and the others act so… lazy’. She carried on laughing at us while the girl kindly denied what she said and tried to defend us. And I thought I was acting quite cheerful! How wrong I was… I guess if I could pass on anything I’ve learned from this experience, it would be to just make sure to overact and exagerrate everything.
The two girls were both very nice; the other bad one turned out to not be so good at english, so she had a better excuse than me for being bad at improvising. When I left the room after being laughed at by a professional, I felt a little discouraged to say the least. Before I had a chance to recollect myself and remotivate myself, I was called upon by the photographer. This went equally as bad. He would tell me to smile and laugh… it’s actually surprisingly hard to laugh on demand when the pressure is on you. He told me to pretend I was watching funny cartoons on the TV and then said ‘oh, the cartoons aren’t funny enough for you… Ok, show your teeth when you smile’. I don’t even want to see those photographs… it must have looked so creepy watching my feeble attempt to push out an unnatural smile. I’m surprised the poor man didn’t smear grease over his viewfinder to protect his eyes… It’s painful to think about.
I was glad to be out of there… The casting took 90 minutes altogether and during that time alone I saw about nine other applicants. Castings ran all week and all day, so it must be pretty difficult and competitive to actually get the part for something like that. Another extra friend of mine (also new to the industry) once told me about how she attempted to go to a casting in Thailand and how horribly embarrassing it was. So with my non-existent acting skills and this prior warning, I was not so naïve that I actually thought it would go smoothly. As with my other past Thailand career attempts, I think it’s safe to say I did not get the job…