First off: As a writer, you sometimes find yourself cringing when you hear your work being read aloud. These are words forged within the private recesses of your mind, and having them dragged out and given life in the material world can be both exhilarating and somewhat embarrassing. All of a sudden, all the imperfections of the work are thrown into stark relief…It’s kinda like finding yourself naked in a roomful of strangers.
So sitting through 3 hours of videotaped auditions of actors reading the same passage of my script over and over and over again…. God, I wanted to dig a hole and climb in. It was particularly painful when they butchered the words, but even more so when they all stumbled over the same areas, illustrating to me that those portions just didn’t work in general.
But I’m glad to say that most of the actors were really, really good. When did everybody in Calabar become a thespian anyway? Back in the day, acting (along with music and other branches of the entertainment field in general) was the province of dropouts, thugs, and other people too stupid or antisocial to get a real job in the mainstream of Nigerian society.
Now the story we keep hearing over and over again is “I just graduated with a degree in Engineering/I’m studying Law/I’m in school for Marine Biology/I’m in Med school but what I really want to do is act, and I can’t see myself doing anything else.” And they really mean it, too… Some of the young ladies have been particularly insistent: “I’ll do anything to be in a movie,” they say. “Anything.” And then they give you that look so you know that they really mean “anything.”
Don’t worry, though… Your boy is way too professional, paranoid and ridden with massive levels of residual Judeo-Christian guilt to ever take advantage of such overtures* and that’s a good thing because (allegedly) the casting couch is such a prevalent feature of the industry that folks have been pretty impressed that we’re not even interested in none of that mess.
All in all, I think a lot of people have been impressed with our general sense of professionalism, precision and… Well, the fact that we’re not dicks because a lot of other producers are (well, we’re not dicks yet, anyway). It’s odd when actors shake us with both hands and bow to us and call us “sir,” though. Stuff like that really embarrasses us all. We’re like “Nah, cut that ‘sir’ shit… This is Denis, this is Koko, this is Nana” (yeah, I’ve reverted back to the name of my youth, mostly to avoid confusion with Koko’s wife Uchenna).
But we’ve got some really, really great players…. And some of the best ones we got almost completely by chance! I’ll talk more about that a little later.
Ummm… I’ll talk about the clashes we had with the union later, too
* Okay, I’ll admit it… On two separate occasions later in the week I ended up calling actresses who had auditioned for us. Calling them socially, I mean.
It was completely innocent, of course: Platonic company for some dinner and/or drinks after a long, hot day of producing in the field, and in both cases it was actresses whom I’d already committed to hiring so it’s not as if them getting the job was going to be influenced by them going out with me either way. Furthermore, neither one of them was even able to accept my invitation due to prior commitments so nothing ended up happening anyway.
Still, it made me feel like a massive sleaze and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again in the near future.