The struggling actor has one of the toughest lives on earth. It is a profession rife with competition, insecurity, and endless rejection. Time and again, would-be thespians are advised to choose other careers if they can, to pursue acting only if they truly can't imagine doing anything else. Funny, then, that there are so many who can't imagine doing anything else! You never see so great a passion for, say, accounting. Or medicine, or teaching, or even painting. There's something about acting - the limelight, the admiration, the opportunity to just be someone else, if only for a little while - that lures so many in.
When the Claustrophobia casting process commenced, within one week I received over 1,500 headshots and resumes from actresses eager for roles. Many were quite talented and experienced. Many others, well... Bless their hearts, but their clueless submissions reflected their mislaid ambitions, and got them no further than this list.
- "REQUESTED". This was written - and circled - in huge red letters on a manila envelope in my P.O. Box. Mind you, my casting directors had clearly stated that we were casting for three female roles only. Why, what could I have possibly requested from this mysterious agency called "Advance LA"? It turned out to be a photo of some actor dude posing on a checkerboard tile floor and holding his hands out to the camera as if to say, "My name in lights!" Not these lights, bozo.
- Variations on "Cassava". Admittedly, the name of my production company is not a word you hear every day. But you'd think somebody would at least take the time to spell it right. I received envelopes addressed to, variously, Cassana Films, Cassaba Films, Cassavo Films and Cafava Films. I half expected the latter aspirant to walk in saying, "Hi, I'm Fandra Fmith, I'm an actref."
- Variations on "Claustrophobia". Okay, it's a long word. Still, it's not very encouraging when somebody is trying to convince you that they are right for the part when they can't even spell the title of your movie. So I got Claustrophobie, Clastrophobia, even Camp Utopia, which I thought was the most brilliant misreading of the title. But to my astonishment, months later a friend told me that his buddy was making a film called, you guessed it, Camp Utopia!
- Wurst speler evver. There's poor spelling, and there's poor spelling. And then there is this young lady, who managed to misspell literally everything on her envelope: Cassaba Films! Clastrophobia! She was also willing to play any of the roles, rechristening the characters Gina, Lauren, and Grace as "Gena, Loren, Grece."
- Watch out for them Texas Closters. The last of the red hot word manglers is this former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader (yes really), whose letter began "Re: Closter phobia". This was funny enough. But later on, at the end of her letter, she proudly asserted "since I am somewhat Closter phobic, I know I could add true realism to your project!"
- By the way, I'm also a talented breather, eater, and sleeper. That last line in the above entry is typical of some who submit their headshots (or whose agents do) and like to add a little P.S., informing me why they would be right for the part. There are far too many to list here ("I'm very sarcastic", etc.), but my favorite was: "With my gymnastics/yoga/dancer background, I'm sure that I could handle the action." Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?
- Other special skills. Actors' resumes often make note of any special skills the actors may have. This can be handy if you need somebody who can ride a horse, or speak Russian, or juggle. But it's stretching it a little bit when some consider "special skills" to include Mixologist, Published Poet, Reading, Kazoo, Can Burp on Cue, and so on. One actress, who was actually pretty talented, concluded her skills with Can detect irony.
- MOVIE STAR! When you think of the sad life of the Hollywood starlet that never made it, this is the woman your imagination conjures up. She must have been at it for decades - you could see the very Boulevard of Broken Dreams carved into her airbrushed, surgically-enhanced face. Nevertheless, she was convinced that she could play a 25-year-old, and sent me six ravishing, autographed photos (alas, all photocopies) along with a letter announcing herself as a "Movie Star [her capitalization] with the Screen Actors Guild." And represented by Mr. Jack Scagnetti of Jack Scagnetti Talent Agency of North Hollywood. She really wanted to be The Female Star of my Movie Production, CLAUSTROPHOBIA!
- Then there's the guy on fire. That's right, some guy sent in a photo of himself on fire. I guess he was offering his services as a stunt coordinator or something. Funny, I don't remember saying anything in my character breakdown that any of the cast would be set on fire. Though it was tempting.