Work, Re‑cultured: A 25‑Year‑Old Actor Who Has to Record Auditions On Her Own
“Now, we’re sending casting directors audition videos online, but I’m not even sure they’re looking at my work.”
In Work, Re-cultured, The Swaddle brings you a snapshot of what work-from-home culture looks like for Indian professionals across industries. In this installment, a 25-year-old actor, Ruchi Kadam.
At first, before the pandemic, I used to go to all sorts of auditions — open ones that you can just show up for, and more exclusive, short-listed ones. I used to go to at least 2-3 every day. I had a plan, my days were scheduled. I felt like I was in the loop and I was getting good practice by being able to go to so many auditions.
But then I had to go back to Nashik from Mumbai. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t convince my parents otherwise. I had no idea what was going to happen with my career. I couldn’t see the future. I wasn’t getting any auditions, there was no work. All the actors I knew were sitting at home, trying to figure it out.
But I decided to start doing things that would help me stay positive. Dance, for example, has always been like my second career option. I hadn’t danced in a while, but I started choreographing and recording some classical dance, contemporary and hip-hop videos to put on my Instagram. I was just hoping to get some kind of support in this situation, and keep the positivity going, through reading and painting too.
At the end of the day, actors need validation. While I was afraid to post to my Instagram, and wasn’t really sure what kind of response I would get to my dance routines, it felt good to let people know what I’m doing. I’m not saying I’m a professional dancer. But the responses I got were quite positive. And in the middle of it all, a short film of mine released that I had shot earlier. And thankfully, because of social media, I could let people see my work, let them know I have done things. If I didn’t have social media, then nobody would be able to see any of it, and then how am I supposed to move forward?
Eventually, some auditions started up again. But by then I was out of practice, and my confidence had significantly decreased. And you’re constantly unsure if there’s work for you. Plus, for actors, even if you do a serial, you get paid three months later. Even if I did start a job right now, I’m not going to get any money anytime soon.
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And on top of it all, you have to record auditions by yourself. When you go to give auditions in person, you know what the casting director wants, especially with respect to your looks. It’s much easier when you’re there and you can talk to them; they can also see you and you get an opportunity to network. Now, we’re sending casting directors audition videos online, but I’m not even sure they’re looking at my work. And the audition people are only considering people from Mumbai, because of all the problems that will occur in traveling and with maybe getting Covid19. I’m thinking I have to come back if I want to work.
Right now, I’m shooting auditions on my phone. I have to figure out a look. Then, if they send two to three scripts, I have to figure out ways to interpret the text, perhaps wait for a casting director to call me to clarify. Usually what happens is I sent them a video with my own interpretation of the script, then they respond with feedback on the tone, the lighting, the outfit. Then I send them another version. This whole process can take three to four days to just audition. In person, it would be a much shorter process. It would have been all sorted, then and there, in one go.
Right now, I’m living with my family. My brother helps me shoot, he gives me cues. If I want to improvise and get the camera to follow me around while I act, he does that too. But what about the actors who live completely alone? I can’t imagine how they handle it.