A lot of people don’t realize how stiff competition can be, even for the jobs you would think no one wants.
Take for example, the people wearing the character costumes at Disney World. “It’s just a kid in a Mickey Mouse costume!” is what many say.
While there is a good chance that “kid” is under 28, competition to get the job to wear that costume is stiff, and has little to do with the love of Disney.
It has to do with career advancement.
You see, if you spend a contracted amount of time wearing a licensed and certified Donald Duck costume under the auspices of Disney or like corporation, you, the actor, get your Equity Card.
Actor’s Equity Association is an actor’s union. Having your Equity card means that open auditions are accessible. True, anyone can show up for them, but if you don’t have an Equity card, bring your lunch, dinner and two books because you will be left in the waiting area, cooling your heels while card holding members are ushered in in front of you – even if you were there before the office doors opened. If the people running the auditions at the end of the day have time and are up to it, then you – the actor without the Equity Card – get to go in a showcase your stuff. For about 30 seconds. If you’re lucky.
Hence, the competition to play a fully costumed, licensed and recognized character is fierce. No one wants to be costumed Mickey as a career day in and out. No, no. One or 2 contract limited terms are just fine, thank you.
And getting into the full furry costumes is A LOT easier than the Princess Guild Character actors (You start with physical similarity to the character, add this audition as described below, then a few others for singing, monologues and staying in character improv challenges. But let’s get back to the all furry character auditions, because they’re simpler.).
To be bestowed with the honor or wearing the awkward, top heavy and excessively warm costume of, say, Tigger, there is a process a dancer revealed back in my collegiate-professional theatre days after she went through it and got rejected right towards the end:
First you do a basic audition. They’re all over the country, you just have to keep your ear to the ground and be willing to travel out of your way to get to the nearest one. You show up, and do your little bit – show you can dance and perhaps even sing if the requirements ask for it, although the costumed critters usually do not speak. It’s not uncommon for even the most promising candidates to get shut down after only a few steps or a handful of bars. If they like your basic audition, you get invited to another audition, a few months down the road, often in a completely different state than the one you live in.
You must show up on time for the BIG audition. Before time is preferred. If you’re late, even by five minutes, it sucks to be you, because the doors are locked and you’ve been cut from auditions. No exceptions. Try again next year.
For those who got inside with their gear, things are a little intimidating. Your invitation to audition for Tigger costume work probably stated that this was all dance – bring your gear, bring your water, bring your lunch and dinner because this is going to be a rough day.
You’re in a gym or an auditorium or maybe even an empty warehouse on a back filming lot somewhere, jammed with other dancers. Possibly more than 200. Everyone is told to find a spot. Choreographers/judges are introduced. Everyone is taught a dance at the same time, like some kind of massive dance class, about 20-45 minutes long. You are given a small break (5-15 minutes, depending) then you are all back on the floor, back in position and expected to perform said dance with no one to guide you. Queue the music and go.
As this dance goes on, the choreographers are wandering through the crowd of wiggling, jiggling, kicking and spinning bodies. They point to someone three rows up, two people over. “You can leave,” they say. Someone else also saw the dismissal and stumbled a moment. A choreographer appears out of nowhere, tapping them on the shoulder. “You’re out. Better luck next year.”
The dance ends. The dismissed gather up their stuff and leave while the rest are given a few minutes to breathe and then taught another dance, this time a touch more complicated. Another short rest period. Another performance in which your neighbors are summarily removed from the audition as not being good enough.
Another dance. More dismissals. More dances. More people sent home.
There are no critiques.
You must assume why you got bounced. Perhaps around hour 4 you got a cramp mid-performance? You’re out. Is your smile not psychotically happy enough? Go home. Were your kicks not as high as your neighbor’s? See ya. Did it appear that you were struggling a little more than the guy two places over at hour 6? Better luck next year. Trip and bloody your nose? Well, they’ll certainly give you a first aid once over, but chances are you’ll be dismissed.
Tigger cannot be clumsy.
6-10 hours later, you’ve forgotten how many routines you’ve learned, but you and about ten percent of the original number have survived. Perhaps all of you will get contracts to dress up as Tigger for Disney World. Some may be offered Disney Land, or a Disney Cruise ship or Donald Duck instead.
Sign up, strut your character-driven stuff covered head to toe in faux fur and damn nearing begging for death in heat and humidity, despite that cute little fan installed in the nose, but don’t crack until your contract terms are done.
Otherwise, that cherished Equity card will not be yours.
Why bring this up, Katty? What’s the point?
Writers go through the same trials. Not physically, of course (That would bring a whole new dimension to the submission process, though, wouldn’t it?), but it’s still just as psychologically nerve-wrecking, just as emotionally draining, just as friggin’ exhausting.
It doesn’t matter if you go the traditional route or the self-pub way. All to have someone say “Oh, please. Writing is easy. Any twit can publish these days.”