People assume that posing in front of a camera must be easy work. It is, but there is also a certain amount of masochism involved, especially in the casting process for modelling jobs. That can be just as enjoyable – but for different reasons.
The masochism begins with the long wait to be seen at a casting session along with all of your intimidatingly attractive competitors. Sometimes the session is played out in front of those competitors as well as the casting director and the cameraman. That just increases the tension and the pressure on you to perform well. A casting can take the form of a simple presentation or it can combine poses and facial expressions. Others require reciting lines of dialogue or repeating an advertising blurb while wearing a rehearsed smile.
I remember one particular casting when we were told to scream as loudly as possible. I’d already produced my very best “scary witch” laugh in the short film “Love Me like You Hate me” directed by Erika Lust. I imagined a simple scream would be easy. It was only when I was sitting in the waiting room that I had second thoughts. All I could hear through the thin walls was the sound of unseen people screaming randomly. It was intimidating and distracting. After a while, I decided that it was a little too masochistic to stay any longer. I got up and left as quietly as I could.
As it turned out, the casting director had noticed me in the waiting room and had asked an assistant where I was when I didn’t appear at the casting. That assistant ‘phoned my agent who made sure I turned round and got back there as fast as I could. Fortunately, the casting director loved my performance and I got the role. It was a useful lesson. Sometimes, coping with some casual humiliation only makes a performance better. I often wonder, after a casting session has ended, whether the director watches all of the embarrassing video-clips just for fun.
Even when I’m having my make-up done there’s always masochistic pleasure to be had. Once, I was on-set during a blisteringly hot August day with twenty other models present.The air-conditioning was non-existent. We all had glossy, sweaty, faces and they had to be powdered to make them matte again for the benefit of the camera. The same powder sponge was used on everyone. I cringed when I thought about the amount of different DNA that would be part of that sponge afterwards. Then I grinned and had to straighten my face quickly when it came to my turn.
For me, the greatest example of masochism in modelling is having to wear high-heels for a shoot. I really can’t wear them for long and I’m jealous of anyone who can. I can tolerate them long enough for filmed advertisements where I can take plenty of breaks inbetween shots and I’m not expected to walk very much. My high-heel nightmare came true recently when I was told that I had to wear twenty-cm heels for an ad campaign. Those were my highest heels ever and – modelling masochist that I am – I even took them home to practise with before the day of the shoot.
After my work is done, I know that re-touchers, graphic designers and printers will all have to suffer as well to produce the finished result. For me, masochism is the understanding that suffering to achieve something important makes you appreciate it even more when you finally get it…
…and it is always worth it.
Photos by Andrew O’Hara