Always Be Available: How I Lost My Film Role In An Hour

Get a Cell Phone, Keep that Film Role | Tonya Kay | Pyragraph

I was go-go dancing at NYC’s Dome Room, a famed industrial/metal club back in the day.

Saw this exotic-looking guy just google-eye staring at my act and thought, he’s either a romantic or a creep. So I pulled him up on the platform and made a spectacle out of him. Turns out he was a little of both and that evening marked the beginning of a fiery two-year affair between me and this well-known guitarist, signed and opening for one of my favorite metal bands on a major US tour. Lucky me.

After months of three-hour phone calls and romantically creepy trinket gifts in the mail, he and I decided we’d both relocate to Los Angeles, get a place together, smoke clove cigarettes under the palm trees and drink soy chai lattes until we had double chins. So we did. Lucky me.

I had lived in Chicago, working musical theater and touring. I had lived in New York City, doing concert dance and experimental theater. I had even shot a few commercials.

But none of that prepared me for how the heck to do business with the Los Angeles film/television beast.

My personal tactics consisted entirely of immediate immersion into questionable acting classes and tearing up the Sunset Strip on the back of a Harley Buell with my guitar-shredding boyfriend, like some kind of a bad gossip columnist’s wet dream. Unstoppable me.

I obviously didn’t have an agent, a manager or a team working with me in Los Angeles, yet. Instead, I’d read the local trade papers like I had always done in Chicago and New York City. Search for a casting, send an email or mail a (black and white) headshot and hope to get invited to audition. Backstage West and Craigslist were the local trade papers back then, but I didn’t know that Los Angeles had a formal system of submissions and casting, and out here it was the no-budgets and skeeves posting in the papers.

So, I was actually successful in my antiquated endeavors.

Until I got a call from some ambiguous producer who wanted to know if I did “A.” Huh? Oh! Uh…not on camera, dude. And early on, I even got a direct booking (every performer’s dream come true). I know I was the first they offered this little movie’s three-line role to because they said so on our answering machine. My boyfriend and I listened, victory-jumped on the bed, high-fived and I immediately returned the message only to be told they’d given my film role to someone else because they “hadn’t heard from me.”

But didn’t they know I was busy balancing a bass guitar and vacuum sweeper on a motorcycle up La Brea Ave., an everyday-errand-physical-comedy-act surely worthy of a front page feature? It was only an hour.

They gave my role away within the hour? I bought a cell phone the next day.

I was a rage-against-the-machine kind of anti-techie until then. I resisted not only the personal computer, but especially the cell phone as long as possible. Now, I know two very important truths remarkably relevant to Los Angeles business:

1. Always be available—even when you are at the Rainbow Room, traveling in Tokyo or on the back of a lawless crotch rocket, and 2. Never date a touring musician.

About Tonya Kay

This Magickal Child from Michigan farmlands is an award-winning actress and writer, professional dancer, burlesque performer, pole athlete, danger artist, stunt woman, world-traveling conservationist, raw vegan celebrity and living proof of what a child raised in love grows up to be.

You’ve seen her on TV’s “Criminal Minds,” “Glee” and “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien”; in The Muppets, The Lone Ranger and Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant movies; in Rolling Stone, TV Guide, SPIN, Inc. and Vertical magazines; and on stage with STOMP, De La Guarda, Panic At The Disco and the Lalas Burlesque.

When she is not road-tripping to see her favorite heavy metal rock bands play live or rebuilding her 1965 Buick Riviera classic hot rod, Tonya Kay is seeking out organic farmers markets, sustainable vineyards and life-changing art. It is this renegade’s passion to shape reality, push evolution, exist in love and take the whole wide world along for the ride.

1 Comment

  1. […] doing. I gotta go to auditions, and take them, and get rejected, and then do more. This is what actors do all the time. So, I’m not sure if I’ll want to, or feel the need to, do a cattle call audition […]

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