Flat White

Casting couch conundrums

11 October 2017

3:00 PM

11 October 2017

3:00 PM

The casting couch is not the most comfortable seat in the room. You could say it is downright uncomfortable, especially if you are the one expected to lie on it.

I know this for a fact, as many moons ago, I was the one inviting the wannabe performer onto my couch and requesting that they immediately disrobe and flaunt their naked flesh for the delectation of my camera.

No, I wasn’t involved in a porno shoot or a blue movie. This was just a bog-standard advertising casting for a client that didn’t have much in the way of a budget, so to save costs the ad executive had organised for the models to come to the agency to be sized up by the creative team: i.e. me. It was a gruelling job, and from the number of agency personnel who just happened to walk past the conference room door as it was opening, I suspect that there would have been any number of volunteers game for the chance to select the lucky young woman or guy whose perfect flesh was soon to adorn posters across the country for the launch of a new American ice cream.

Unlike the actresses that graced film producer Harvey Weinstein’s celebrity castings (he was the celeb), nude models can’t pretend to have perfect skin, it’s not part of a performance skills set. They either have the dewy epidermis or they don’t. And after two solid hours of looking at cellulite, acne pits and lurid tattoos (and that was the under 21s) I realized that my boss had been right when he’d knowingly suggested that we’d be hiring someone who still sucked their thumb. Apparently, once you hit your mid-teens, you are over-the-hill as far as peachy flesh is concerned. Of course, that wouldn’t matter a jot nowadays, with photoshop and a plethora of plastic surgery-like software to iron out the blimps and the blemishes.

It was the casting from hell. And that was just my experience. I don’t know how I managed to keep asking those poor, unflinching, genetically blessed babes to strip off and allow me to photograph them, déshabillé.  Not one of them objected, not one of them refused to meet my eye. Each and every one of them did as I requested because, of course, they knew exactly what the job entailed before they walked into the agency. Despite probably not having much experience of the modelling business, each acted like a consummate professional.

As I stood there, clutching the Polaroid camera for support, looking into the wide, expectant eyes of the next American ice cream superstar hopeful, I could sense just how easy it would be to betray that trust — if you were in a position to get away with it.

Fortunately, I had absolutely no desire to make my hopefuls any more uncomfortable than the situation required. I wish I could say the same for Harvey.

Film producers aren’t the only candidates around competing for Predator of the Year Award. There are others, who although less clichéd, still lure their pray with ‘The Couch’. It happened to a close friend of mine, on her honeymoon, no less. While her husband ploughed up and down the lanes of the hotel swimming pool, Isabel swanned off to her post-wedding stress-detox massage in the local wellness centre. I think it was the last time she truly felt well.

The masseur, Ari, certainly applied himself to the task. He had wonderful hands apparently. Up and down her back they went, teasing tired muscles along the way, releasing months of tension with their healing pressure. And then he told her to turn over. Isabel complied, holding the towel tightly under her chin. In one smooth movement Ari removed the towel and without blinking started to massage her not inconsequential breasts.

Isabel went into shock. She froze. Never having had a massage before, she wasn’t sure if this was accepted practice. So she shut her eyes and prayed for the indignity to stop. Which, after a while it did, and she left. But she also left behind her self-respect. She was a professional woman, a fully qualified doctor and if she had been tricked somehow into allowing that to happen, what hope was there for anyone else?

Her husband was furious. With Isabel. So he didn’t complain to the hotel. The honeymoon continued, but I think it’s safe to say that the marriage ceased to be shiny and new in that moment.

Being naive isn’t a crime. Exploiting it should be, Harvey.

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