It’s Monday, September 25 at 6:30 in the morning and I’m standing outside the Cumberland Cinemas waiting as my legs slowly go numb in the morning chill for my chance to audition for U8TV. My tongue is already burnt and sore from the first sip of stagnant coffee that I got at a little hole in the wall down the street. I’m vaguely nervous and wondering why I’m doing this.
In front of me a guy in a kilt and Team Canada hockey jersey, with hair spiked as high as James Black of Finger Eleven is bopping to some unknown beat as I listen to Humble & Fred babble on about their next stage in the “Even Tougher Contest.” It’s going to be a long morning but at least I’m not sitting at my desk at my real job.
As the day slowly gurgles on the crowd outside the cinema builds and an assortment of banners, signs and fences are erected to bring some sort of order to the crowd. There seems to be all types out today, from the IT guys from some bank to the rare metal-boy or movie-star-wannabe. By now about 150 people are here and it’s just shy of 8:00. That’s when the photographers appeared.
They seemed to hang around the edges of the group to try and get some sense of who they wanted, and then they just dove in, asking questions and grilling those who looked most interesting. Kilt-guy turns out to be Kalen Hayman of Toronto. He’s been living in San Francisco for the last while working as a photographer, among other things. The Shift magazine people have descended on him, taking in his witticisms and thoughts on the future of U8TV. Before long the Star photographer, a guy I met while shooting the Summersault show in Barrie, walks up and starts shooting Kalen as well. (I wasn’t overly shocked when he then asks me to step back out of the photo. The Shift photographer however works me into the shot and writes my name and number down, “Just in case.”)
Within the span of 30 minutes the Edge 102 jeep pulls up, the U8TV staff have tagged us for the cattle call and people in the crowd have started talking a lot more. A few voices and people stand out, trying to get noticed by whoever might be there to notice them. I’m really freezing by now and two girls up front have started to complain about their choice to wear sandals to the audition. I chuckle under my breath.
Inadvertently, after the first round of people are pulled in for their interviews, I find myself talking about my purpose here. The nice people from Davidson Communications, the official PR people for U8TV, hear me and pass me a media pass, press kit and start gabbing about the show. Kalen has been plying the people at the desk for a whistle (that comes attached to the press pass) so I end up giving him mine to keep him calm. He seems like the kind of guy who could be annoying if he doesn’t get what he wants, but he’s still a cool guy.
Finally, after waiting for nearly 3 1/2 hours, I’m called inside the cinema with 4 other people… to wait in another waiting area. Time passes, more jokes and more opportunities to show off. For the first time someone comments on my attire. (I decided to go for the “best dressed” award here and wore my coolest zipper pocketed pants, a leather vest, white button shirt, and leather trenchcoat.) I aimed also for the envy award and got it when one guy asks where I got the “great leather.”
While we wait, Kalen produces his book of photography for us to look over. The Shift photographer and I sit down with the guy in line after me, Alan Smith, to see what Kalen can do. He’s got some pretty good material and I end up wishing, with my little ego revving, that I had brought something of mine for everyone to admire. At that point Kalen is dragged away for his interview and I find myself faced with my nerves once more.
I’ve barely had time to gather my thoughts (most interviews were around 5-7 minutes long) when the guy comes to collect me for my chance at fame. I ask jovially if I can have a scotch first, but he doesn’t seem to have any handy.
Inside the theatre, a big white X has been placed on the centre of the stage for me to stand on. A sound guy attaches a mic to me and I look out towards the audience. Bright white lights stop me from seeing very far, but right up in front are the 3 main wonders… Fiorella Grossi, Lili Shalev and Zev Shalev. These are the people who will decide my fate, and already I’m amazed that my nerves have vanished.
As they introduce themselves I decide on the spot to go by Wil (my first name’s William). They seem slightly taken back at this, but adjust pretty quickly. Then the camera starts to roll and they start to ply me with a string of questions that I seem to remember were on the application. Stuff like, “Who is your family”, “Why do you want to be a Lofter”, “What’s the most embarrassing moment you remember” and so on. I even give them some information I probably shouldn’t have, but truth be told, I think it may help my chances a lot!
Suddenly, they’re done with me and I find myself already feeling down that I’m no longer being filmed… the spotlight is gone… well at least for now. As I leave, a writer for the Ottawa Citizen hands me his card (later we do a quick phone interview, I assume he’s picked a few people that day to talk with) and I find myself thinking, “Yeah, I could get used to this.”
I wander into the streets and begin to think about what it would be like to have a camera guy following me around. I can almost picture it actually. Somehow, that Kalen guy worries me though and I wonder, if it came down to it… would a crowd pick me or him to be their star. Maybe we’ll find out, but for now… that’s the end of Day 4. As I’m leaving they let me know that sometime in October they’ll announce who the 25 finalists are. With a little grin, I cross my fingers and walk away.