"There's a really strange desperation going on in Los Angeles. Primarily, it is because 60 to 70 percent of the population is unemployed and they are looking for work," Armstrong said when reached by telephone.
An official selection of the 2012 Slamdance Film Festival, "OK, Good" features Armstrong in the role of Paul Kaplan, an actor who only does auditions for commercials. Director Daniel Martinico, who joined Armstrong on the call, points out that the character is struggling through a bad run of auditions: "At the same time, he's involved in this crazy, intense movement workshop that's kind of influencing how he is operating out there in the real world."
The inspiration for the film came from Armstrong, who said he would call Martinico after an audition.
"I would describe what I did and, as I was describing it, I would begin to realize how totally bizarre what we were doing was -- the repetition of it and how surreal it was, going into a room with many different versions of you and then doing two or three lines that everyone else has done in front of a camera in a little room," Armstrong said. "Then you are back in your car and you just wonder what the whole thing was really about."
Martinico adds that early in the development of the "OK, Good" script, he got to see some audition tapes and casting tapes that he referred to as "really amazing."
"Just on their own, [the tapes] were so surreal and strange, especially if you are not an actor," the director said. "If you are, you are so in that role that it seems normal. From an outside eye, it kind of seems like science fiction and it kind of blows your mind.
"Hugo and I started talking about working this into a film. Hugo began to bring me along when he would audition for commercials. I would come with him and sit in the waiting room, soaking up the environment. That was the start for us and we began writing together and built the film out from there."
Armstrong points out, though, that an audition waiting room can become a real battleground.
"I see these pictures of Ellis Island and the expressions are the same [as a waiting room]," the actor said. "People are having these really, really intense psychological battles with each other. In this case, we are just focusing on this one guy, Paul Kaplan. In his case, the desperation is there and his ambition is there, but there is also a great isolation. Even though there are people surrounding him, he's got something that he needs to do. Acting is a really, really bizarre practice and even stranger as a profession."
Armstrong does say, however, that he doesn't have the same problems that Paul Kaplan does.
"I look at [auditioning] as its own miniature piece of theater or performance art, but it has taken me many years just to figure that part of it out," he said. "Some of them are fantastic. Some of them I really enjoy it. I get out of the thing and I think 'That was really fun.' I really liked the people in the room and when you feel that way, it's almost as if you don't care of you get the part or not because you feel like you did well."
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