Interview with Viktória Monhor

Viktória Monhor is a university student, who also appears regularly in TV commercials, music videos, and advertising posters. I first saw her in a video created for Moby’s “Be the One” music video competition, in which she undergoes quite a drastic change of appearance. We talked about the video, as well as her other works, and the aspects of the job.

(Photo: Péter Juhász)

You appeared in the Hungarian contest entry for the Moby music video competition, directed by Gábor Magyar. How did you end up in this project? Did you know the director?

I didn’t know the director personally. We met on the Internet, and then we met up a few times in person. During one of these meetings, he mentioned the video competition, which I’ve also heard about earlier. He said that I have a “Moby-ish head,” and that he wanted to shoot something for the contest. A few days later he e-mailed me the concept for the video.

Did he explain what he meant by you having a “Moby-ish head”?

Not really. These songs are strange and have quite a depressive feel, and it seems that he saw that in me too. [laughs]

At one point in the video, you lose all your hair. I presume there was no trick photography involved in that.

Yeah, that wasn’t a trick. The concept that the director had sent me already included the fact that I would have to shave my entire head. He gave me a few days to think about it, and tried to convince me, but in the end I gave in, because they are a professional team. Gábor had earlier works, and also worked as an art director at a creative agency for a very long time, so I knew that the project would be of high quality, so I went ahead and said yes. I also got a free wig from them, too, naturally.

The free wig was so that you wouldn’t have to be bald in your daily life?

Yeah, but I actually quite liked being bald, so I didn’t wear it. I used to show it to people at home for laughs. I didn’t really need it. [laughs]

I guess you worked in other projects besides the Moby video. Have you appeared in other films or music videos? What areas do you work in?

I actually study art history at ELTE [Eötvös Loránd University, in Budapest]. I don’t have any acting qualifications. I thought of applying to Színművészeti [Színház- és Filmművészeti Egyetem, University of Theater and Film, in Budapest], but I didn’t get accepted. I also tried going to Kaposvár, but I didn’t get through the second stage of application. I got accepted to the studio of the Jókai Színház theater in Békéscsaba, and I could have also gone to the István Keleti theater here, but in the end I didn’t go to either of those. I do all this as a freelancer. When I was 15 I registered at all of the casting agencies of Budapest, and ever since then they call me in for auditions if something comes up.

Castings for film?

Mostly commercials, actually.

Have you actually done any commercials?

Yes, I have done commercials, foreign ones mainly. There was an HTC advert in Korea, a Colgate ad for some country, a PSA for Spain, stuff like that. I haven’t really done any Hungarian commercials – there was one last year, we made a nice ad for the Budapest Festival Orchestra. And I was also recently in the music video for the song “Sunset”, by The Carbonfools.

What is the competition like? Is it hard to get these jobs? Do you often get casting calls where you don’t end up in the final product?

Yes, it’s pretty hard. Getting called in for an audition doesn’t mean anything. You have another two or three hundred people there, so you never know.

Did this bother you at all early on? Or do you get used to it?

You get used to it. Of course, it sucks when there is nothing coming in for months. It still happens that I don’t get anything for months, and then suddenly you get two conflicting projects. It’s very happenstance. I can get over these things now. I don’t panic after an audition, like, “Oh, what’s gonna happen?”

Any projects in the near future?

We shot a short feature film this fall, directed by Csilla Szabó, which is still in progress, in the cutting room. It’s not her first movie; she graduated from Színművészeti, and debuted last year at the Filmszemle [Hungarian Film Week] with her film Komoly dolgok [Serious Stuff], which won the award of the Students’ Jury. There’s also a six-episode web series that is being shot right now.

What’s your role in that?

I can’t talk about that right now.

Are there any trends in the kinds of roles you get?

They don’t really need me in commercials, because I’m more of a character role. They usually need more everyday people – like you can see in T-Com adverts, they have this feel of “We’re together, we’re teenagers, we’re having fun and laughing, everything’s great.” So I get auditions which are more specific, if they need an Asian person. But then I’m often not Asian enough, because I’m only half-Asian. [laughs] They call me if they need a character that is somewhat “strange”.

How often do they need characters that are specifically Asian?

It’s kind of funny, because I’m half Mongolian, but I’ve never played a Mongolian part. I often get cast as for the role of a Japanese girl, a geisha, a Chinese girl, but I’ve never been a Mongolian. They can’t really differentiate between these ethnicities here. Nor can I. [laughs] I don’t think they are very particular, if they need an Asian, they’ll call in one more. It is worth their while to get a lot of people in for the auditions, so that the director can choose from more people.

The face of a Japanese restaurant. (Photo: Péter Karl)

Is it difficult to do all this while studying at a university?

Auditions take up a lot of time, because the amount of waiting around there is pretty random. Sometimes you get in the room right away if there is no one in front of you, but in other cases you might wait for hours, so that you can go in, say your name, and act out the situation that they need. That takes up a lot of time. But not a whole lot of time for me, because I don’t get called in to a huge amount of auditions. As for the film shoots, they take up a good 12 hours, with the delays that are usual for these things – they take a lot of time. But it’s absolutely possible to do it and go to school. So I encourage everyone to go and register! [laughs]

What is your experience regarding foreign projects and crews versus Hungarian ones?

I think foreign crews pay more attention to little details, and the speed is a bit tighter, they are more focused. But I can’t complain about Hungarians either, everyone pays attention to every little detail. Of course, this depends on financial situation, too. But it seems that the foreign crews pay a little more attention to things.

Like what?

That the speed they work at is a bit tighter – there are less stops and conversations. But this isn’t a huge difference, because professionals are professionals, regardless of whether they are Hungarian or not. A lot of foreign teams shoot here in Hungary. It is worth their money, because it is cheaper, even with them traveling here and bringing the main actor, the crew, and everything. A lot of people are shooting commercials here. You can hear about it a lot, recently there was the thing with Hugh Jackman, and there are films too – Brad Pitt, and so on.

What is your goal, what’s the dream? What would you like to do the most right now?

Good question. Next year I will apply for the intermedia program at Képzőművészeti Egyetem [Hungarian University of Fine Arts]. But I will still continue with this, and go to auditions. I’m also making more and more connections – I know a lot of make-up artists, photgraphers. So sometimes they cast me without having to go to an audition – they just call me and say “Hey, Viki, there is this job!” So I’m getting ahead at these things. I don’t plan to apply to Színművészeti. I might get an “Actor II.” paper [a national qualification]. I’m really attracted to this thing, so I might try going the performance direction at Képzőművészeti.

What else do you like to do? What are you hobbies?

I’m interested in a lot of things. For example, Motion Theater interests me. I did a crash-course in acrobatics. There is a Swiss acrobat called Benjamin Glass, who has a theater called offline:ontheater, and I learnt from him. We created a little performance piece out of it, so it was a great working relationship. I also like to collect all sorts of things. Whenever there is a lomtalanítás [bulk junk removal, organized by the local government every year], I go and gather stuff. You never know what you may find, but I mainly focus on old family photos, old slides, and dolls. But I take anything that looks precious to me. I already have a cool retro wardrobe from all the old ladies’ clothes that I’d found.

offline:ontheather: Enthropy (Photo: Árpád Nagy)

The competition is pretty massive at a casting, but how about when doing your gathering?

There is a lot of competition there, you can see that there are people at it who are pros. [laughs] They get there a day earlier, and look at all the stuff, with their little vans and all their acquaintances. They also sleep there, in the car or on the trash heaps. They actually get the really great stuff early on. They sit by the heaps, and choose which big heaps belong to them. But it is obvious which things are theirs, and then I just don’t touch those items; I just go up there, friendly, say hello, acknowledge whose is what, and leave those things to them. They are fair.



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