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8:23 am - Fri 7/23/03
Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

Watching tv last night, I saw the Pepsi commercial I auditioned for a while back (The one with Beyonce).

When I auditioned for it, the spot opened with a young guy and an older guy (Played by Yours Truly) at a garage; Beyonce walks up and asks the younger guy for directions, and in spite of the fact that he's struck almost dumb by her gorgeousness, she understands him completely, thanks him, then walks off. Then the older guys goes up to the young guy, and says, "She probably gets that a lot...".

I thought I'd feel a twinge of jealousy when I saw the guy who'd beaten me out for the gig, but there was no "twinge", because there was no guy; they'd cut the "older guy" part (In the finished commercial, Beyonce herself says, as she walks away--and smugly, I thought--"I get that a lot...").

I'm sure they did it just to save some money, but I think it was a better spot originally.

Speaking of commercials...

I've gone on three more castings since the Andre Agassi Amex spot--One for Saturn, one touting the wonders of propane, and one for Logitech (A spot for a wireless keyboard and mouse).

The Saturn spot would have been fun, but I don't think it's going to happen.

I played a car salesman, taking a leopard, a hyena, and a spotted owl out for a test drive (The joke is that I don't notice that they're animals. I'm just flustered that they're not responding to my pitch).

Not sure how a spot like that sells cars, to be honest, but as an actor, I was amused by the absurdity of it.

Unfortunately, I think I need a little work on my "absurdity", both in terms of getting better at visualizing what's going on, and making my reactions more "real" (That seems to be the watchword with these things; they always want it "real". And it's taken me a while, but I've figured out that what they actually mean when they say "real" is "underplayed". Basically, if I can start channeling Steven Wright when I go out on these things, I'll do well).

The propane thing was actually three spots that will shoot next month (Basically they're two-character spots, with "Propane" and "Electricity" doing an "Odd Couple" kind of thing).

JS had emailed me the copy for two of the spots the day before, so I went in feeling like I had a good handle on what I wanted to do (I was "Propane"). As I've said before, I tend to feel better about the auditions where I'm able to get the copy the day before. But anyway...

When I went in--And it was my first time at this particular agency--I signed in, and saw a notice on the wall: The commercials were shooting the second week of August, and there would be a $10,000 buyout (Meaning instead of residuals, they'd be paying a flat fee of $10,000).

Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

A one, followed by four zeroes.

In my experience so far, they don't typically tell you beforehand how much of a payday you can look forward to, but of the few times they have, this was far and away the biggest one yet.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I got paired with the newly-crowned "Worst Commercial Actor In L.A.".

I don't know if he was inexperienced, unprepared, or both, but as we waited our turn in the lobby, and I suggested we run through the copy, I could tell things were not going to go well--He read terribly, and had the concentration of a two-year-old (Any time someone passed us in the hallway--At that point, we were waiting by the door--he would stop reading and say something to them, like he was the friggin' greeter at Wal-Mart!).

At one point, we had been called in as a group, to be told about the spots and how they wanted things to go (A big thing was that they wanted us to get the spots down as much as possible while we were waiting. "Camera Guy" said he didn't want out eyes glued to the cue card, which becomes important to our story in just a moment. He also said that we should "skip over" the part of the copy with the voiceover).

So when me and "Numbnuts" went in ("Numbnuts", as I will affectionately call him from now on, was a short bald guy about ten years older than me), "Camera Guy" reiterated what the scenes were about, what our attitude should be, etc and so on, had us each do a slate, then we shot the first spot.

It sucked. "Numbnuts", in spite of the instructions earlier, had his eyes pasted to the cue card board, so of course there was nothing happening between the two of us at all.

And when the voiceover came up, there was a painful 5 or 6 second pause while he tried to figure out what to do.

"Camera Guy" was going to have us switch roles, then changed his mind and had us read the last spot, which didn't go any better.

And when we were done--and it was all I could do not to burst into tears at that point--"Numbnuts" provided the perfect finish to this debacle when, while we were still in the room, he started to apologize and make self-deprecating comments (The worst, in my mind, was when he said to the casting director, "I guess it didn't go very well. You didn't have us in here very long...").

You just don't do that. If you feel the need to beat yourself up over tanking at an audition, you exit the building first. It's not the casting person's fault that you sucked, and they shouldn't be put on the spot because you need a hug right then.

It wasn't my fault that he sucked either, and I sure wasn't in a "huggy" mood at that point, so I wasn't happy when, as we left the building, "Numbnuts" said "I hope I didn't screw up your chances...".

I wanted to say, "I'm pretty sure you did, so get out your checkbook, Buddy, cause you owe me $10,000". But instead, I heard myself say "I'm sure it was okay...", even though it was, in reality, quite a bit less than "okay".

Then when I got in my car, it really struck me; I couldn't be 100% sure this guy had killed my chances, but he certainly could have.

It made me think about what's at stake when I go out on these things, in terms of money and exposure, in a way that hadn't really registered with me before.

(Ten. Thousand. Dollars.)

Makes me want to never be "Numbnuts" in some other actor's journal.

Makes me want to be sure that if I lose out on something, it's because of circumstances beyond my control, and not because I was unprepared, or, for whatever reason, at less than my best.

And--and I had to work to get to this space--It's oddly reassuring, to realize that I don't have to worry about every single actor out here; While I don't want to have to read with guys like "Numbnuts", I'll happily compete with him for a $10,000 prize.

I had the Logitech audition right afterwards, and I quickly forgot about the audition I'd just had, because the Mapquest directions were messed-up (At one point, they instructed me to "take a slight left onto Ventura" when I was already on Ventura), and my attention shifted from how badly things had gone to how badly things were going.

But I got there, there really was no big rush, and I had time to relax and take a breather.

At this audition, we were instructed that Logitech didn't want to think that we were actors, so they'd be doing a little "interview" with us on camera, and we were instructed not to say anything about acting (This strikes me as stupid in the extreme; It's a commercial audition in LA, so what the hell do you think you're going to get? CPA's?).

Anyway, the spot was a one person thing, with no lines; A guy hauls a heavy chair into position, gets his wireless keyboard and mouse, gets comfy, and starts doing some work on the computer. Then he falls/flips off the chair, but continues to work, because he can.

The falling/flipping out of the chair didn't make any sense to me--particularly since we were, once again, instructed to be "real", and we weren't supposed to be "actors" doing a funny "bit"--so I changed it, and instead, kind of ooozed out of the chair, ending up on my back, on the floor in front of the chair, still typing on my keyboard (I thought that suggested how comfortable I could be with my groovy Logitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse).

The camera guy seemed amused, and it might have made me stand out a little bit, but I worried afterwards that I maybe should have just done what they wanted me to do.

That's an interesting point; More than once, I've felt screwed-up by the "directions" given by a casting director, particularly when they "act-out" what they think they want out of the scene.

And it struck me--A lot of these folks are probably failed actors, so if you just try to do what they showed you, you're going to look bad, because you're doing an impression of a bad actor, and it doesn't come from you (That happened at the Amex audition; I did exactly what the casting director had demonstrated to us, then when they put me on tape, the camera guy had me do another take, because that wasn't really what they wanted).

So what have I learned so far?

Being "real" means "deadpan". Don't make a lot of faces, don't "indicate" to the audience what you're feeling, just respond as minimally to the circumstances as humanly possible.

You have to listen; "Numbnuts" got the same instructions I did at the propane thing, then went in and did exactly what we'd been instructed not to do.

And you have to listen to what they're looking for in the spot, but not just do an impression of what they did (If they do a "line reading"). Your job is to give them something better than what they think they want. After all, that's why they're the casting director and you're the actor.

And it's back to bed for Jim (I'm going to take a nap, then I have to get up and get to Ametron, and finally get that tape out to Biscuit Filmworks. I still don't know at this point when the HBO thing is going to air--I think September--but at the very least, I want to have a copy I can use for my reel).



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