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Friday, March 30, 2012

blind date

So here we are. 
It’s hard to make some people understand what the life of an actor is truly like, partially because the portrayal of actors in TV and movies is rather narrow. It reinforces untrue stereotypes that seep into reality in an unfortunate way, and thusly people start to believe that only the bad actors do commercials while the best actors do movies, and TV actors are somewhere in the middle, except for the big film stars who are doing society a huge public service by occasionally humbling themselves on the tube so you have something pretty to look at. This is not altogether true... but still, be sure to thank those big film-to-TV stars for their sacrifice if you should ever serve them coffee. They’re the real heroes. (Sorry about all that sarcasm dripping on the floor there.)

I audition for a lot of commercials, mostly voiceovers, and it’s a world that most civilians know little about. Sure, they see celebrities wearing loungewear in audio booths during animated feature trailers, but that is a magical fairyland where jobs are gotten without auditioning. The commercial voiceover audition process for the rest of us plebes with SAG and AFTRA cards is a little different. 
It’s a lot like going on hundreds and hundreds of blind dates.
It begins with a call from your agent. In this analogy, the agent can be seen as anything from a helpful matchmaking friend to an eHarmony.com algorithm to a pimp. Seeing as an agent gets 10%, well... (Of course, what does that make you?)
You get a day, a time, a place. You rarely get more than 24 hours notice, and sometimes you only get as little as two. This goes against everything that was written in “The Rules,” but the very nature of your being in this vulnerable position - hell, the very nature of your being an actor to begin with - makes you a bit desperate, and you often confirm before your agent finishes his sentence. The date is set. 
The blindness of the date comes from the relative lack of information you receive up front. You only get a name, and not much else: Microsoft. Clorox. Visa. You don’t necessarily know what The Product is looking for in advance. You don’t know if The Product is looking for a mother type, or a fun-loving free-spirit, or even a child. You just show up and hope you’re his type. (I am assigning, for the sake of this analogy, a male identity to The Product.)
Maybe it’s more like speed-dating or Singles Night, because when you walk into the agreed-upon location, you are faced with seeing the other dames who are also competing for The Product’s attention. Sometimes there are guys there, too. The Product does not always know which way he intends to swing. 
I should mention that The Product is important, and as such he has an entourage of trusted confidantes. Casting directors, ad agencies, corporate higher-ups... so you never really get to have that one-on-one time with The Product. But you do what you can to make yourself stand out, or to be exactly what he’s looking for. Does The Product like a breathy voice? Oh, then yes, you’ve always had a breathy voice! Does The Product want an accent? You have dozens! Does The Product want a casual, natural read? Oh, my gosh - you were born and raised in Casual, Natural Read! What a coincidence!!
Sometimes, the date is disappointing in that you never really get to show The Product what you’re all about. Sometimes, you only get to say a single sentence (or, in some cases, a single word or two). 
Sometimes, the date goes great. Or so you think. The Product has an amazing poker face, and a lot of other ladies to get to know. So you smile and leave and wait by the phone. 
The Product and his coterie like to keep you guessing. They’ll play with your emotions. They’ll ask if you’re available next week, but they won’t commit. So you’ll clear your slate, and wait... and then, at the last minute, they’ll release you, leaving you with nothing.
You know deep down that if a week goes by and you haven’t heard from him, that he’s chosen someone else. But still you hope, and sometimes make excuses for him... maybe he’s having a busy month. Maybe his commercial was canceled. It must be hard to be a Product.
Of course, all this time, you’re seeing other Products. But everyone does that. It’s The Business. It’s what you do. Some of the popular folks even have several Products. They look really happy. You wish you had such a harem. 
Over time, you forget about The Product. You’ve had so many dates you start losing track of who you’ve seen. But then, one fateful day, you hear something familiar on TV... words you’ve read before... and you feel the stones of disappointment hit the bottom of your stomach.
Oh. So that’s who he chose. 
Yeah. She’s great, and she makes him look good, too... even though you were told he wanted someone totally different. They show up a lot together, practically flaunting their national network, prime-time relationship in your face and in your living room. And it’s not just this Product; the airwaves are filled with all sorts of could-have-beens. You think about the fun you could have had with Colgate, or M&Ms, or Wendy’s. And then you sigh and snack on a rival brand.    
And even when The Product chooses you, it’s usually just a one-day-stand. Two hours, tops, and then you’re done. And sure, it’s great while it lasts, but eventually, your commercial stops airing and it’s all over... leaving you older and without a Product.
But it’s okay. It’s not like you were in love with That Product. You only wanted him for his money. 
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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