At the beginning of my commercial career, I worked a lot with semi-animate objects: the Jack-In-The-Box antenna ball (it chatted me up about the Sourdough Jack and checked out my ass in the tag); the Pets.com puppet (before the dot.com bust sent him skidding downwards into low-rent car insurance commercials); the Jolly Green Giant, way, waaaaaay back when (see
In general, I get cast as the Quirky Chick or the Freaky Neighbor or the Funny Mom, which puts me in a lot of off-kilter situations; I'm the wife calmly sipping coffee as her kitchen is jacked up 25º on a hydraulic lift, or the skinny broad in the conga line, or the clueless Gap-casual mom singing "Polly Wolly Doodle" off-key as my (teenaged!) son bangs his head slowly against the back-seat window. I make fun of myself, willingly, joyously, to keep myself in expensive graphics software and even more expensive health insurance.
In other words, I have long since given up any foolish notions of my day job taking me to exotic locations with the Eiffel Tower or breathtaking waterfalls in the background and some soap-opera-looking love interest in the foreground; I go to Santa Clarita stages and parking lots in Gardena and work with fat, balding guys* (if I'm Gap-casual mom) or the usual wagon of carnival freaks (if I'm playing Office Lady or Wacko Next-Door-Neighbor Lady or other garden-variety, Everywoman type). More often than not, any time I spend in hair-&-makeup is to remove the bags under my eyes, if the director even wants that much done. On a shoot for a business product last year, I overheard one assistant wardrobe stylist say to another, "Oh, don't pull anything too cute; she's supposed to be from the Midwest."**
But yesterday, I hit rock bottom. Not only did I drive my own baggy-eyed self out to that glamour capital of the world, Pasadena, at 5am (on Sunday, people, the Lord's day, the day of rest), I did it to play a librarian, in no makeup, with a kid, a mouse, a snake, a kitten, a rabbit, a gecko***, a big flappy bird of some type AND (drumroll, please) a baby alligator.
Yes, a live, baby alligator. And I was standing between it and the rabbit, for scale and no residuals (it was a PSA).
And I did it willingly. Joyously.
For the insurance and the money, yes, but because I really do love it, working with smart, funny people, making a film (albeit a really short one to sell something), playing someone else.
Playing. I love to play. I love that my work is something I would do for free. It's why I potter around with two-cent design jobs and two-person shows and this here blog when I'm not dressed up in the frumpiest clothes the studio wardrobe departments have to offer: these ventures don't feel like work; they feel like play. I'm hoping I get lucky with them, too. I'm hoping that my electronic noodling will eventually turn into some kind of self-sustaining thing, and in turn lead me to the next weird hobby I didn't know I couldn't live without.
Because the greatest way there is to make a living is the way that doesn't feel like work at all, it feels like play.
Even when there are no carnivorous reptiles in sight.
*Unless the commercial is for a food/beverage product, in which case there isn't a fat person in sight (Teamster portion of the crew excepting).
**This kind of behavior has really stepped up since I started checking the "40+" box. Maybe if I stop checking it, I'll go back to at least wanting to buy the wardrobe off the spot. I really miss those souvenir half-off khakis.
***The gecko worked in a different scene, so I did not actually meet the gecko, but I did meet the kid, the mouse (they poop a lot...tiny, little poops), the snake, the kitten, the rabbit, the big flappy bird, the baby alligator and a shitload of animal wranglers.