commercials

Good-looking vs. attractive...TV SPOTS!!!

liberty mutual ad I know Brandon will be all over my shit for not posting the actual GOOD-LOOKING VS. ATTRACTIVE blog first, but frankly, I am so pissed at Dreamhost now, I can barely write straight*.

Besides, it's too hot here in Ye Olde Time Los-Angeles-with-a-hard-"g" to think deeply. And I'm a former media maven. So I'm using my little corner of Le Web to crow about Liberty Mutual's latest commercial, yes, COMMERCIAL, which makes me weep and soar and want to do everything including go back into copywriting (well, almost). Seriously.

I still haven't figured out how to post goddam videos to my blog, but I'm posting the link to the YouTube upload here (and on the pic itself, natch).

Lovely, lovely, lovely. Almost makes up for that McDonald's crime against humanity where Young Mom and her Lispy Daughter bond over their mutual fabulousness and a faux-healthy UnHappy Meal. Gack gack gack. Could we just dispense with everyone in advertising except the Liberty Mutual people and whoever does the VFX for the GAP and the geniuses behind the new GEICO campaign? Really. I'll give up commercial acting; it's a fair trade.

xxx c

P.S. For the record, I could not disagree more vehemently with the board nerds who be hatin' on the superfantabulous Charo/Bacharach/Little Richard ads. First time I've smiled at a GEICO spot since they stopped airing mine.

*And relax, Brando, it's saved and ready for when I am. Before I leave for Parts North, I promise...

Behold! the fugliosity that was me in advertising!

Today I auditioned for a spot I'd really like to book. The part is funny, the casting director is smart (meaning, the spots he casts are low in cheese factor) and, imagine, I could use the money. Casting directors often give a group explanation prior to a string of individual auditions to save time and so we don't stink up their tapes with super-creative, actor-y input. Today, after reiterating his usual acting directive, "Very small, very real, very 'film'", a directive which I now hear in some form from nearly every casting director on nearly every call, leaving me to wonder why there is still so much bad, over-the-top acting in commercials, this casting director drove the point home by letting drop that the director of this particular spot also directed Junebug. The implication being, if you know Junebug, you know what we're looking for and if you don't, you're going to give a bad, over-the-top performance which we will waste no time in erasing from our tape.

Now, I have not, in fact, seen Junebug, but I am familiar with the vernacular the CD was tossing out. You see, I like to keep up with my worlds colliding, so I happen to know that Junebug was directed by one Phil Morrison, with whom I worked on a series of Wheaties commercials which I wrote in my previous incarnation as an advertising copywriter.

Normally, this ain't no big thang. That life was long, long ago, and most people's memories don't extend that far, especially when it comes to remembering the copywriter, who is slightly less important than an apple box on a commercial set. In fact, we're seen as so inconsequential, we're frequently not invited to the shoot at all: I wrote a Gatorade commercial shot by the notorious Joe Pytka, but was subsequently hired as an actor on a couple of his commercials. Of course, I was not in attendance at the former and saw no reason to bring up the connection at either of the latter, so it really didn't take much to fly under the radar.

The Wheaties commercials, however, were a slightly bigger deal. There were lots of verbal shenanigans in my tricky little scripts, so I was actually consulted on this or that more than once. Plus the spots starred Michael Jordan! Michael Effin'* Jordan!!! This was a huge break for the then-very-young Phil, whom we found via some groovy interstitials he'd done for MTV. Plus...Michael Effin' Jordan! Surely Phil would remember every minute detail of that week we spent together on a Chicago soundstage, I thought.

That is, I thought until I uncovered this commemorative photo of me**, MJ, and an assortment of client-side and agency dorks:

MJ_and_me.jpg

Now not only am I certain Phil Morrison will not know me from Adam, I am also sorely tempted to submit myself to that Oprah show where they're looking for people who look better today than they did 10 years ago.

Because (a) I am pretty sure I'm fugly enough in my high-waisted, reverse-fit jeans to win a free trip back to Chicago and (b) if they give me two round-trip tickets, maybe I can convince The BF not to break up with me for revealing my shame...

xxx c

*And if his middle name isn't "effin'", I'd like suggest right now that he change it; my god, could he have a more appropriate middle name?

**If you can't find me in the group, I would be the one on second from the left, doing my impersonation of a really unattractive lesbian. Good at it, aren't I?

UPDATE: Link to larger sizes of my fugliosity at Flickr, here.

What not to tell an actress

I've taken 2 hours out of my very busy day surfing the interweb to audition for you. I've driven 10 miles in the rain at $2.75/gallon with a cityful of rude assholes in luxury assault vehicles to get there.

I've suffered the indignity of holding up a magic-markered sign with my name on it as I smiled and slated my name for the camera like a talking fucking cow.

For the love of all that is holy, do not greet me with, "It is such a pleasure to see an actress brave enough to come in and audition in no makeup!"

Twat.

Photo by Marc Alan Davis used under a Creative Commons license

Never work with kids or animals

me & the green giant 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 left above).

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.

xxx c

*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.

The face of today's fruit

From a breakdown (character description) for an audition I have tomorrow:

Caucasian woman, 35-45. Real with character. Not attractive. They probably have some cute or quirky characteristics, but again, they're not beautiful. We would love a brunette or dark hair but open to all hair colors.

Oh, this is to play a tomato.

Yes, really.

xxx c

Karmic payback's a bitch...and so am I!

Note to anyone* who ever knew me in my previous incarnation as a copywriter: Dear Former Co-Worker of Mine Who Is Still in Advertising,

Boy! Long time, no time, huh? Where are you guys staying now, Shutters? The Viceroy? Or do you eschew the beach and stay in town? Or maybe you go super-downscale and fly under the radar at the Farmer's Daughter or that place attached to Swingers? ("You go"? That's a defunct car from the 70s! AD JOKE! HAHAHA!)

I guess it was a big surprise to see me on the audition tape the nice casting people here in L.A. sent to you, huh? I'll bet you even stopped eating or took the tape out of fast-forward search, like we used to do when we saw something weird or funny. Are those tapes still as looooong as they used to be? Boy oh boy-ar-dee, this town is lousy with actors, huh?

Of course, even I don't see many actors nowadays since it's been reeeeeeally slow lately. Like, for the last two or three years and stuff. You could shoot a cannon through most of those casting places on a lot of days and not hit anyone. Makes me wonder how much longer we'll both be able to make a living at this, huh? Yikes!

At least we can still run into each other now, like at my audition. Sorry, your audition! Although really technically, it was a callback. Oops, callbacks! One in the morning and then one just enough later in the afternoon for me to drive home, eat lunch and come back! Anyway, I thought something funny was going on when I showed up at the first one and all the other Casual Moms had blonde hair and were pretty. Then I thought maybe the director had called me in as a special choice, but I'd never met him before, plus he seemed to be laughing at everything the guy I was auditioning with did, not me. And then when he didn't remember meeting me four hours later, I was pretty sure something was up. Et voila! You burst out of the room with your big surprise like a naked lady jumping out of a cake, only you weren't naked or a lady and there was no cake.

Anyway, it's great to hear everything is going so well for you. And it's really amazing that all of you guys that I used to work with at the agency are still working there all those years after I quit. And boy howdy, it is QUITE a coincidence that I turned up on your audition tape. After all, I have only been doing this for 10 years and, wait...10 years? That's as long as I worked as a copywriter! Hahaha, oops! Better be careful...I'm dating myself! That's the kiss of death for an actor, right?**

Well, usually, that is. In this case, it doesn't matter much since (a) you already know how old I am and (b) you're not going to hire me, anyway. Come on...admit it. Come oooooooon! Because, seriously, I've auditioned for tons of you guys now (and mostly I've been able to remember your names, which I think is pretty amazing!) and the only one who ever hired me to act on their commercial is an art director who left the business to become a director. I mean, let's call a spade a spade, right?

But, hey, I'm all for catching up with old pals. Old business acquaintances, too!(And we are OLD now, right? Right? HAHAHA!) So next time you're coming in to town, send me an email or give me a call. Let me know which fancy hotel you're staying at and I'll meet you there for a cocktail, on you, after working hours. You know, all those hours during the DAY that I drive from Assmunch to Albuquerque, auditioning, like I did for you, only for real, to get actual jobs and stuff.

That's about it. Enjoy your stay in sunny Los Angeles! And good luck with that commercial you didn't cast me in! I probably won't see it since I don't watch much TV anymore, but I'm sure it'll be really hilarious and great and keep the fires of broadcast advertising going strong for another fifty years. And even if it isn't, you'll have a great time in Vancouver or New Zealand or wherever it is you get to go shoot it!

Ciao, bellas!

xxx c

*And, while this letter was inspired by a recent incident, I do mean "anyone". You know who you are, you devils, you!

**Actually, this might be the kiss of death. Can you get dooced if you're self-employed? Or would this be more of a blacklist-type thing?

Photo of the communicatrix by Thomas Lascher

Hi, diddle-e-dee...

I had one of those colossally bad auditions yesterday. The kind where from the moment you walk into the room, not only can you feel it's not going your way, it would throw up on your shoes and slam the door in your face if it could. And where by the time you slate your name for the guy taping the proceedings, you can no longer tell what you hate more: advertising, America, or yourself, for thinking this might actually be a reasonable way for a grown person to make a living. To be honest, I was pretty sure it was a lost cause when I went to sign in. Because in addition to there being pages and pages of ladies there before me, (a) no one else had checked the 40+ box (I still pass, but usually I'm with a few other old hags who also pass) and (b) many, many ladies (sorry, girls) had checked the "first audition" box.*

But I digress. Because the fugly nugget I really wanted to talk about was my WRONG CHOICE.

Sometimes, you see, in a commercial audition (and that's pretty much my gig, these days) there isn't much call for you to do your classical comedic monologue or even to interact with the other "talent". Sometimes, they just want to see the real you...or rather, the real you in a close room full of tired ad people and bowls of cheap snacks. On these occasions, your auditors often fall back on the commercial "howdy-do", a "what's your favorite color?" or "tell me about your favorite holiday" type of question. Today it was our dream rockstar/actorboy love crush.

Girl One talked about her boyfriend...for five minutes. Girl Two talked about something we all promised wouldn't leave the room...for four minutes.

I was dead. I like unusual guys. I can no longer lie. I told them it was a tossup between (fetishistic choice) Frank Langella in The 12 Chairs or...Ric Ocasek. (What can I say? I'm a geek. A trip to SIGGRAPH gets me hot, fer criminy.) A (long) heartbeat of stunned silence, followed by 15 seconds of repulsed probing, aaaaaand...you're out!

I'm sorry, but Ric Ocasek is hot, I'm almost 44 and I have lost the will to fabricate.

This was not my commercial. This was not my commercial. This was not,

Dammit. It was just me they didn't like...

xxx c

*This would be a good opportunity to outline the Twin Truths of the Commercial Callback:

1. If you are called back for a spot and when you show up, there are any actors in your category there on a first call, you will not book the job, you have the Taint.*

2. If you are called back for a spot and when you show up, every actor from the first call is there, you do not want to book the job, they are clueless.

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