Lights. Camera. Wait.

An aspiring actor endures the indignity of auditioning for commercials


| November-December 2011


On a good day, I leave an audition and run errands, wearing a lot of makeup and clothes without stains, in a decent mood. On a bad day, I can’t get back to my house quickly enough to change clothes, rinse my face and my brain, and set about forgetting the 30 shifty seconds I spent in front of a camera. It’s hard to tell what makes the audition good or bad: Did I drink too much coffee? Did I misunderstand something pivotal, like the audition location or where the product to be sold falls on the aspiration meter? Perhaps I was late; perhaps I got the audition notice at 10:00 and had to be there at 11:00 and perhaps I couldn’t find a meter and the empty lot was plastered with signs saying NO ACTOR PARKING.

My workday consists of getting to and from casting locations and, once I’m there, waiting. Commercial auditions rarely last more than five minutes. What consumes my time and energy is the preparation (the side streets, the tongue swipes over the teeth to remove lipstick, the studying of copy that is often short or even nonverbal) and the aftereffects (trying to convince yourself the job meant nothing to you, to refuse to make note of what you wore because that would mean assuming you have to remember it for a callback, which would mean jinxing yourself).

The space surrounding auditions is dangerously ideal to house despair and self-doubt. You screen a mental tape of yourself in a bright room wearing a bikini, stuttering and asking in a high-pitched voice to start again, then being denied and slinking off, putting on your smudged glasses. You come home to see the piece of spinach lodged in your teeth. Included in the footage is the time you sang a song in your off-key alto about shaving your bikini line while wielding a hedge trimmer. And were denied, denied, denied.

Three hours to get ready and get there; three hours after to cleanse your brain of psychic wounds. In between, the audition itself: “Carol, I didn’t know you were a coffee drinker!” (To which the client casting the coffee ad replies, “I wasn’t but then I discovered the delicious new taste!”) Carol, I didn’t know you were a coffee drinker! Carol, I did not know you were a coffee drinker! Carol, oh, Carol, I didn’t even know!

 

I was late for an audition and looking for parking when a sweatsuit-clad woman indicated that she was leaving her spot on Beverly. She got into her SUV, backed it up four inches, and angled into traffic. Then she changed her mind. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been trying to park for 10 minutes and felt wronged in the extreme. I pulled up next to her and told her to go fuck herself.