Commercial Actor

367 Days - Day 073

I don't know if you can tell in this photo, but I've just been hair and make-uped, for my first commercial shoot. I am now a paid commercial actor. That's right, jerks*.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ken answered a Craigslist ad about a casting. In conversation with the casting agent, she asked if he had other comedy friends who might like to try out -- he said sure and invited our comedy writing group over to his house that Saturday afternoon. We all trooped over (on the rather confusing telephone-tag invite that "this casting agent wants to film some comedians who use YouTube") and were happy to discover that it was a casting for a national commercial for a name-brand technology company**.

With any sort of audition, I do my best to be grateful for the opportunity and then put it out of mind. So it was a surprise when a couple days later I got a call from the casting agent with some questions about my schedule. Yes, I'm going out of town on the 16th. No, I can't reschedule this trip, even for paid work. OK, thanks.

So then it was even more of a surprise when I got another call a few days later scheduling me for a wardrobe 'fitting'*** and a meeting with the director. We did have to cut our trip to the Dells just a hair short (we had breakfast on the road on Sunday instead of eating somewhere in the Dells), but Erica agreed that it was worth it.

The fitting went fine -- they asked me to wear the same shirt I'd been wearing in the casting (I have a small suspicion that the cleverness of the shirt might be why I was cast at all). And the director explained my part of the commercial. As far as I understand, the commercial is going to be about how pervasive the company's communications products are in people's lives. I was going to be a 'hardcore gamer', playing online with my friends. To get 'honest reactions' from me, they wanted me to bring my own gaming PC (which, for me, happens to be a MacBook Pro booted into Windows using BootCamp).

So, Wednesday morning Erica dropped me off at the shoot in Uptown. The commercial is filming all over town with dozens of actors, but that day's shoot had taken over an apartment building in Uptown. (I chatted with one of the house's owners -- twin sisters had married brothers and the two couples and their kids all live in the 6-flat as a single house.) There were two trailers and several trucks parked in front of the building, craft services tables, and so on. It was a for-reals production!

When you're just 'talent', it's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. I was done with hair and makeup by 8:45 and then waited in one of the trailers until 10:45 or so, twittering and playing Zelda on my DS. When I finally went inside, it was fairly whirlwind getting my laptop setup with a gaff-tape-brand monitor and keyboard and then I started playing Unreal Tournament. I had been planning to do some prep for the shoot, but I'd been having issues with my Windows install the night before, so it was a fresh install of UT. I got started playing as soon as I could to get through the early levels and get to something actually challenging, to give some good reactions. (I mean, I can act -- I'm an actor. But since I had the game in front of me, it seemed easier to give honest reactions actually facing a tough battle instead of just yelling "Oh yeah, take that" while shooting at a wall or something.)

And then all of a sudden they were filming. We got a couple of takes of me being excited ("Take that! Oh no!"). Then the director wanted to get some over-the-shoulder shots, which of course had to be of an approved game. There was a tech consultant on hand who had another computer set up with the approved games on it. Except that they weren't. So there was some hurried installations and then some really exciting footage of me playing the first 5 tutorial minutes of a game ("Here's how you use your gun, soldier.") (I suspect that footage won't be that usable.) A couple of shots over-the-shoulder with the monitor turned off so they can put in anything they want, digitally, and then they were done. And the cameras were off to another part of the house and I tore down my system and was officially 'released'.

I'm guessing from the number of people they were filming that I'll be a frame or two in the final product, but we'll see in a couple months.

* Sorry, none of you are jerks.
** I'm not under an NDA or anything, but I'm always superstitious about saying anything definite in public until it's all done.
*** In my own clothes. Is that normal?