Wednesday, June 28, 2017

LIPS, TEETH, TIP OF THE TONGUE or How do body issues keep you from booking?

So Bright
Students come into my class with a mental list of all the physical ailments or irregularities that they believe will keep them from booking commercials. Height. Weight. Birth marks. Usually it’s teeth. It was for me! And I'm here to tell you, your body doesn't matter, what you think about your body does.

I grew up with British/German heritage, in Michigan, where my mom would serve us a milk and Coca-cola mixture for dinner. Can you imagine my pearly whites by the age of twelve? Then came the braces, but by then, my thinking was solidified. Do not smile. Your teeth are like a cows. Have you ever seen cows teeth? Probably about as often as mine. Every headshot, with a tight lipped smile. Please God don’t look at my teeth.

Right around my 30th national commercial I begin to realize how little it mattered. How had I booked so many with such horrible teeth? Maybe..maybe, they weren’t so terrible? They’re not so terrible. Im not so terrible. Actually my smile is kind of nice. If only I had believed this about myself, and not relied on an outside source of a booking rate to convince me, maybe I might have had more fun in the process.

And that’s the Solution. What’s the point of being in this business if we’re not having fun? If we are constantly trying to hide from the camera? The camera sees all, so it is our job to celebrate it all. And if you can’t celebrate it, change it. Probably less expensive than reconstructive dental surgery is to notice your thinking behind your perceived imperfection. Keep in mind,  you’re not fooling anyone. You smile tightly to keep your teeth from showing, people unconsciously pick up on that cover up and begin to tense themselves. So, relax. Enjoy. Even if you had perfect teeth, you have no control over how people judge your teeth. There are commercials for every body type, height, weight and yes, teeth. Sure, I’ve never booked a toothpaste commercial, but somebody has. And good for them. The next milk and Coke is on me!


TRY THIS: Take a note on how you feel about each part of your body. Positive or negative. Why? Where did you learn it from? Who did you learn it from? If it’s a negative thought, is it really true? Try thinking the opposite just for a moment. “My nose is beautiful.” Try it again. And again. And again.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

7 THINGS YOU NEED TO WRITE DOWN WHEN YOU GET THE COMMERCIAL AUDITION

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN FOR BACKSTAGE AND PUBLISHED JUNE 22nd, 2017

1. The Time

There is a big difference between an audition at 2:15 and 12:15. I have dropped that 1 once or twice and there is a bit of a difference. I do not like that assistant’s blank look when I arrive two hours early. And I definitely don’t like that furious casting director’s look when I arrive two hours late. 

2. Location/casting director

How long is it going to take you to get there? An audition on the West side is different than an audition on the East Side. 125th street or 12th street. I once went to the wrong casting agency but they were auditioning a different commercial for THE SAME PRODUCT. I sat there for 45 minutes until someone told me I wasn’t on their list. I missed the other audition. A one in a million chance, but it happened. 

3. The product

What does the product want you to think of them? And what do you actually think of them? For example, Superstores want us to think of them as All American, family friendly, quality goods. Which is different than what I actually think of them, which is cheap crap destroying the mom and pop fabric of this country. Which if I’m not careful will create an unconsciously cynical slate. I’ve seen it in class over and over again and unfortunately noticed it in my own auditions. Your thoughts follow you into the room. So instead focus on what they want you to think, instead of what you actually think. Also, if there are any products you would never audition for, let your agent know immediately. You don’t want to wait until you get the audition call to tell them you are morally obligated to not audition, because their response is going to be, “Ah, yeah, you ARE morally obligated because I spent time to get this audition for you.” 

4. What you’re wearing

You will be asked to dress CASUAL, BUSINESS CASUAL, or BUSINESS. Watch your commercials, find the roles you’d play and see what they’re wearing. Keep your commercial wardrobe separate, clean and ready to go and have pieces that represent each category. If they ever ask you to “Dress The Role,” it’s been my experience that it’s best that you nod to the role and not go full out. If you need to be a fireman, leave the hose and hat at home and put on a red shirt. Unless it directly asks for a full costume, nod to it and let the costume person do their job on set. 


5. Role
Are you there to play Mom 1 or Mom 2? Don’t make the assistant look it up for you at the audition, drives them crazy. They have 80 actors to get through in 4 hours. Know which role you’re there to play. If it isn’t listed on the audition breakdown, ask your agent before you go in. 

6. I am going to have fun in this audition. 

Or This audition is going to go great. Or This audition will lead to a job. 
A positive affirmation battles all the negative thinking just before we audition. If we write it like it’s the sixth fact we need to know, the brain might just accept it as another fact it needs to know. The mind is our greatest tool and our biggest obstacle. Make it do your bidding, not the other way around. 

7. Your mileage and any cost incurred during the audition. 

Have an accountant that is familiar with an actor’s deductions. Lunch, mileage, meter costs, subway rides, costumes, make up. They can help us find those extra dollars during tax time, but we have to have the documentation to verify it. 

NOTE: Again, thank you BACKSTAGE.COM for letting me publish this. For other articles written by me, please visit their website!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My 27th Commercial- SUBWAY (My most recent Backstage Expert Article)


Bill, you booked the Subway commercial!
Cut to the shot of me in the city, clenching my phone, screaming in victory at anyone who will listen, basically just the pigeons on the sidewalk who quickly fly away terrified to a safer street.
I booked it! My 27th national commercial. For Subway. Free food! (Yes, this is how I think sometimes.)

I show up on set which is an actual Subway restaurant closed that day to the public. The first department I’m sent to is Hair and Make Up. I befriend them immediately as they are usually the most fun, the biggest gossips, and will give you a sense of what the set will be like.

The next department is Costume.
“Nice black socks Bill.”
If you’re a woman working on a set you should always bring flesh colored underwear in case they dress you in something sheer. For men, you should always wear black socks. You’ll never get dressed in anything else and if you bring your own you’re making their job so much easier, a goal every actor should have.

My scene is the first shot of the day. The set is bustling with close to forty crew members, all stuffed into this small restaurant. They’re directing huge lights, setting up the sound cart, laying down track which will help the camera smoothly glide back and forth for a dolly shot. It’s incredibly warm and loud. A few actual Subway employees are looking on incredulously. How could so many people could fit into their small place?

The Assistant Director comes up to me, always the time task master.
“Okay Bill, let’s run it a few times so lights and camera can get it right. You walk in, you sit down in this booth here. Yeah? Let’s try it.”
I walk in, sit down in the booth.
“Great, let’s try it again. Lights, good?”
I walk in again, sit down in the booth again.
 “Okay, great, last checks (the make-up and hair department hustle in and out) let’s shoot it. Picture is up people. Lock it down”
All of a sudden, complete silence. Forty crew members come to a standstill. You can tell the Subway employees (the real ones) are impressed. I am impressed. This crew is a disciplined army.
The A.D. calls out over his microphone. “Sound.”
The sound guy calls out “Speed” which means the tape is up and running and we are good to record.
The A.D. calls out “Camera”
The Director of Photography calls out “Rolling”, which I am sure you can guess what that means.
The director, from the back of the room calls out “Action.”
I walk in, I sit down in the booth.
The Director calls “Cut.”

Silence.

Then from the back of the room, a sound that still raises the hair on my neck. The Director screams out, and I mean SCREAMS out, “WELL, THAT SUCKED!” like a punch to the stomach.
Every person turns and looks at me. Every. Person. Even the real employees. Maybe not the sound guy who quickly puts on his headphones to check to see if all of his mics have just blown out.
You can hear me swallow.
And I will not lie, my first thought was, “I’m fired.”
But wait. I came in, I sat down in the booth. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. What’s going on? Then I understood.

This Director is secretly terrified.

In my class, we talk a lot about being in Service. Being present in the moment to recognize what is actually needed in the moment. It is our strongest tool as actors, and is the only thing we actually have control over. By recognizing the fear in these moments, we can deal with it both in ourselves and in others, in a deeper, more effective way.
I recognized in that moment that the director was nervous, both by the tone of his voice (masked as aggression), and by the fact that I CAME IN AND SAT DOWN IN THE BOOTH.
So, very gently, I responded over the silence,
“What do you need?”
Not I am so sorry, not please don’t fire me, not what the hell are you talking about I came in and sat down in the booth. Instead, what do you need? Service.

Silence. Then he screams out,
“Okay, moving on. Next shot.”

The army moves on to the next shot, sound guy removes my mic and I’m done.
The director was just posturing, showing everyone on set who was boss, but with me he had no ship to put this barnacle on. I let it pass through and got right to the truth of the matter which was that I was just there to help. But for a second I knew exactly how those pigeons had felt when I found out I booked the job, and pigeons, I am so sorry.

*Thank you Backstage for allowing the use of this blog on my website. And for being so cool.