Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I figured out why actors are phonies

If you’ve ever wondered why actors can often come off as phonies--with all of that insincere, effusive niceness that you just know doesn’t go deeper than a facial scrub—a recent audition experience shed some light on the subject, so I thought I’d pass it along.

First of all, I don’t audition frequently, but every other year an ad campaign is looking for a guitar-playing pitch man to sing their copy, and I get a call from a commercial agent. Such was the case a few weeks ago. The audition was for the next day. When I asked if there were any lines I needed to learn or what I should prepare I was told that everything would be at the audition and to bring my guitar.

I showed up at the audition, guitar in hand, and was happy to recognize my friend Josh who had just come out. While we were saying our hellos a woman approached me with a good looking young actor in tow. She asked if he could borrow my guitar to learn the song.

Now, I’ve just shown up so I’m thinking “song? There’s a song I need to learn?” and I was also wondering why this woman, who I assume is either the guy’s agent, girlfriend, or mom (he was young), was asking to borrow my guitar instead of the guy asking for himself. I also didn't know if I was auditioning before this guy or not, so I might very well have needed my guitar before he does. I mean, I’d gladly let the guy borrow it if I don’t need it myself, but no one’s told me what’s going on yet.

Well it turns out the woman was running the audition. Her curtness could be understood because anyone who has to watch 200 actors read the same 12 lines all day long is interested in keeping the audition process moving along. In hindsight I can see that any delay on my part in answering her question was just pissing her off more and interpreted as attitude.

To my credit, I let the complete stranger borrow my guitar long before I figured out she was the chick running the show, but the damage had been done. When I went in for my audition she made no eye contact with me, didn’t acknowledge me outside of telling me what to do for the reading, and happily took two calls with her back to me while I waited. In short, she wanted nothing to do with me, all because of our initial interaction.

In about 20 seconds, and long before I did anything audition-related, she formed a completely unfavorable image of me in her mind, and I think that’s why actors are so superficially nice. They’re afraid to piss anyone off for fear that said person is someone important. Sure they don’t genuinely connect with people, but that’s not the point. The point is to not let people think you’re a dick, to get everyone to like you for the moment, to not get rejected by anyone, ever.

I have a lot to learn about auditioning.

And this is not to say that had I been ebullient and charming I’d have gotten a callback because I probably wasn’t right for them anyway. But it might have kept her from telling the agent who sent me on my one audition this year that “that guy was kind of a jerk,” which she probably did.

The year after next when I get my next audition I'll be ready to nail it.

Just don't ask to borrow my ax.