02 July 2008

Industrious


Yesterday I went on my first job routed to me by Dream Weavers Management. I had some hesitation joining up with DW, due largely to my inexperience with management and agentry, but yesterday helped to strengthen my opinion of them. The people at the production studio at which I worked all had good things to say for Laura Kossoff, the president there, and I had a generally positive experience where I worked. The gig was to be part of an industrial--a sort of internal corporate commercial--for a Canon conference; specifically to highlight a technology for creating three-dimensional video and, I believe, modeling. The production studio was ADM Productions, out in Long Island (or, to some, "Long Guylind"). So at 10:30 yesterday morning, I left el day jobo and hopped on the LIRR.

The last time I did an industrial was way, way back in 1998, as a side gig while I worked my very first professional gig, at Theatre West Virginia. That industrial was for a railroad company, CSX, and was pretty loose. A group of us dressed in our jeans and hardhats and walked around the yard all day, figuring out clever poses to point up track safety. The only camera work I've been doing lately has been a part of NYU's film-school directing classes. Plus, I'm a naturally nervous character. So as I took the train, I tried to relax and be ready for whatever was to come. They had no script to send, and all I knew was that they wanted me to bring both my black suit and my brown so they could choose which looked best for their purposes. Other than what I'd be wearing, I had no idea what I'd be doing when I got there (and even what I would be wearing was a fifty-fifty [I guessed wrong on that, by the way]). Breathe, breathe.

Turns out the people at ADM are fun to work with, and very professional to boot. They fed me. They offered to iron my costume. We talked about this and that as they struggled to stay on schedule with the shoot. They didn't, of course, because they had some incredibly complex set-ups to accomplish and they seemed to care a great deal about turning out a good product. I was prepared for this, however. As one of my fellow actors there said, "We get paid to wait on this kind of job; the acting is really just a bonus." So wait we did, in the greenroom and kitchen, and I vainly tried to make interesting conversation and read or memorize line sin good balance. It's an amazingly strange phenomenon, the hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere of a job like that. You're usually hanging out with strangers for hours, ever-ready to spring into compelling action, but with nothing actually to do. I always want to practice acro' moves, but people would think I was crying for attention, and besides, one is usually worried about one's costume.

More surreal was to come, however. When I finally did get into the studio, my job was to pose as a presenter of a . . . er . . . presentation. But not just any presentation! Oh no. An invisible presentation. The projection contained merely the title ("Projected Growth" [kindly control your snickers {after all, I had to}]) and a red background, with the notion that the graphic would be superimposed in post-production, so that it could "pop out" in the same 3-D effect we were all being filmed in. I say "we," because I was giving my presentation to four people seated around a table. They were not actors (that I knew of), just employees of the company who looked professional enough in attire to sit there and have their backs filmed. The fun came when it was time to "act." I knew there would be no sound for this segment, yet the effect from my movement had to be that of someone presenting something. So I did, and my presentation went something like this:


“I suppose you're wondering why I called you all here. Well. As you can see from my display here, I'm talking about projected growth. Not my projected growth, but our projected growth, and by that I don't mean anything dirty. This is a workplace, after all, and we don't talk about dirty things here unless of course we're complaining about how someone else really needs to clean them up. As you can see from the display, our projected growth is very red. We have a lot of growth in the red sector. Actually, I just set this up because it's my color. Red makes me look good. In fact, Larry, I'm going to ask you to follow me around for the rest of the day just so I look good next to you. Next I have to show you all this cartoon of a dog, trying to catch a balloon. Pay particular attention to this, Emily, because there will be a quiz later. Just for you. We need to keep an eye on you, after all. As you can see, the dog just can't get that balloon. He tries and he tries...but...nope, he can't get it. Ah. I could watch this all day. I did watch it for the entire weekend, over and over again. There are no lines in this, of course, because that's a dog, and a balloon, but if there were, if there were lines I bet you I could recite them all back to you, in sequence. Actually, I hope you all carved out at least a couple of hours, because that's how long this is. It's great though. There, he almost...but no! He can't get it!”
So there I was, in my brown suit, exploring the surreality. Fortunately for me, they all thought it was funny, engendering comparisons to Stev(ph)ens Carell and Colbert. As I ranted in a professional tone, I thought, This couldn't be more bizarre. I left my office job to travel a half-hour by train to a studio so I could change from my black suit into a brown one and pretend to be someone like one of my bosses at the office job giving an imaginary presentation with a non-existent projection which, in a matter of days, will all be projected for viewing by a huge group of office workers in suits and 3-D glasses.

We're through the looking glass here, people.

So it was pretty great, as far as I was concerned. I even got a dramatic 3-D close-up in which I extend the remote control for the slide projector at the camera. My hand will loom large in the faces of Canon execs. If that isn't motivation to quit biting my nails, I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, back in the greenroom, I had several discussions with two other actors who were there to get 3-Ded and green-screened. They were interesting. I was very frank about my lack of experience with this sort of gig, and received some very different reactions. One of them, like me, valued stage acting and though he was very experienced with commercial work had virtually no priority for it. He had even been to Italy before, so we had a lot of interesting things to discuss. The other seemed to be devoted to commercial work, and had some trouble understanding my position in the game. She felt that I could be doing print and commercial work all the time, and wondered why I wouldn't. My answer had to do with long-term prospects and needing a steadier source of income than that, which is all perfectly valid and true, and which she accepted.

However, a much more essential answer is that I just never pursued it. Sure, when I first moved to New York I mailed my crappy headshots out every week to Backstage notices for film and commercial auditions, and thought with each student film I worked on that it would lead to more. I never pursued the work, though. I didn't (don't) understand it the way I did stage work, and just left it be. It may be time to learn more about it, though I did convince myself a bit with explaining myself to someone else yesterday. Who needs it? Sure, I made about $200 in a day and it was novel and all, but if it comes along infrequently I can't live on it. Then again, you never know until you try. Then again, it's artificial and irritating. Then again, an office job isn't?

Well, at least in ten years I may be recognized as "that guy who pointed the remote at my brain in that thing I saw." I wonder if he still bites his nails...

4 comments:

Nat said...

Interestante . . . how much does the Management take out? I've been jonesing to do some commercial stuff lately. I just wanna sell out already.

Melissa said...

I have never been on an industrial or commercial shoot, but I do know some people who thrive on the sit and wait and OK GO/STOP of that stuff -
not me - I prefer the sit and wait and then gogogogogogo of the stage.
Financially, I think it can be quite regular, but just like a Broadway chorus member, everybody's gotta be careful that they don't get cornered as an extra/stand in/cover

National commercials and a high interest savings account are where it's at as far as I can tell.

Jeff Wills said...

Nat: TWENTY PERCENT. hence some of my hesitation signing with them. But, on a freelance basis, it's work I wouldn't have otherwise, so...

Mel: I think it's a lifestyle question for me. I don't like going from tiny gig to tiny gig, so if I did it, I'd have to get something like what you describe pretty quick, before my head 'asploded with anticipatory stress. PS, your present icon is adorable and OMG DO YOU HAVE BANGS NOW?

Melissa said...

ha! Jeff I love that you noticed the bangs - they are not mine, they were temporary - which is to say, they were part of a wig worn for an Andrew Bellware photo shoot ;-)
And I totally understand the tiny-gig-head-asplosion.