Friday, March 9, 2012

I’ve Been Doing This For 10 Years… and Other Things Overheard Whilst Doing Background Work

Published 3/9/2012

Just in case you were wondering, if at any point you wake up at six A.M. so you can work out before driving to Culver City for a day of audience work, you may want to reevaluate your career path, or as people are fond of saying on the twittosphere, you’re probably “doing life wrong.” *I’m doing life wrong.* Driven only by my denial of the fact that I am indeed  broke financially challenged and my desire to continue purchasing expensive facial products that I really have no business buying, I agreed to sit in a freezing studio for 80 dollars on my day off.  How I wish I’d held fast to my vow to never do it again after an unfortunate experience involving Jersey Shore cast members and housewives receiving gratis breast implants. Don’t ask.

Long gone are the days when I used my good mascara and emoted like a method actor so I would get placed in the front row and hog all the peripheral camera time expressing genuine shock, laughter and “oh no she didn’t!” with verve. What many people fail to realize is that as a background actor, you are not in fact an actor any more than a Republican is a serious contender in this year’s presidential election. You are nothing more than a breathing prop and you should concern yourself only with signing your tax forms, clapping when asked and getting your parking validated if possible. But alas,  audience work attracts a multitude of obnoxious individuals who should never be on  a set of any kind. I feel that I should warn my fellow aspiring thespians of the characters to avoid lest they find themselves in a pinch and are forced to do audience work to pay for traffic tickets and Sephora goodies.

The Professional

There’s always that guy- the one who claims he still gets called in for college buddy pics even though he’s obviously on the wrong side of thirty. He’s probably clad in Abercrombie and drives a beat up Honda of some sort and according to him he’s worked with lived in the same city with everybody who’s anybody. He will tell you, loudly, how he’s been in the business for ten+ years and of roles he’s turned down to maintain his artistic integrity. Do not be fooled! This douchebag simply doesn’t book work which is why he’s doing background. That’s it. He may have gone to Stella Adler or tried to get into Groundlings, but the fact of the matter is that he’s a professional waiter and you would be remiss to take any advice he has to give you about “the biz,” which is undoubtedly how he will refer to it.

The Wrangler’s Bosom Buddy

You’ve seen the girl-  it’s usually a girl, who will not GET OUT IF THE WRANGLER’S FACE. It took me a while to realize that there is someone like this on every set and I’ve determined that this behavior is borne of ignorance. It falls on my shoulders to make it known that the wrangler is not a casting director! He is not going to tell his casting director friends about girl number 366 from the 18th set that he’s been on that week and recommend that you be cast as the next T Mobile girl. He’s talking to you because it’s his job to get you into the studio and away from the talent so it is with love that I say: “hoe sit down!”

 The “I Just Moved Here Last Week” Guy

Poor, poor soul. When I see the eager face of the fresh transplant I almost want to give him a hug… almost, but I won’t because people in Hollywood don’t express genuine affection. But if they did, I would take that hopeful actor in my arms and gently tell him that he will not be doing background work for only two weeks before booking a sitcom that turns out to be the Friends or the ER of his career. The newcomer to LA is the most heartbreaking person to run into, partly because you know the disappointments that await him, but mostly because he reminds you of yourself… the younger, non substance abusing, expectant you who also used to be able to afford to get haircuts at regular intervals and believed that red carpet interviews were in your very near future. Sigh…

In any event, when the day ended and I faced the impending commute back to yonder Valley, I comforted myself by the knowledge that when I tell my friends back East about my day of exercising my “craft,” it will sound more like a Nike spec commercial and less like the game show test pilot that it actually was. I don’t like to call it lying, it’s just staying in character…


Location: 3

Craft Services: 0 (Do not be deceived by “walk away lunch”)

SAG/AFTRA vouchers procured:0

On set experience: #meh