Friday, April 21, 2006

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

There's this adage that applies to bite-and-smile commercials — "don't act so suprised." Bite-and-smiles are those spots where the talent bites into a food product and reacts (favorably, one presumes — though come to think of it I once bit into a club sandwich where the food dressers had encouraged the bacon strips to glisten under the lights by brushing Pine-Sol on them; I think the clients saved my "hideous revulsion" reaction for their gag reel).

Anyway, a common mistake many actors make when taking a bite/sip/lick of a food product during an audition is to act surprised. Unless it's written into the copy that the character is outright skeptical about the taste of this thing in front of them (the only example I can think of being those old Reese's commercials, "Hey! You got peanut butter on my chocolate!"), acting surprised that it tastes good is basically tantamount to saying the product looks like sh**, or the Brand Name doesn't inspire confidence, or that this product stands out because it DOESN'T kill you. In other words, if it's that good, what sort of vomit-inducing experience were you expecting and why? (So what you typically see instead during a good bite-and-smile is a look of pleasant expectation before the bite, then a reaction afterwards that says the expectation was happily confirmed or, perhaps, even exceeded because they'd forgotten just how gosh-darned good this stuff really is.)

How this all relates is that this week was, as predicted by a realtor friend of mine, much busier than last week (they predicted that the upcoming Easter holiday would combine with Tax Day to dramatically slow down a lot of different industries), so I actually had quite a few auditions, both on-camera and voiceover. And one of those on-camera auditions was for a casting firm that rarely calls me in and, as I think I've written before, when they DO call me in they always act surprised when I don't fall on my face. Well, that's exactly what happened once again. I came in, the casting director was very business-like and doing annoying things (more on that later), then I did my bit, and afterwards the first words out of their mouth were, "Evan, that was GOOD!"

Gee, don't act so suprised.

Y'know what was different this time though? I think I figured out that it's just the way they are. For whatever reason, they're either cursed with a condescending way of expressing themselves to other people or, more likely, they really DON'T expect a lot from actors. I think it's more of the latter, simply because of those other annoying things they do. For instance, they'll call an actor into the room, then say, "Wait until the camera's rolling before beginning." (Isn't that a bit obvious?) Or, "Stand on the mark to say your slate." (Why? Do most actors slate themselves off-camera?)

But what do I know? Perhaps I just haven't walked in their shoes enough to see the endless parade of actors who can't face forward, find their light, or know where the camera is. Perhaps most of the actors they call in don't know what a "slate" is and respond with an entirely appropriate, "Huh?" (A slate is simply looking into the camera and saying your name — don't say no one ever told you.) All I can say is, it's odd that other casting directors don't act this way.

Still, knowing that it just seems to be part of their nature is comforting somehow. I guess it's easier knowing ahead of time that, no matter how many times they see me, they're always going to find it refreshingly novel when I smear peanut butter on their chocolate.


Anonymous said...

A latecomer here, I've been enjoying catching up on your past opera. Glad you were rewarded with a Reese's moment recently, and that more will come of it in the future.

I look forward to reading more here in the future. If the acting thing gets slow, have you thought of doing some writing?

Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

You don't mention who the casting director is, but I'd bet my britches, if it was a major player in town, they see the finest actors in the city, so you can't really say they see a lot of shrubs, thus, they don't get a pass for being condescending..

I think we forget that just because they have the power to basically decide whether or not you are going to make a living, then they must be knowledgeable and have some level of experise. I don't think this is necessarily the case. I don't think they really know what "good" is. Let's face it, they see snippets of performances all day. They are good at knowing if the client will like you, they are good at knowing what type you fit into, and are good at knowing whether you have a certain look that sells.

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