Tuesday afternoon I meet with an agent. It’s a 3-hour one-on-one private session and I’m not sure what to expect. How did I find her? In a word, Google. I found a list of agents and went down the list, one by one, seeing if any of the agents held classes. Specifically, commercial classes. Sandra was the only one who had what I was looking for, so I shot her an email. Turns out she does not do group classes anymore, but does offer one-on-one’s.
I called Dad Sunday (obviously – Father’s Day) and told him about my upcoming meeting. “Well I’m just glad it’s a girl.” I roll my eyes. Why? “You know…casting couch.” Oh, God. Why do you even know that term? Never mind, I don’t want to know. I, myself, didn’t know what a casting couch meant until a couple years ago. For those who don’t, it’s a term pretty much used for aspiring actresses who do sexual favors for the casting directors or whoever. Like I’m going to walk into an audition and the casting director is going to tell me I’ve got the part, but only if I do him a “favor”. Get real. That would not happen. And if it did, I’d walk out. Later, Mike and I talk about it. You would definitely break up with me if I had sex with a director. “Not necessarily. Not if it was like Fincher or Spielberg. You would turn down being in one of their films??” This is a stupid hypothetical. It’s not going to happen.
So I head over to Sandra’s house at 11am with head shots and resume in hand and my monologue prepared. I’m actually really looking forward to doing my monologue. I haven’t done it for an audience in a while. (Yes, one person is an audience.) Sandra is a super nice 40-something lady with a nice house and two dogs. Ironically enough she has me sit on her couch (ha-ha). She takes the chair across from me. The first hour or so is mostly talking. She wants to know about my acting background and I tell her everything I can. She then butchers my resume, changing my format and making little tweeks here and there. I don’t mind – agree with everything she says. And then I want to crawl into a dark hole. She sweetly and kindly tells me my head shots are shit. I don’t like my head shots and have been wanting to get new ones for a while now, but they’re so expensive and I just can’t afford it yet. Good head shots usually start around $1,000 and go up to $1,800-ish. I don’t like them, but after her evaluation I hate them. Sandra explains how your personality should shine through in your head shot. She kept holding it up and making me stare at it. “What expression or personality do see in this head shot?” Nothing. It’s blank. “Yes. Actually, I see a nervous smile.” God, I’m just posing for a picture. “You need to feel comfortable when you’re getting them done – you need to be you.” She’s right. I was nervous when I had my head shots done in New York, and the photographer didn’t help at all.
Great. Add head shots to my list of expenses. Now it’s note-taking time. I pull out my green notebook and green pen and write down everything she tells me about the different types of commercials and how to approach an audition. It’s all very informative.
Now it’s time to get down to business and show Sandra what I’m made of. She has a camera set up with a large white cue card directly next to it. Hands me a copy of the commercial and has me go over to the side of the room to practice out loud – there’s no point in saying it to myself. Then I get in front of the camera, slate and profile (say my name, then turn to each side and move my hair to my back shoulder), then begin. I do the commercial three or four times, all the while Sandra is giving me direction. Then we play it back and watch. We do this for three commercials. It’s fun. I don’t really enjoy watching myself, but I actually don’t mind today. I’m doing well. I feel confident.
We sit back down and talk about improv. I’m glad I finally have some experience in this area – I did the beginner level and level I at the PIT (People’s Improv Theatre) in New York. Sandra says I should continue doing it. Yea, I know. Improv is so scary, but once you put yourself out there, it can be quite freeing. “OK, let’s practice some improv.” My stomach immediately drops. It’s an instant reaction to improv – every single time. I tell Sandra and she just laughs.
First she hands me a spray bottle and rag. “Pretend your cleaning a window – the window is in front of you, in the camera frame. When you finish, stand back and look at your work like you’re proud of what you’ve done, then walk off camera.” Oh God, here we go. I get to work on my window, hoping I’m keeping it in the camera frame. I feel a little silly, but that’s improv for you. I stand back and feel good about my clean window, then walk off. Do it a couple more times. On the third one, Sandra tells me to add something at the end.
At the start of our session, we were talking about commercials we see on television. I feel like I study commercials now and have so much respect for those actors because sometimes they don’t even say anything – they might just give a look and it’s brilliant and hilarious. I actually have a favorite commercial actress – Allyn Rachel. This girl is a genius. She’s the one in the Toyota commercial where she’s sitting on her laptop on Facebook, and at the end she has that line, “What?? That’s not a puppy.” I literally hysterically laugh every time. And then the ebay one where she is again on her laptop, and quickly purchases jeans online to avoid the hideous mom jeans being offered to her. After she purchases them she shakes her fist in the air. “Ohhhhh,” like she’s really upset that she just purchased new jeans but really not upset at all. I just read in an article that she’s been doing improv for a long time, and the puppy comment and the fist pump were both her ideas. And they are the best parts of the commercials. I mean, she is just awesome. I kind of want to be her.
Sandra refers back to my comments about Allyn Rachel and says that’s what every actor needs to bring to the table. There’s a script in front of you and you have to at least somewhat follow it, but you’ve got to add your own flair. Or as Sandra calls it, “the flourish.” So she tells me that after I’m finished cleaning the window, to throw the rag up and catch it before I walk off. Man, why didn’t I think of that?
All in all, it’s a great experience and I’m glad I did it. I’ve been having some doubts lately – probably because I haven’t done any acting in a while. Not only that, I’ve been writing so much. It’s like, am I going to really do this acting thing or what? Am I just going to be a writer? Is that what I want to do? No, it’s not. I love acting. And damn it, I’m good. I can be in a commercial. I can nail it. I know I can. Sandra gives me great feedback. She tells me I’m natural in front of the camera and I make good choices. I just need to do more. I need to do more improv, maybe a commercial class, and figure out how to get an agent. Before I leave, Sandra has one last thing to say. “I hope I see you on the big screen!” Yea, me too, but I need an agent. Will you be mine? I don’t really ask her this, but I think it. I know, I’m a scaredy-cat. But if she wanted me, she would have asked me, right? I don’t know. I just know that tomorrow I’m going to send her a follow-up email thanking her and asking her a few more questions – like what’s my next step in getting an agent. And then I’ll go from there.
*The Avett Brothers