I began as an actor before I started directing commercials. I’ve been away from it for years because I tend to throw myself completely into one thing at a time, but I’ve missed it so much, I decided that I had to go back to it, but to do both at the same time without having to make the choice between the two. Why not? Screw it. Just because it isn’t the usual deal doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it, right?
So recently, I started to go out on meetings with commercial & theatrical agents. One of them was with a well-known and respected agent at a large agency in the commercial world. I was led into his office by an assistant, and had a seat in front of his desk. We hit it off well right away, and we shot the shit for a while before we got around to the meat and potatoes of the talk, where he, to put it briefly, told me that what I was doing was a conflict of interest because, “They hate actors.” Who hates actors?, I asked. “Everyone.”, he ahot back. He went on to tell me that all creatives and producers, and most directors feel that actors are just a necessary pain in the ass that they have to deal with to get their world-changing spot completed the way they want. He told me stories of power-tripping directors who forced actors to stay inside a car, and never talking to, or even responding to them. He told me stories about directors who literally brought actors to tears.
I knew that this kind of crap happens every once in a while. Just a few weeks ago, I booked a job on a TV show, where the director never greeted me, never called me by my name, and never thanked or said goodbye to me. I was playing a guy who had severs post traumatic stress syndrome, and he just called me, “PTSD GUY”… not even the character’s name. When we shot the scene of me having some bad memories while lying on a couch, he directed me like a puppeteer as the camera was dollying by… “Twitch your left foot… harder… now tap your right hand…. Twitch your face… “
I wanted to kill this guy.
Anyway, this agent thought that I would lose all respect as a director if I got work as an actor in commercials. Theatrical was okay, but not on commercials. I can see what he meant… if I had to dance around and sing the praises of some hemorrhoid medication during an audition in front of my colleagues, some people might not feel like that would looks so great, but I have no shame. I actually think that would be hilarious! I take my work very seriously, but I try not to take myself seriously at all. Anyway, we ended our talk with him asking me to hire his actors in my future spots. I agreed. That’s cool. We ended the meeting as pals, and I turned around and signed with another agency the next day.
Is there really that much contempt for actors in this business? Is it really THAT common? I’d love to hear your stories and opinions…
Here’s my deal… when I shoot a commercial, the script is the absolute freakin’ KING. I bow down to it, and I respect it as well as the creative and clients behind it 1000%. The creatives, the clients, and the producers behind the spot deserve all possible respect. I really mean that… BUT in my opinion, so do the actors.
Actors are crucial to the finished product. They are also some of the bravest, most gifted, intelligent, and sensitive people on the planet. I really love them, but that’s really beside the point. I guarantee you, that even the biggest, most talented director in the world will have an even better completed spot if he or she creates a fun, safe, and respectful environment for his or her actors. I love actors so much; I usually literally end up hugging them when the shoot is wrapped. I think that casting and working one on one with the cast like an equal creative contributor is a huge part of the success or failure of any commercial and I believe that it’s vital to getting the best possible finished project as well as getting the most out of the script, which is what we all want.
Be cool to actors.