LETTER FROM L.A.: Hitting the
spot; guerilla commercials
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
A spot! A spot! What actor, East
Coast or West, does not dream of the one score, the one booking that, for a few
hours' work, will pay the bills?
More than once out here I've met
some actor who says they pay the bills 'doing commercials'. And a few of these
- three? four? - DO so pay the bills, pretty regularly. More often though, you
discover they've done that ONE dream gig that's now supporting them, sometimes
for a year or two. Then, bit by bit, they become a bit more interested in that
day job you might have mentioned a while back. Because, for most, the next
score is a long time coming.
Then there's the truly wonderful
stroke of luck. As in a women I met last week and, unknowingly, had seen. Which
happens out here. Not just that you see the stars (a whole other subject, and
at that one not unknown to New Yorkers). But that you'll run into someone you
remember from a particular commercial, or a typical episode of some popular
show. As when the quirky blonde who serves me at one Starbucks turned out to be
someone I'd seen on "Ally MacBeal". Or a woman in a workshop someone
I'd seen on two different "Law and Order"s. Fun, partially for the
gleam of recognition, partially for the reminder that such gratifying gigs aren't
necessarily that far out of reach.
In this case, I'd seen the cigarette
company 'public service' spot numerous times, barely noticed the two teens who
try to buy cigarettes in it. One of whom was my new acquaintance.
In her case, she'd shot the spot happily,
glad to have one major cashcow running. And then? They took the footage and cut
it into TWO spots. Both of which ran for over two years.
Is this why we study Shakespeare and
Stanislavsky? Maybe not. And I wouldn't exactly say it was something to aspire
to. But 'devoutly to be wished'?
Better yet, how about ending up in a
spot - and in SAG! - without even trying? This is what will happen to a few
lucky store clerks and bystanders in the coming months, thanks to an
anti-smoking campaign out here. One technique the campaign uses is to send
actors with hidden cameras into public areas to, as they used to say in the
Sixties, 'raise people's consciousness'. In this case, they sent several teams
around to mailbox stores, where one actor would ask to send a box, saying they
wanted to send cyanide, arsenic and other nasty stuff (all actual by-products
of cigarette smoke.) The range of reactions from the unsuspecting victims was
gratifyingly extreme. One good old boy truck driver, I'm told, lectured the
young people on all the regulations HE had to observe when carrying hazardous
I did wonder how they got releases
from all these people, until I heard that any who appeared in the final spots
would be Taft-Hartleyed - and would get residuals.
Talk about stepping in….
One clerk who will NOT be doing so,
however, will be the young slacker whose response to the inventory of dangerous
contents was to say: "Look, man, you shouldn't even tell us what you're
sending. We send guns and sh** all the time." All this on camera.