Breakthrough! I film my first TV commercial

Filming my

At long last, I’m thrilled to report that I finally booked (and, last Thursday, shot) a TV commercial. Now I can officially say that I’m in “the biz”! And I also learned first-hand just how little your perception of your audition performance has to do with the actual results.

Although I’ve been auditioning for three years, there were cycles of busy times and dry spells. The actual number of auditions I’ve been to in that time is about 35. So, still a lot of attempts, and a lot of rejection.  (I should mention, however, that this success comes only a short time after signing with Shanti Brett, my new agent at Play Management. I went on many auditions with my previous agent without booking a thing – and then was dropped by her. So things definitely turned out for the best!)

While I never had any illusions about the odds of being selected, and basically just enjoyed the process and the unique challenge of each experience, I did have more than a few moments of doubt when I wondered if anything was ever going to actually happen. So I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to now be able to say that I’ve actually done it. They liked me, they really liked me!

At first, though, I thought I’d blown it.

At the original audition, I got to do two run-throughs of the basic action of the commercial – a skinny guy trying to insinuate himself into a hot-tub packed full of giant-sized sumo wrestlers. It was me, and one large guy in a chair. On the second try, I’d been asked to make it more “physical”, to really try to “get into the tub” – but when Sumo Guy growled at me, I backed off, and the wacky physical comedy didn’t happen. My audition ended, I emerged from my haze of concentration into the bright sunshine outside, and only then realized that an opportunity for some really funny physicality had just slipped by. And I felt absolutely miserable.

I beat myself up for days over my “blown chance” to show off my aptitude for physical comedy. In auditioning, you have no idea what they’re looking for and the only way to feel successful is to have simply shown them your best. I was convinced I’d totally failed at this. I even considered writing the casting director to ask for a second chance – but I knew that was, and would appear as, an act of desperation and was a Bad Idea. So I just resigned myself to chalking it up to a learning experience. But it was still eating at me.

Then I got a callback!

It was like a gift from the gods. Sure enough, my perception of total failure was wrong – they had seen something they wanted to see again. I felt like a condemned man getting a reprieve.

At the callback audition, I wasted no time in bringing on the physical comedy – mixing it up to hilarious effect with the now four Sumo-size guys seated before me. This time, I really felt I’d done something approaching my best.

And then… I got an email from my agent saying I was “First Refusal”. OMG! I hadn’t even seen that term before, but clearly it implied that the role was mine to turn down. My head swam. I was in new, uncharted territory! I didn’t want to celebrate yet, though, until I was sure I had officially booked the job, which had not technically happened yet. But late the next day, it did.

And that’s how I came to be at a 60’s-era apartment complex in Kerrisdale, at poolside, in swim trunks, preparing to jump into a hot tub full of Sumo wrestlers! Well, actually just very large guys who had been made up to look the part with makeup and wigs.

Filming my

Luckily it was one of the record hot days that we’ve had lately in Vancouver – perfect weather to spend in the water.

Before the hilarity could commence, though, there was of course lots and lots of waiting. When I arrived “on set” at 2:30pm for my 3pm call time, traffic cones were in place on the street and behind the building, but there were no trucks in sight. I was directed to the apartment located in the rear of the building, overlooking the pool and hot tub area. It was an unfurnished apartment which had been converted into a working area for the makeup team. When I arrived, they were busy hiding the various tattoos on the Sumo guys, and applying sumo wigs – complete with ponytail – to them. They didn’t need to attend to me for quite a while – my makeup needs were much simpler.

Finally, the trucks arrived, and it started to really feel like a film shoot. This is where it also got a little surreal. Until then I was able to remain quite relaxed and nonchalant, chatting with the A.D., the makeup people, and the Sumo guys, and just strolling around and observing everything. But when the crew appeared, and gigantic reflectors and equipment was being hustled into place, it hit me just how much effort and logistics were being brought to bear to enable me to do this wacky little scene.

Filming my

I think the most surreal moment was simply when the mobile dressing room truck pulled up. They’d said that this was where I’d be getting my makeup done (the Sumo’s were all taken care of back up in the apartment), so it was surprising and kind of neat to know that this was just for me. (Though the truck was certainly also put to use for other purposes.) So many times I’d seen the trucks and bustling activity of a film shoot, and longed to be a part of it, not just on the outside looking in. Now, that moment had really arrived!

It was actually easy to stay grounded, though, since everyone involved was so friendly and down-to-earth. I quickly set my mind on the task at hand – changing into my swim trunks and getting made up and “ready for my close-up”.

Filming my

One funny thing happened as Kyra, the makeup woman, and I walked back to the building from the mobile dressing room. A neighbour dashed over, a middle-aged Asian man with only moderate English but great enthusiasm, and indicated he’d like a photo. I was all ready to oblige, but then he handed ME the camera, and zipped over next to Kyra to pose for a picture! Somehow he’d decided that she was the “star”. So naturally, I obliged and snapped away. Afterward, we were both amused at his choice. I guess I simply looked like a guy about to jump in the pool – whereas she radiated true Hollywood glamour!

From there, it was more waiting, watching, and occasional snacking, until I was finally called down to poolside. The Sumo guys were “arranged” in the hot tub first, then I came in and we started running different scenarios. Kennan, the director, advised me on what he wanted, sometimes coming over and showing me what he had in mind.

The ad is only 10 seconds long so there were lots of different attempts to put the idea across of me having difficulty getting in a tub already filled with five indifferent, stone-faced, or downright hostile Sumo wrestlers. Sometimes I just stood there contemplating things, sometimes I eagerly tried to join in. There were a few scenes with a beach ball – the five guys laughing and playing around, then falling silent when I arrive and try to join the fun, and resuming laughter when I slink off.

But the funniest one was probably where I did just what I’d looked forward to doing at the audition – clambering right in and over them. It was totally physical, me all arms and legs sprawling and climbing around them, at one point with my legs straddling the head of one of the guys and me leaning on his Sumo wig (very carefully, of course!). After that one, the guys said they’d had a hard time not bursting out laughing!

Filming my

Finally, they had enough stuff “in the can” – and it was all over. I got dressed, then bid farewell to everyone with handshakes and thank-you’s all around. It had been a total blast.

Now, I can hardly wait to see what they actually pick for the spot – and of course am looking forward to posting a copy of it online as soon as I get a copy. It won’t be seen here, alas, as it’s for SuddenLink, a U.S. cable/internet/phone company. But their service is quite widely distributed – over 17 states! – so my poolside goofiness will be seen from California to Texas to West Virginia. Cool!

Oh, that reminds me – I almost forgot to answer the obvious question: what’s the ad actually about? Well, when I was at the wardrobe fitting I happened to chat with the guy who wrote the ad, and he said the theme of this series of ads is: “Getting into a hot tub full of sumo wrestlers is hard. Using their cable/internet/phone service is easy.”

Now it all makes sense…

6 thoughts on “Breakthrough! I film my first TV commercial

  1. Welcome to the club of commercial actors, Adam.
    It is just “fun” and as you, I have developed more and more respect for those who work behind the scenes.

    As you, I never have a clue what they are looking for and just do as I’m told.
    Seems improv is the best way to prepare.

    The surprise is the residual cheques (if that was the agreement) that will float in unexpectedly as it is shown over and over.

    Congratulations…..
    lynda

    Lynda

  2. Way to go, Adam… I see you starring opposite Carmen Diaz in the remake of My Favourite Martian…

  3. Adam, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!

    What a hoot – you were absolutely perfect for that bit; amazing, isn’t it, what they are going to pack into a 10 sec. commercial …

    And even more amazing … the ‘process-of-it-all’, from an actor’s viewpoint – beginning with the audition. (OMG)

    Good luck with more gigs down-the-road!!

    Fran

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