DEVASTATION, A Story

It was a minor incident but it has left me devastated. That’s too strong a word. But for days I haven’t accomplished anything. I sleep poorly. I notice late in the afternoon that I’m still wearing the clothes I slept in.

I’ll tell you about the incident.

Some weeks ago I auditioned for a commercial. They brought me in because of my headshot and my reel of clips from past performances.

I was relaxed and funny in the audition and they seemed to like me, although often that’s just politeness. But two weeks later I got an email that I had the part.

The commercial was for a retailer with 900 stores in the eastern half of the United States. The scenario was this: I’m shopping with my wife (an actress) and some of the lines were funny. We were the only actors.

I expected the commercial to lead to more and better roles. People would stop me on the street and say, “Didn’t I see you in that commercial?” and I would modestly say, “Yes, that was me.” I’d get calls from agents wanting to represent me and producers wanting to cast me.

I’ve only acted a few years, after retiring from my last full-time job gave me the time to do it. I’ve appeared in a lot of TV episodes—as a ghost, a corpse on an autopsy table, a murder suspect—and several music videos for famous musicians and groups, with millions of views on the Internet (although no one has stopped me on the street after recognizing me). I was part of an off-Broadway hit show for one season. I’ve done comedy videos, including one that amounts to soft-core pornography—it hasn’t been released yet and when it is, I don’t know if I’ll tell anyone, even though the sex was only simulated and we were fully clothed.

None of what I’ve done has paid well, but a lot has been fun. Some has been creative. One film, for a graduate student’s thesis project, involved really intense acting as I portrayed a dying man—as he died, in fact.

I expected the commercial to change things. Maybe I’d start making real money. I’d be asked to play major characters in real films.

Then I got another email from the producer. The shooting of the commercial is postponed, he said. So I asked, Is it a matter of days or weeks? and his answer of “Indefinitely” meant it was canceled. For good.

I could reflect on why I felt devastated. As a young child, after acting with a cast of grown-ups in a community-theater production, I had fantasies of stardom that I managed to suppress later in life. My current agenda is hoping I make enough money to feel secure and even to have some fun or travel to warm places in the winter, like many people I know. I suppose being recognized on the street would become tiresome.

So now it’s back to obscurity. To short films directed by students in film schools. To roles without lines in feature films.

Not that I’m complaining. I did one last week in a film starring a prominent TV actor and a woman who is famous for her comedy performances. I had a brief, wordless scene with the leading lady—the comedian—in which I smiled at her, and I think the smile is the turning point of the film, since it affects her so deeply that she straightens out her life. We shot the scene in a hotel, since that was where the scene took place in the novel that the movie is based on.

If my scene is that important, it won’t be edited out of the final version of the film. Producers may notice my performance and start calling.

I got $50 for doing the scene, which more than covered the cost of gasoline for driving to the hotel.

 

 

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5 comments

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed
    browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and
    I hope you write again soon!

  2. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off. . . And realize that you have a positive impact on others (thru your contributions to ASK and our community in general). Keep on plugging. K.J. @McIntyreKJ on Twitter

    1. I present this as fiction because it isn’t all true. But thank you for the very nice words!

  3. Enjoyed this a lot. Don’t like commenting on your blog site. This is easier. Greetings from Krakow, which we absolutely LOVE. Best city of the 3 so far. And no doubt better than Warsaw where we head on Monday. cheers, paula

    Paula Silbey 845-389-7678

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Ed Curtis · · Reply

    Hello again Lew,

    You are a fine writer and I sense that “Devastation” concisely expresses how you feel about the way you are currently spending your time, even though you say it is not totally true. I have similar feelings about my artistic efforts, believing that I create worthwhile product while secretly longing for satisfying recognition. In my case, I have a history of getting things done as a highly technical entrepreneur for hire and am aware that I could promote my work and probably make it some kind of a commercial success. But at this stage of my career, I want my music and art to speak for itself and my voice is not loud enough. And I’m not interested in yelling.

    In your case, you have been creating a body of small works of high quality that are being experienced by others. I have viewed several of your video appearances and have been touched by your performances. I hope that you derive a lot of satisfaction from what you are doing and admire the way you are getting it out there.

    One of my non-engineering pursuits is digital art, based on photography. I was attracted to it because I could never draw well enough to rival a photograph. So I use a camera to compose and then use Photoshop to introduce my artistic sensibilities. If you are interested, I put up about 100 samples of my work a couple of years ago (I stopped because it was not free after 100 postings). You can find the portfolio at https://www.fotoblur.com/people/ejcinc.

    I will continue following your web tracks and hope to hear from you when you find time.

    Best regards,

    Ed Curtis
    EJCinc@aol.com

    PS — Were the opening lyrics to your 1959 musical, “Welcome to Boston, the home of the Cod, where streets are all crooked and As are all broad,” ??

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