Sitting in an office waiting room with waiting men, if one were to walk in this office it would seem like some sort of club for short brown hair, 30-something men with athletic physiques. In this case, we men were waiting for our chance to audition for a Minneapolis TV commercial for a local amusement park called “Valley Fair.” Today the audition details called for a hip, urban Dad. I was none of the above, but my agent thought I fit the bill and should go for it despite the fact that I had been in the acting/commercial world for all less than six months. In fact, this was my first commercial audition–Ever!
I had been taking beginner acting classes at a local regional theater and to up my acting game joined what was called the Performance Studio. This move meant I wanted go from acting as a hobby to an actual craft and possibly become a working actor. The new dream was forming. I wasn’t sure at the time and thought taking it to the next level may help clarify whether this was a legitimate dream or simply delusional. I decided to go for it!
Waiting to be called in for the audition that day I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect other than what I had been told at the on-camera commercial 4-week class I had just completed. Relax. Be yourself. Look into the camera. Trust your instincts. Sounds simple, but it ain’t. For this audition we were not given any lines, that is dialogue to be said during the commercial. We would simply be called in and asked to follow directions. This made it worse as I had been trained to rely on dialogue to help prepare. How do you prepare for the unknown?
Soon to be called, I looked for clues from those exiting the room where the auditions were taking place. Unable to pick up on anything I gave up and waited by meditating and focusing on my breath–It wasn’t working. “Allen Lindskog!” My name, albeit not correct, was called. I wanted to correct her by saying think umlaut over the “o” and say “oo,” that’s how you pronounce my name, Lindskoog. Even fellow Swedes have difficulties and this being my first ever commercial audition best not to set a negative precedent.
Walking into the simple bare walled, curtain-less room with exposed brick, this felt more like a place where they do porn films or at the very least audition for them. Did my agent fail to mention something? I have heard of this kind of thing, but only in Hollywood not Minneapolis. The camera operator/assistant read my name off the notepad she held in her hand. She said my name perfectly. Great no need to correct her. The director sitting at the table basically explained the gist of the 30-second commercial spot which included shots of a family of four, mother, father, daughter and son enjoying a day at Valley Fair. The commercial would culminate with a shot of the Father riding down a big slide. The final shot would be the father coming towards the camera ending with an extreme close-up of the father’s face. What the director wanted was what kind of face would I make if I were sliding and having the time of my life. With no time to prepare, the director said, “Action!” I looked into the camera and made the biggest smiling grin with matching wide eyes as I puffed my cheeks out like a deranged pufferfish. This took all of 10-seconds. The director thanked me and said he would be in touch with my agent. And that was that.
A few weeks passed and I put the commercial out of my mind. Veterans of commercial work all told me it takes many auditions before getting cast and simply chalk it all up to experience. And so I did. I had fun regardless of the outcome. One day while walking from my car to the performance studio for a script analysis class my cell phone rang. Answering it was my agent, “Allen good news! You got cast in the Valley Fair commercial! Congrats, nobody ever lands a commercial on their first audition.” I thanked my agent after she gave me the details about date, time and location. I was ecstatic. My first ever commercial audition and I got it. I got something I told myself.
It was then that the unclear dream of wanting to be a working actor, that is to make a living out of doing it, became clear. Over the course of the next few years while taking classes, getting cast in commercials, low budget films and doing plays as part of the performance studio, I formulated a plan for a move to the Big Apple where many go to follow their dreams.
Check out Dream the previous post if you have not already.