A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Casting Call

Today I accompanied an actor friend to a casting call in Boston. The gig was a commercial for Fentora (fentanyl buccal tablet), a recently FDA-approved opioid from Cephalon, Inc. designed to manage breakthrough pain in cancer patients. The medication is administered by placing the tablet directly into the buccal cavity (the space between the upper cheek and gum), where it effervesces and is rapidly absorbed into the buccal mucosa.

My friend was happy to have me along, and I was happy to be there. She had company on the trip, and help navigating the Back Bay. With a purse, wardrobe bag, and other paraphernalia to haul from her car to the casting company offices, she was grateful for an extra pair of hands to carry a bulky satchel. Having forgotten her reading glasses, she needed someone to sign in for her. For my part, I was just extremely curious about the whole process. Between signing her in, helping to organize her stuff, and giving her pep talks, I soaked in as many details as I could about the place, the people, and the process.

Besides my friend's part, there were roles for her husband, a pharmacist, a baby-carriage-pushing customer, and a group of friends watching a sports event on TV. She and the other actors had headshots taken. Then they were briefed on the story line, and told to ad-lib their parts. They all disappeared into a back room and ran through the commercial twice. Since her role involved placing the tablet in her mouth, one of the agency photographers took close-ups of her mouth and hands. I waited in the reception area meanwhile. In less than half an hour, they were done.

Payment for a part like this is around a thousand dollars. If the commercial is picked up and shown frequently, the actor can get residuals amounting to much more. But an actor's overhead is high. If you want to be considered, you have to be ready to show up at a moment's notice. That precludes having a decent steady job. You have to live in a pricey metropolitan area, or spend the time and money to get to one at inconvenient hours when public transportation may not be running. You have to have headshots and resumes made up, and distribute them freely. If you're eligible and join the Screen Actor's Guild and want to pull in the higher union wages, you have to pay thousands of dollars in dues. You have to go to countless auditions and callbacks with little chance of making the final cut. And if you want parts in gigs like commercials for buccal tablets, you have to think about spa treatments, cosmetic surgery, and having all your teeth capped.



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