Sunday, 19 August 2007

Advertising Space

At some point in an actor's life they will be confronted with various advertising interfaces with which they may choose to engage. Between voiceovers, commercials, product placement or ad campaigns it is hard to avoid making economic, moral and career decisions about whom, what and where to sell. At drama school the choices seem easy; sell your soul for brief financial reward and repent in obscurity while your wiser classmates achieve theatrical acclaim. Later, the lines get blurred. "It will only show in Southern Europe", "It's a 20 grand buyout, 2 day shoot" can sound like "No-one will ever see it, it's a lot of money for old rope, it doesn't count". After all, Hollywood movie stars advertise in Japan. Next thing you know, you're on the commercial audition circuit, holding up bits of paper with a number on for a Polaroid and pretending you're skiing in a tube made out of light.

A Small Film About Advertising Casting (Warning Adult Content)

In my teenage years, I was a model. I sold a lot of stuff. I did a commercial for Boots No 7 with a fantastic photographer called John Swannell and a disastrous one for Revlon where my hair was taped to a board to look like it was flowing. Then I was advised that models could never really be actors and I stopped modelling and painted window frames while I looked for acting work. I found it, so maybe the advisers were right, but it was hard giving up the financial security. I didn't miss the auditions though. In New York once, I went up for a scent campaign and they wanted a jazz dancer. My ballet training was no preparation for the excruciating 10 minutes of top hat and cane miming that I stumbled through in a sweaty studio in Manhattan before an incredulous casting director. "That's great!" She said, as I tried to catch my breath. "Only we're really looking for a dancer who can model rather than a model who can...model." I got my coat.


  1. You know, pretending you're skiing in a tube made out of light sounds kinda fun, even if not intellectually or artistically stimulating..

    Oh and what I would pay to see your jazz dancing.. Did you have to do jazz hands as well? Fortunately, I have no money and you have your standards so you won't have to dust off your top hat and cane just yet :o)

    Hope you're enjoying what is left of the 'Summer'?

    Little O

  2. Sophie, the lines between show business and show art, selling and selling out seem forever blurred. For everyone involved in the arts the temptation to accept the lowest common denominator, for various reasons, looms large. But now, after working in the theatre and before the camera for a long while, what has you accepting certain projects? Most recently, 'Cuckoo's Nest' as opposed to another project which may have come to you around the same time?
    I hope all is going well.

  3. You see, Little One, that is the right attitude! It should be fun and yet I find it somehow isn't. I think it goes back to the audition thing in general. But I will bear your words in mind next time.
This year, summer has to be a bit of a state of mind too, doesn't it? Still, an improvement on the 'Summer of Jazz Hands'.
Jan, it is true that the lines are very blurred. I try to balance the work I feel strongly about with the work that will pay bills, sometimes they coincide. There is also the issue of being a working mother and trying not to be away from home for long periods. Although my children are older now, it seems just as much of an issue as ever, perhaps because I am aware of the limited time left of their teenage years and also because what they need is different, less predictable.
'Cuckoo's Nest' was an easy decision; a great part with a good producer and director for a short tour. It is often the part itself that really wins out if there is a clash of offers. But, that doesn't happen very often. Usually, work flows at a steady pace and I try not to panic when I am just at home and enjoy family life. The other factor for accepting work might be the element of danger. Producing the play in New York last summer was a leap in the dark but I loved it.
And how do you choose your projects?

  4. You produced a show in NYC last summer and I missed it? Shucks.

    I feel as I get older, the more time I spend with my daughter(she's 14) before she leaves the nest is more important than the money I make.

    Anyway, what percentage of your auditions do you actually got the role? And what's up next for you?


  5. I can also see how pretending that you're skiing in a tube made out of light could be not so much fun... Like the audition process, I suspect that the enjoyment of doing adverts greatly relies on the good humour and natures of all those involved in the process. In my time working in the theatre, I have encountered many friendly, inspiring people but also quite a few who have been the complete opposite, and those usually at auditions.

    And you're sure right about summer being a state of mind this year. I wish everyone thought like that. Then I wouldn't get such strange looks flip-flopping my way around the shops when in fact it is piddling it down...

    I expect it must be hard not selling out when you have artistic values and preferences but you seem to be doing pretty well, if I may so myself :o)

  6. Hi, Dan. Yes, the play was part of the 'Brits Off Broadway' festival at E59th Street Theatre. I recommend the festival for curiosity value, and the theatre has three spaces so you can go along and choose a show according to your frame of mind that night. Our website for the production is but the festival won't be back until next May. The rest of the year, I believe the theatre has more conventional fare, but for those two months, some rare and eccentric gems from all over Britain are thrown up.
    I am back at school at the moment studying on a Graduate writing programme at UCE.
    Thanks for your comments, Little One, only I am sure we are all in the same position, trying to balance work and life, and all things in between. And all better done in flip-flops!

  7. Sophie,
    Thanks for asking. I used to come at projects from, 'Will this sell?' 'Will it fill the theatre?' 'Has this been written many times over?' But now that I've grown a wee bit--ah hem--older, I choose projects from the POV of 'Will this writing better things?' If not, then even if I'm a hundred pages into something, out it goes.
    When working in collaboration, I hope for a director who listens and doesn't have three other shows going at the same time, wonderful actors! and a producer who will actually stay in the office. But mostly, I have real desire to work with those whose opinions differ from my own because, truthfully, I already know what I think. And it can be exciting when someone points out an aspect of character or scene I hadn't considered before.
    I wish you all the best with your graduate writing studies. You are very brave. As you are facing the blank page pay heed to the still small urge crying out, 'Here's my chance. . .'

  8. Sophie,

    Well, I hope you come out next May to perform again in the 'Brits on Broadway' festival.

    You're the second person this week that mentioned that they have gone back to school to continue their education. Kudos to you!

    Enjoy the weekend

  9. I bow to working mothers. Their lives continually amaze me. How they work their artistic miracles often times without the benefit of sleep is beyond me. Of anyone, they understand the essence of time.

  10. Hello, Sophie.

    I was curious if you ever met Gia Carangi during your modeling career.


  11. For crying out loud! Do you remember ever having crossed paths with Gia or not? Sheesh.

  12. I don't believe I ever met Gia.

  13. Hello Sophie,

    I remember the No 7 advert you did for Boots and I loved it. What happened to the video? I can't view it.


  14. Thank you, Yen. It seems the link has expired though. I'll see if I can find it from somewhere.