Thursday, May 21, 2009

Slavery is not dead in's called "Audience Participation" now

Ah, it is the best of is the worst of times. Actually, it's just the worst of times. Not having worked for six months now since returning from NYC, I have vowed to take whatever opportunities that come along in an effort to create "new activity" and shake up the stagnant "energy" as we say in the newspeak of the language of "the Universe". So, I took my script writing, movie producing ass to Apple One and submitted myself humbly to their tests and agreed to take whatever temp positions came my way. That was over a month ago. I also cross registered myself with every branch in a 50 mile radius only to find that most of them are fighting over the same jobs that are out there. And finally, finally after several false alarms - "We are submitting your resume, along with 10 other applicants, to the client" - for a temp job mind you! Finally, I got a bite. My rep from the Woodland Hills branch called me, breathless last Friday "Marion, I have found you a job in ENTERTAINMENT!"

Wait for it...the gig was to be a PAID audience member of a new game show. The televised version of the apparently wildly popular 20Q - a computer and internet version of 20 Questions. I'm not going to go into the details of the game. You can google or wiki it and find out all about it if you're not already in the know. The only thing that was attractive to me about it...besides the $8 hr pay...was that Cat Deeley is the host. She of "So You Think You Can Dance" fame.

So here's the scoop. Cat Deeley was awesome. She is exactly as warm and personable in person as she appears on SYTYCD. AND she's super sharp, professional and has the patience of a saint. I say this because the production quality of this show was sub-par. Granted, any new show - especially with computer and technical elements, is going to have it's glitches but it took them 12 hours to shoot ONE 1/2 show.

Here's where the slavery part comes in. They loaded us into the lot first - after going through metal detectors and having our bags searched. Then we were ordered to sit on rows of benches and told not to move. Once we were herded into the studio and placed, the warm up guy...and I use the term loosely...put us through our paces. They wanted high energy, enthusiasm, wild applause, loud laughter, hootin' and hollerin'. And they wanted it over and over and over and over again. We were offered no water, no food - aside from some bite sized left over Halloween candy - and were refused bathroom breaks for 5 hours at a time.

The show itself seems awkward and slow compared to the on line or hand held version. Cat Deeley is it's only redeeming quality. Time and time again, she put up with failed teleprompters - which she didn't need because she knew all of her patter by heart. She knew where the cameras were supposed to be, which lighting cues were off...I mean she could have been running the entire show on her own. She never lost her temper, she stood in impossibly high stilettos for hours - all with a smile and kind words for the audience. I'm not sure, but I think the "contestants" might have been getting paid as well - but I can't swear to it. And they were a lame lot...except for the guy who won the final game. A British pastry chef named John who seemed more jazzed about his proximity to Cat than the $20 Grand he won. The final minutes of his play ALMOST made the day worth it. Almost.

I have never been more glad to be released from something than I was Monday night. And I don't care what the universe says...that's activity I can do without. Humbling? Yes. As I sat there surrounded by this audience (mostly background actors, some poor out of work regular folk) who do this regularly, I renewed my resolve to make sure they will always be treated as human beings on any show I'm working on. I will also make sure not to hire anybody that was working on this thing. Except for Cat Deeley, if I ever get the chance. She deserves better. She deserves Ryan Seacrest's career. And I have no doubt she'll get it. But for now, we can all look forward to watching her weave her magic on SYTYCD beginning tonight! Yay!

Finally, I leave you with this to ponder...Working as a truck stop hooker is preferable to paid audience participation...Word!

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