After a 4 year break, I’ve returned to Los Angeles for a week to film a television commercial. I have the same impassioned view of the place as I did before I left. LA is not a neutral city for impressions, either you love it or hate it. I fall into the latter group, viewing this place with the morbid curiosity of a car crash. It’s an unpleasant, but stirring sight. (Coincidentally, I’ve seen plenty of aggressive and nonsensical street traffic and almost been in three car crashes in two days.) This sprawling city projects itself into the world at any mass-media opportunity. By that quality alone, it’s forced both itself and Entertainment into importance. Plus, there is a lot of pavement. I don’t know where all of the stone comes from to pave entire valleys, but there must be some extremely wealthy concrete barons down here.

View south to somewhere from Sunset Blvd. The white tent in the foreground is part of a television shoot that was happening in the parking lot. All the trees you see are deceiving, as it doesn’t feel like there are any trees.

It is a stacked battle against nature.

After arriving on Tuesday, we drove to a casting agency in a nondescript strip mall in Studio City. It’s described by one of the directors as an “actors village” since it contains a cell phone store, a gym, massage parlor, salon, sushi bar, and casting. The agency is a utilitarian and run down office with a narrow and desperate hallway with wood paneled walls. The hall accesses two curtained casting rooms with recording equipment and nasty patterned couches. All functional acting-purposed furniture is tied together with wear and tear, outdated colors, and body oil. Upon entering the door, I was standing among all of the callback actors. Thirty or more unnaturally attractive youth were crammed onto a few light blue wooden benches. It felt like the Hollywood version of a Holocaust train yard. The beauties all looked at me with curiosity. I was obviously not one of them as all of the guys where buff and wearing athletic clothes. Once the agent greeted me with an overfriendly handshake and pleasantries, everyone in the room knew I was somehow responsible for hiring them. This felt empowering and embarrassing in equal parts.

The next four hours involved sitting on a couch and watching 20 or more shirtless guys repeat the same script, then 10 girl/guy couple read a second script. It was a tedious and repetitive process, but novel. This is obviously the un-glamorous part of acting. And much like most jobs, or even life, it involves a lot of sitting and waiting.

Eventually decisions came down to a few casting sheets.

This prop towel contains the collective oil of at least 50 shirtless men.

I’m staying a hotel in the thick of it, off Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. The hotel is not particularly fancy feeling, but everything related to it is so expensive. Granted, I don’t have to pay, but my frugal self is wondering why it is sleeping on Egyptian cotton and drinking Voss water.

September 6th, 2006. Categories / Los Angeles

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