“Do you want to go to a Pepsi commercial audition?”
Like a surprising amount of my blog post beginnings, this one started with a Craigslist ad. It was 10 am when I texted Mike, my go-to buddy when it comes to spontaneous activities such as midnight Dave and Busters runs, margaritas on the ferry to Governor’s Island and now a commercial audition.
“Why would a Pepsi gig be non-union?” he texts back. I sent him the post and it was a little…odd – words were misspelled. RaNdom lEtterS were capitalized. It said the pay for the job, should you book it, was 2,000k. That’s two thousand thousand dollars! Too good to pass up!
We decide to meet downtown anyways mostly because we are artistic procrastinators and this would prove to ourselves that we take action in life as well. Every couple of weeks Mike, whom I met at my UCB 401 class, meet up and discuss projects we are totally going to do like podcasts and web series and live shows.We bounce ideas around, think of names and scripts and laugh until our stomachs hurt. And then he goes back to Brooklyn, I to the Heights and neither one of us follows through on it. Today we were going to do something.
At 3pm I wait outside 630 9th avenue, a building I never noticed before – ‘Film Center Building’ the facade outside announced. Inside was like stepping into The Great Gatsby – gorgeous art deco lines and gold paint.
I decide that maybe we aren’t going to get murdered by showing up for this semi-sketchy casting call – but it reminds me of one of my favorite serial killer stories. I don’t know why I think about this story so often but I do – basically there was this dude, in 70s California who really wanted to murder women but didn’t have the charisma and charm that a lot of psychopaths have. He was very sad about it. So what he did was put out an ad in a newspaper saying he was looking for blonde models to be a part of a photoshoot for a police magazine. Blondes show up and he asks to put them in handcuffs. No problem. Tape over the mouth? Gotcha. Get in this box? Sure thing boss. And then he just like slits their throat! Easy peasy. Now, I’m not a serial killer psychopath and obviously this is a terrible story but I don’t know, something about it just seems like such creative problem solving.
Anyways, Mike finally arrives and we head to the 5th floor, walk down a long hallway and into a tiny room with 15 other people. Immediately I look for a sign-in sheet like we’re in a walk in clinic or something. No dice. It seems that every few minutes a woman with dyed hair comes out and points at 3 or 4 people to come in. There’s a boombox (!) in the corner blaring what seems to be 90s R&B hits. People mouth along to the music and stare at their phones.
“I have an idea for a commercial,” Mike starts to me when we find seats. “It’s like a house that’s burning down, and there’s puppies that are burning. A firefighter drinks a Pepsi and it says ‘Yeah, it’s that good. And the puppies die.”
“That’s pretty bleak and also I’m pretty sure they already have a commercial in mind.”
“Okay, here’s another one but it’s for Sour Patch Kids. You know how it’s like Sour Sweet Gone? So it’s a gummy bear bitching about their ex for 9 minutes – that’s the sour part. And then it just ends.”
“What if I just introduce you as my son and I pretend to be a stage mom. Like, this is my 18 year old son. I’ve never let him leave the attic until today but all he drinks is Pepsi.”
“What if they ask us to drink it and we’re like umm…we’re allergic.”
“Legit the only reason I came today is because I was kind of thirsty.”
Everyone else in the room is quiet while we pass our stupid ideas back and forth. Even though there’s no official line (I hate that), we make our way to the door up front and wait because everyone who was in the room when we got there has already left.
When it’s my turn I open the door to a tiny room and ask if Mike can join me so we can do the audition together. “Sure – whatever,” is the response.
We both walk in and stand next to each other because there’s only one chair. It feels like we’re in the principal’s office. There are two posters on the wall – Spiderman 2 and SALT.
“Uh, Aviva and Mike.”
“Do you guys work?”
I say no because I didn’t understand the question. I thought she meant as an actor. Mike says he’s a music manager even though I was pretty sure he worked at a soap factory.
No and no. The Craigslist ad just said to bring your selves (“no food drinks or freidns (sic)”)
The woman sighs. “Here’s what I want you to do: WITHOUT shouting – I want you to pretend you’re at a Beyonce concert and she’s playing your favorite song – and go!”
Mike and I jump around like idiots, mouthing OH MY GOD and clutching each other. In my mind I’m at a Gavin DeGraw concert because I’m not a huge fan of Queen Bey. I have no idea where Mike thought he was, probably at a pizza shop or any place they serve pizza. After 30 seconds of me waving my hands in the air like a Southern preacher the woman goes “STOP.” She tells us to send her our resumes and headshots and thanks us for coming in. It’s been an hour since we first got there.
I got the feeling we weren’t getting the two thousand thousand dollars.
Mike and I stop in at a diner across the street. The walls have these trippy Times Square scenes that seem to move when you walk past them. We laugh about how annoying we probably were to everyone else in the audition room. We talk about how we’re definitely going to follow through on more projects once the weather stops being so frigid.
The waiter stops by our table and I ask for a Coke Zero.
“Eh no sorry…no Coke,” he answers. “Is Pepsi all right?”
I realize I never got my free Pepsi I was expecting from the audition (do they ever give free beverages at these kinds of commercials? What do I know?). I laugh and tell him that it’s fine.
Mike pays for it because I don’t have any cash so technically I did get my free Pepsi in the end.