Just Act Natural

I am on camera. There is a film crew standing around me. They are all wearing surgical masks. This is my first day out of quarantine, and we are shooting a screen test for a commercial. Each member of the crew is holding important equipment like cameras, light reflectors, enormous microphones, boom stands, chocolate glazed donuts, etc.

The first thing they tell you when you’re on TV is that you have to “act naturally.” No matter what kinds of off-the-wall things a director tells you to do, no matter what kinds of skimpy clothes they make you wear, acting naturally is key.

But otherwise, when you’re on a video shoot, basically all you do is say the same line all day until the words are floating in your subconscious and you aren’t sure how to say them anymore. The sentences get jumbled in your mind and start coming out wrong.

For example, there are 39,021 wrong ways to say these 6 words: “Call for a free quote today!”

DIRECTOR: Aaannnddd… Action!”

ME: Call quotes for today!

DIRECTOR: [bad word].

Also, the director is always giving explicit instructions for my facial movements. “Gimme that wide SMILE!” “No not THAT smile! The other smile! Show me all your teeth!” “Raise your eyebrows!” “We’re selling insurance, not caskets!”

In a lot of ways, being on TV is like being in the third-grade musical from hell. You know how at school performances parents are always frantically whispering from their seats in the audience, reminding their children to smile, stand up straight, and quit digging in their underpants? Well, it’s the same way on camera, only the person reminding me not to dig in my pants is a man in a safari shirt who deeply respects Sidney Pollack.

“Don’t walk so stiff!” says the director. “And try to sorta swoop your head when you say, ‘auto insurance.’ Is that food on your shirt? For crying out loud, CUT!”

But hey, this is all just part of being an actor. It goes with the territory.

Until today, my most major dramatic role was in a middle school musical. I was the lead character. In the second act—this is true—I completely forgot my lines. Not just some of my lines, all my lines.

Since I was the main character, the show could not go on. The whole middle-school play was essentially over. They brought the house lights up, and the parents had to go home. The auditorium emptied and I could hear my aunt cussing at my uncle for laughing.

Anyway, today nobody’s laughing because I’m a true pro. On the set, for instance, there are many high-tech electronics that cost more than the International Space Station, and I haven’t tried to chew any of them.

Like the little flying drone camera that captures shots while flying in the air. It looks like a miniature assault helicopter with a camera lens mounted on the front.

The drone follows me wherever I go. Its propellers are so sharp they could turn a watermelon into pink-colored humidity. If the man operating the drone’s remote control wanted to kill me, he could simply fly the drone into my neck, and the last thought to ever go through my head would be about incredible savings on auto insurance.

When you’re on camera, you’ll also overhear the crew constantly analyzing each tiny thing about you, it’s part of their job. You hear things about yourself that you’d never expect to hear.

“Why is he hunching his shoulders?” “What’s up with his hair?” “Hey, what if we get him to take his clothes off and ride naked on a tire swing?”

My wife is in the background trying to remind me to stay calm and relaxed. But I can tell, deep down, she is excited about this camera crew business. Right now she is filming the whole thing with her cell phone camera.

Behind her is my mother-in-law, who is also watching, since we are filming in her backyard. Each new pair of eyes adds a little bit of added pressure, so that whenever I give a smile, I look like I’ve just escaped from a penal institution.

“Act natural, Sean!”

Perhaps the most difficult thing to do when you’re being filmed is to walk naturally. Directors love to see you walk. This really gets them going. They wake up in the mornings thinking about all the classic Hollywood walking styles out there.

The problem is, I am not widely known for my walking. So the director has to keep reminding me to loosen up. But this is very hard for me because I come from evangelical people with a long history of constipation.

“What’s wrong with him?” a crew member says.

“Act natural!”

“Loosen up!”

“Is that how you walk?”

“SMILE!”

So here I am, trying my best to walk without having seizures, mid-stride, while carrying a prop guitar over my shoulder, wearing “hair product” and listening for the director’s instructions such as: “NO! NO! DON’T LOOK AT THE DRONE, FOR GOD’S SAKE!” Not even when the drone is flying with its propellers a few inches from my jugular.

Another thing about being on camera is that between shots, people on the set are always adjusting your clothing and talking about you like you’re not there.

“His jacket is all screwed up.”

“It’s not his jacket, he just has lopsided shoulders.”

“What’s up with that hair? Did he sleep underneath a rug last night?”

“Okay, Sean, let’s take it from the top one more time. Ready? Aaannnddd… Action!”

Call free today for quote a. I need a beer.

17 comments

  1. Sandi. - May 13, 2020 7:19 am

    Hi Sean, I’m wondering which insurance company you’re shooting that commercial for … please at least give us a hint. Maybe I’ll switch over my policy, and then tell them it’s because I like the guy in their TV commercial.

    Reply
  2. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - May 13, 2020 10:20 am

    You do deserve a beer, naturally. So do I.

    Reply
  3. Lita - May 13, 2020 11:50 am

    So the company saw you, heard you, chose you – then they proceeded to change you. How odd. Have a beer. Have a Bud, bud.

    Reply
  4. Melanie - May 13, 2020 12:12 pm

    Whatever you’re selling I’m buying.

    Reply
  5. Jenny Young - May 13, 2020 12:38 pm

    Hilarious! I hope you’ll share a link to the finished product.

    Reply
  6. Laurie Ulrich - May 13, 2020 12:44 pm

    I’m so sorry we’ll never see this commercial~

    Reply
  7. Christine Washburn - May 13, 2020 12:52 pm

    Hahahaha, that’s so very funnnyyy.🤣😂🤣😂

    Reply
  8. Jennifer Lynn Sekella - May 13, 2020 1:25 pm

    Oh my God – thank you so much for the laugh. Really needed it today.

    Reply
  9. Susan A. Royal - May 13, 2020 1:32 pm

    Hilarious. You have a way with words.

    Reply
  10. Jim Porter - May 13, 2020 2:49 pm

    I laughed so hard I was crying!😏

    Reply
  11. Berryman Mary M - May 13, 2020 2:55 pm

    I understand you plight, Sean! I am so unnatural on camera – still or video. I guess its because my mother always told me I was not photogenic! My sister-in-law is a complete natural and makes it looks so easy and she always looks fantastic in still photos or videos. I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. Have a good day, Sean, and I beer. I hope I get to see your commercial.

    Reply
  12. Anthony - May 13, 2020 3:21 pm

    To Lita…Sounds just like marriage!

    Reply
  13. Relyn - May 13, 2020 3:50 pm

    I laughed until I woke my sleeping teenage daughter.

    Reply
  14. Linda Moon - May 13, 2020 4:24 pm

    Big Star, you were on camera! I was in a LIVE PBS TV production in the 5th grade….LIVE….so, if you dug into your pants it was already there on camera, being watched by dozens (mostly our parents) as it happened! You made it for your closeup, Mr. Dietrich (sans the body floating in the pool)! I’m looking forward to seeing your on-screen debut. Where can we fans and followers buy tickets or watch for free? I’m missing your actual LIVE events, so this’ll just have to do for now……

    Reply
  15. John Pritchett - May 14, 2020 1:00 am

    Sean, someone should have told you that when that camera focuses on your face, it sucks your brain right out of your head!

    Reply
  16. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - May 14, 2020 2:43 am

    So…
    The last chapter of “Circle”. Ya think he stumbled upon your recent fame & it became his mission to track you down?
    I certainly suspect he knows you better than you know him. Always the possibility that he’s not human. Sent by God both times?
    And another thing. Lately when I hit “post comment”, about half the time it just clears me out. Deletes everything like I was never there. Hmmm…

    Reply
  17. Christina - May 14, 2020 4:47 am

    Sean, you continue to astonish me with your humor! Can’t wait to see the ad

    Reply

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