Does anything seem unusual in this screen grab from a commercial for a popular pizza chain? When I saw it on TV this morning, I immediately noticed a detail that struck me as completely illogical. Then, I realized this one detail beautifully supports the need for actors to be able to improv and take direction in auditions and on set.
I’ll point out the detail in a moment, in case you haven’t spotted it yet. First, let’s consider the story here. A customer came into the store to get pizza after a frustrating experience trying to order it online, presumably from another chain. We first see him with his hand through one laptop screen. When the employee behind the counter hands him the hot-and-fresh box of pizza, he lifts his left hand up to reveal it’s through a second laptop screen. The joke is nicely delivered, but the pesky detail remains.
Let’s move back on the timeline. Imagine this customer at home ordering pizza online. He’s seated somewhere, maybe on the couch, with a laptop in front of him. He struggles to get the order done and in a fit of anger, he punches the laptop. Since the laptop is facing him, his hand would go through the screen and out the back, not the other way as we see in the commercial. Make sense?
Here’s the thing. The visual part of the story is far more interesting if we see what he’s done to the screens than looking at any damage to the back of the laptop. So the creative choice was made by the writer or someone at the agency or the director to have his hands through the screen the way we see it. Sure, it isn’t logical but it clearly makes the point and supports the story being told.
As an actor, it’s our job to support the story even when a detail like this one doesn’t make sense to us. That means being open to redirection during the audition, the callback, and the shoot. At some point during the process, that one detail could change and no matter how much effort and time we invested in the previous version, we need to let all that go and make the necessary adjustments.
Those adjustments could be an addition of a prop you didn’t work with before, a change in the prop being used, or the elimination of a prop in the scene. I did a shoot recently with a billy club in hand that wasn’t the one I first hand at rehearsal. I had to quickly adjust to the different feel of it in my hand due to a different weight and slightly different texture. These all seem like minor details to non-actors but we realize how we develop relationships with the props we get to use on camera.
As for the pizza spot, I’d like to think this particular commercial had the laptop direction reversed when the initial concept was developed. Maybe the storyboard even shows them the other way. Then, on set, the director made a brilliant call to alter the direction and it sent the prop department into a tizzy to change the prop laptops.
Now who’s hungry for pizza?