Atticus began a new adventure this past July.
How did it begin? A friend at church told me her daughter was auditioning for commercials and that I should get Atticus involved. She provided the information of the talent agency they use. I told her I would ask Atticus if he was interested, but I didn’t think he would be. I was wrong. He not only was interested, he was very excited at the prospect of it all.
I contacted the agency and scheduled an interview. During the interview, Atticus sat quietly by as the agent questioned me and told me about her business. She ended by telling me that she really just needed to see how Atticus handled himself while others were talking and if he could be patient and take direction. He was having a good day that morning and passed her test.
At the end of the interview, I informed the agent that Atticus is autistic, but I didn’t think that should hold him back. I like to give him all the experiences he can have because I think it will only make him stronger as he grows. She thanked me for telling her and said she didn’t think that would be an issue and praised his composure.
Since then, Atticus has auditioned for a handful of commercials. The first step in the audition process is quite simple – I get the call to see if he’s interested in the job, then we schedule an audition time (usually next day), he shows up at the agency, goes into a tiny room, says his lines to a video camera, then we leave. The entire process takes about ten minutes or less. Nothing has turned into an actual job yet.
Last Friday, he auditioned for another commercial. He showed up at the agency and auditioned with three other actors. The four of them are to be the family in the commercial – mother, father, son, and daughter. When the audition was over, we went on our way and never gave it a second thought.
On Monday I received a message that the casting director wanted to see Atticus for a “call back.” This was exciting news for him because he’s never received a call back. When I explained the call back process to Atticus, he described it like the “judge cuts” on America’s Got Talent. If you know how AGT works, you’ll understand Atticus’ logic here:
First Audition = First Audition
Call Back = Judge Cuts
Get the job = Golden Buzzer
Wednesday was the day of the call back, and we had to travel to a different city, so it ended up being an all-day affair.
We arrived forty-five minutes prior to his scheduled time. The lobby was partially filled with actors of all ages awaiting their turn. I saw two other boys Atticus’ age and several adults who would be playing the mother and father.
Since this was Atticus’ first call back, we had no idea what to do or how things worked, but it was obvious it would be much different than the auditions he was used to. I spotted the casting table and we quickly approached. We signed in, were given a form to complete, then we waited for his turn.
As we waited, I saw two different groups enter and leave the audition room. I didn’t know what was behind that door, but I knew I didn’t want Atticus to go in there without me. I asked the lady at the casting table if I would be able to accompany him inside, and she said that was fine.
Meanwhile, Atticus zoned in on the man and woman who he would be auditioning with. Once captured, the man sat at Atticus’ table and proceeded to watch Atticus draw floor plans and discuss his ideas for his future mansion and guest house. The poor guy was very sweet and patient with the kid.
Finally the call was made – “Atticus, Ian, Jeanne, Ava.” The four made their way into the room, and Atticus’ dad and I quickly followed behind.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was nothing like I thought it would be – nothing like the local agency. There was an area in the front of the room that was professionally and brightly lit, a screen that the actors would stand in front of, with a camera pointed at it. In the back of the room, tables were lined up from one side to the other, with seven men sitting at them, preparing to watch the monitors in front of them. We tried to squeeze ourselves into a corner behind the men without being noticed, but one of them, who turned out to be the director, turned and looked at us and said with a British accent, “Oh, this must be Atticus’ parents.” I smiled and nodded my head. I couldn’t tell whether or not he wanted us there.
Atticus didn’t appear to be nervous at all. He stood up there beside all the actors smiling, following direction, and looking as though he belonged.
The woman behind the camera lined the actors up to slate them. They each had to say their name and the agency they are with, while the camera zoomed in for a close-up. Once that task was over, the woman directed the mother and father to stay in front of the camera to say their lines, while Atticus and the “sister” were told to stay off camera to say their lines.
This particular scene, with the mom and dad in front of the camera, was shot six times. In between one of the takes, Atticus raised his hand. The camera lady asked him if he had a question. No, of course he didn’t have a question. He just wanted to tell them what the end of the script said after the father finished his lines. The director told Atticus they would do that scene later. FYI – that scene does not include Atticus, it’s the narrator’s part, so I’m not sure why Atticus felt the need to bring it up.
The subject matter of this commercial is a little heavy, but every time the dad delivered the last line in the scene, Atticus let out a goofy laugh. I don’t even know how to describe the laugh, but it’s not supposed to be funny, and he’s not supposed to laugh. The first time he did it, all the men in the back of the room chuckled, but they were not chuckling after the third time. I was helpless to stop Atticus. If only he would have looked at me, maybe, just maybe I could have motioned to STOP IT!! But, he didn’t look at me. Not even once.
When it was the children’s turn they moved the parents off camera and sat Atticus and Ava in chairs. Atticus was instructed to pretend like he was watching television and to look up at “dad” when he begins to speak. Could Atticus just take direction? No. He decided he needed to tell everyone what he was going to pretend to watch. So he began to tell them that he would pretend he’s watching NASCAR and he’s going to be rooting for Kyle Busch to win the race. I was afraid to look around the room to see their reaction. I did hear the director say to the man next to him, “What’s NASCAR?” After a brief pause he added, “Just kidding.”
So the camera begins to roll and Atticus pretends to watch a race on television and is pumping his fists, jerking his head around slightly, and smiling ear to ear. To his credit, when the dad began to speak, Atticus stopped cheering for Kyle Busch, looked at dad, and delivered his lines.
The director then gave Atticus instruction not to move around anymore – just sit back, relax. You’re just enjoying a show on the television. Atticus did as instructed, and after take number two, the director ended the audition. Uh-oh…
As we were walking out of the room, Atticus turned, waved to all the guys in the back of the room, and said “Thanks! Have a good day!” And with that, the call back was complete.
Atticus was thrilled to have the opportunity, and is so hopeful that he will get the part. Aside from the obvious no-no’s, he did a wonderful job listening to instructions and delivering his lines. I told him that even if he doesn’t get the part, it was great experience and a blessing to be called back. It’s a totally different world than doing a quick audition at the agency, and he will be better prepared next time. He’s very optimistic though, but I think he understands it’s a tough business and he may not get the job, but that doesn’t stop him from hoping for the golden buzzer.