(Video: “Natural Gravity” by Legs Media)
I see an ad on craigslist for a catalog shoot. “VERY HIGH END!!! $800/day!!!! MANY CONNECTIONS TO FASHION INDUSTRY!!! NO EXPERIENCE NEC.!!!”
I call and speak to an older woman who is talking like a black-and-white movie and talking too fast: “Have you met with Madison? We’ve GOT to get you into see Madison! Do you know Madison? Have you seen her work? Madison would GAG over a face like yours!”
I meet her in a janky office building in Midtown. There is nothing on the walls and nothing on her desk but my pictures and a phone. She tells me the catalog shoot has already taken place, but she’d love to start sending me out on auditions and I’ll need some new headshots and can I pay her right now? She picks up her phone and starts talking before she’s pressed any buttons.
“Madison? I’ve got a face for you! You’ve GOT to see this boy’s face!”
I call in sick to work and go to an audition for an insurance commercial. They send me sides with a long, emotional monologue about giving my parents some peace of mind in an unstable world. I memorize it. I go to a Starbucks and repeat it in the bathroom mirror with people knocking on the door.
I get to the studio and there are four classmates of mine from acting school. None of us talk to each other. I close my eyes and mouth the monologue to myself, over and over, until my name is called.
Five people are sitting behind a table and no one looks up. A camera is pointed at me and everyone looks at my face on a TV screen six feet to my left.
“Alright, Steve, say your name into the camera. Now, smile for us. Big smile. Now, laugh. A little more. Alright, great. You’re all set. Thanks for stopping by.”
I see an ad on craigslist. “Must be comfortable with nudity. Dance background a plus. $100 for the day.” I meet a woman in a photo studio. She asks me to stand up and take off all my clothes. I’m standing in front of her naked and she asks me to sway my arms in slow-motion like they’re tentacles of a jellyfish. I get the part.
I come back the next week to a bigger studio. There is an Olympic-sized trampoline and a stunt coordinator and expensive cameras and massive lights. I strip nude and climb a ladder and swan dive and backflip and do whatever else they tell me from the top of the ladder onto the trampoline. I start jumping higher than I was told but I don’t care. I’m dripping with sweat and my balls are getting crushed underneath me and fabric of the trampoline is leaving waffle welts all over my hips and back.
Someone hands me a robe and we’re done. They bring in another girl in a bathrobe and she starts jumping. I give the assistant an address where she can send my check and get dressed.
I am back on the street and it all seems too simple. People walk by as though nothing has just happened. I am twenty minutes late for a shift at my restaurant but I don’t care. I look up to the studio from the street and feel an urge to go back upstairs, like maybe I’ve left something behind. I start walking toward my restaurant and I know I can’t stay in New York much longer.