Was He Eating a Sandwich?

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

Awkward moments in the audition room...

I was always prepared. Growing up the youngest child of a military family and later, just because my mother loved to travel, we moved constantly. Being ready on a moment’s notice came as easily as breathing. So after college in New York City, at the age of 25, I became an instant sensation with casting directors who had little time to find talent for a commercial.

On a rainy day in October, after kissing my fiancé goodbye and dropping my 2-year-old son off with a babysitter, I made my way to Milk Studios of lower Manhattan. 

Milk Studios was a casting suite that had an air of coolness difficult to ignore. It was especially difficult for me as I usually went there in borrowed clothes. With my lofty dreams, student loans and a toddler at home, I didn't have a lot to spend on cool clothes. I relied on the kindness of my trendy single friends who would lend me anything if it made me feel confident.

I had been called to Milk countless times for commercial auditions but was never booked. The check-in process was mostly routine. So routine, in fact, the staff barely took notice of me when I walked in the door. I’d usually check in with the casting assistant first, and then head to the bathroom to touch up my makeup and often train-wrecked hair. 

Today was different. Today, I was being called back in for a previous audition.

You see, first auditions can feel like one in a million chance of getting noticed but a call back can be as close to one in two! Callbacks are what separate you from the crowd. Even your talent agency bases your worth on the number of call backs you receive. It’s that influential. Getting a callback also meant that I suddenly had a name at Milk Studios.

When I walked in to find the callback room, I suddenly made eye contact with an actress who eerily looked like me. We even had on the same purple shirt! I knew she was up for the same part. I went towards her and extended my congratulations, to which she cautiously accepted with a silent nod. Then, we were both startled by a loud voice echoing through the halls.

“Amber! Amber! Amber!”

Me and my doppelgänger jumped up to attention as a casting director, casually dressed in Chanel, bounced to us and threw her arms around me. 

“We’ve been waiting for you!” She exclaimed. 

“Uh... You have?” I said, feeling embarrassed because I worried the other actress had not received the same engagement.

“Let’s get you in right away. The director loved your tape and is very excited.”

Before I could tell her that I needed to touch up my hair in the bathroom, she quickly escorted me to a door marked “1”. 

“Just do what you did last time. You’ll be great! They adore you.” She flung open the door and pushed me inside the audition room where 12 people were seated across a sectional sofa. As she made her way to set up the camera, I expected everyone to look at me but they were distracted by freshly delivered sandwiches, sprawled out decoratively on a table between us.

“This is, Amber. Bela. Muse.” She introduced me as if I were an aged wine at a fancy restaurant!

“Who?” The director said in a British accent. 

"Amber. Bela-"

"Oh yeah." He sorted through a pile of headshots sadly wedged underneath the sandwiches. He held my photo around for the other 11 to inspect. "Amber. Bela. Muse. huh what a name. Muse... huh." 

“ahh... yeah...” they all said in unison.

“Ready?” the casting director whispered.

I wanted to run out of the room for some reason but I held my head high and replied, "yup."

As the camera began to role I noticed the director wasn’t looking at me. He was choosing a sandwich from the platter on the table! I tried to get into character but a moment later I heard loud crunchy noises bouncing off the walls. The whole production crew were now eating as I alone stood in borrowed clothes trying to impress them.

I finished the 2 minute scene which involved no dialogue. I was playing a hopeful college student who had finally found the right school. I had to look out into an imaginary window which was marked with blue tape on a wall behind them, happy I had a focal point above their brunch.

After one take the casting director stopped the camera and looked to her left at the director, who appeared to be even more transfixed by his turkey and cheese, not me.

“Good?” She said.

He looked at the other 11 and they nodded in approval. “Good.” He said.

“Ok, thanks Amber.” (“Thanks” in an audition means you are excused.)

Feeling confused and deflated I walked out, avoiding eye contact with the other actress. 

Riding on the L train home, I began to wonder: Had I done what I did before? How many actresses look like me in the world? Was he really eating a sandwich?

I wanted to throw in the towel. I wanted to call my parents and apologize for getting a degree in the dramatic arts. I thought about my fiancé, who was working tirelessly to support us. I was angry that I might have wasted time preparing for a sandwich-loving director, when I should have been a stay home mother caring for my son. I wanted to scream at everyone on the train to reconsider a life as an actor!

As soon as I arrived in Brooklyn, I checked my voicemail and there were three missed calls from my agent. It turns out, "thank you" can also mean thank you! I booked the commercial.

Success in this business is all about perception. Whether you book something or not, it could be a stepping stone to something greater. I could’ve given up, I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. What can appear as a waste of time can become the biggest moment of your career!

What job did you book that surprised you? How have you learned to take care of yourself from past audition experiences? Please comment below!