By Barry Dutter
Ask any actress in L.A. if she wants to work with you in a TV show or a movie, and she will always say yes. And then, a few days later, she will say no.
I call that “an L.A. Yes.” Basically, people in Hollywood will agree to anything -- as long as they can back out a few days later.
I come from the East Coast, where if people make plans to do something with you, they actually follow through. In L.A., people are a lot more unreliable. They often make plans just so they can break them later.
If the regular people in L.A. are flakey, the actors are doubly so. I found that out first-hand when I attempted to recruit an actress to appear with me on a TV show called LOVE TRIANGLE. This was a “reality dating” show that involved either a woman choosing between two men, or a man choosing between two women.
Everyone who appeared on the show was to be paid a $200 performance fee. In addition, the chooser and the contestant they chose would win a trip.
The gimmick with this show was that they would use computer simulations to show the chooser what their potential partners would look like in 20 years, plus they would show what all your kids would look like. This seemed like a fun show naturally I wanted to try out for it. The first thing I needed to do was to find two girls to go on the show with me. As luck would have it, I was involved in another project with a handful of other actors. Two of the people I was working with were a pretty blonde named Rachel and a cute brunette named Pam.
I approached both girls, and much to my delight, they agreed to try out for the show with me. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it had been to line up the other two sides of my fake TV love triangle!
I made up a back-story about how I met Pam first, we dated for a few years, but we started to cool off a bit. Then I met Rachel, who was a few years younger than Pam and she got me seriously considering ending my relationship with Pam.
Both girls agreed that the back-story was fine, but Rachel was a little concerned that people she knew might watch the show and think it was real. Pam had just broken up with her boyfriend, and wasn’t sure she wanted to go on national television and potentially get dumped again.
I dismissed their concerns by reminding them that this was a daytime TV show that no one would ever see. I’ve done tons of daytime TV shows, and I know that when you are on a cable network that no one watches, it’s almost like the show never aired at all.
I sent in pics of Rachel, Pam, and myself, along with our bogus back-story. The casting department liked us and called each of us individually for a phone interview. They asked Rachel if she had done any reality shows in the past year. She said she had. They told her, “Sorry, but we’re looking for fresh faces. We can’t use you on this show.”
Rachel had forgotten the first rule of auditioning for reality shows. Whenever a casting agent asks you if you if you’ve ever done a dating show before, the correct answer is always an unequivocal, “No!” Reality shows like to keep up the illusion that their shows are legit, so they prefer not to hire actors who have been on a bunch of similar shows. It might spoil the illusion!
With Rachel out, I now had to find another side to my triangle. I started going through my contact list, seeing if I knew any actresses that were reliable and willing to be on a reality show. One girl I called said she didn’t ever want to be on a reality show, because she thought it would hurt her career as a serious actress. I thought this was a dumb excuse -- I mean, half the shows on TV are reality shows, and many of them use actors, so if you are willing to do reality shows, you can double the amount of work you can get.
But no, her mind was made up. She was convinced that appearing on one episode of a dopey reality show that no one would ever see would somehow derail her career as a serious actress.
I asked another actress I knew, and she said she couldn’t do it because she had just been on an ABC show called DATING IN THE DARK. I knew she had been on that show, but again, I don’t see why she couldn’t lie and say she hadn't done any dating shows. I mean, I can guarantee that the producers of LOVE TRIANGLE have never seen her episode of DATING IN THE DARK! People who work in TV do not have the time to actually watch TV!
I was still trying to find a girl to replace Rachel when the other shoe dropped and Pam said she was dropping out of the show. She said she just wasn't comfortable with it. I wasn’t sure what she was so uncomfortable with. I mean, it was a goofy fake dating show. There would be no kissing or sex or even hand-holding, for that matter. Yes, they would ask her about her sex life with her two lovers, but she could always dance around that and say she was saving herself for marriage.
Now my love triangle only had one side. I started wondering where I was going to find two new girls to be on the show with me. But then I started thinking it didn’t have to be two girls. Contestants on this show could also form a Love Triangle with two guys and a girl.
I happened to be working with another actor at the time. His name was Will. He was a DJ in L.A., and he had previously appeared on MTV’s THE REAL WORLD.
Will was a black man, so I figured it would be a fun episode having a girl choose between a middle-aged white writer and a young black DJ.
I approached Will with the idea and he agreed that it sounded cool. Now all we need was to find a girl. At the moment I was asking Will, Pam happened to be wandering by.
She heard Will and I plotting to get on the show, and she was instantly back in.
What had changed her mind? Simple. I my original scenario, I would be the guy choosing between her and a younger girl. In this new scenario, she would be the one doing the choosing. Even though it was a fake show and she wouldn’t actually be dating any of us, somehow, this made all the difference. She had to be the one who was the Decider.
I sent photos of Will, Pam and myself in to the casting department. They loved us and wanted to bring us in for individual interviews. We were told to pretend that our “love triangle” was real, to never break character, even in the audition.
It was essential that when the producers of the show viewed our audition tapes, that they believed we were in a real love triangle.
Luckily for us, they bought it, even if we didn’t get our story perfectly straight. (No matter how well you prepare a made-up story, they will always throw you questions you haven‘t thought of. I n my case, they asked how long I had been dating Pam. I said “Two years.” Then they asked if I had ever met her parents. I fumbled and said, “No.” Then they asked why not. I really didn’t have a good answer for them, so I said it just hadn’thappened yet. I know, it was a weak answer, but I didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions about two people I had never met.
The casting associates forgave the holes in my story. They still loved us and were eager to book the three of us on the show. They sent each of us a questionnaire to fill out -- the standard questionnaire they send to every contestant.
Now, I’ve been on a few dating shows and I’ve filled out a few questionnaires in my day, but never one like this. With most shows, the questionnaire has a few dozen questions, maybe 50 tops.
The one for LOVE TRIANGLE had 250. That’s right -- a whopping 250 questions you had to answer if you wanted to be on the show. Here’s a sample question they gave us: “Tell us about your last three relationships and why they didn’t work out.” That was just one question! There were 249 more after that!
I had to admit, filling out a 250-question questionnaire was a little intimidating. I didn’t know when I would have time to tackle that monstrosity.
Shortly after that, I caught a cold. Nothing serious, but I needed a few nights of resting at home. So it came to pass that I found myself home on a Friday night with nothing to do. I figured I might as well take a crack at it that questionnaire. It took about two hours, but I did complete that bastard.
But I couldn’t send it in just yet. I had to check with my partners in crime, and make sure we all had our stories straight. It wouldn’t do for us to go on national television and tell inconsistent stories about when we met and who knew about who and when they knew it.
I sent an email to Pam and asked her to get back to me about our story. She responded with an email saying she was dropping out of the show again.
Her reason this time? She felt that for the amount of money involved, filling out a 250-question questionnaire wasn’t worth it.
My attitude was that for the two hours it took to fill out the questionnaire, and the maybe 5 or 6 hours it would take to tape the show, $200 was not that bad.
Besides, it wasn’t like Pam had to tell the truth in the questionnaire. She could have made up all her answers, and no one would ever have known the difference. I mean, the whole show was fake, why tell the truth on the questionnaire? It wasn’t like she had to reveal intimate detail s about her real life.
I tried changing Pam’s mind, but there was nothing I could say that would persuade her. $200 was not enough money, and that was her final answer.
Most actresses in Hollywood will drop out of any low-budget project if given the chance. Pam had now dropped out of the same project twice!
In a lame attempt to save face, Pam contacted the producers of LOVE TRIANGLE and told them she had a “scheduling conflict” and had to back out of the show. The casting department had fallen in love with Pam and they were reluctant to let her go. They contacted me and asked what was really going on.
I explained to them that it was all about the money. The casting lady I spoke to told me that if money really was the issue, then we should hang in there, because she was going to approach the producers and ask for more money for all the contestants.
That sounded like good news to me, so I dropped a note to Pam letting her know that there might be a better offer in our future. Pam did not reply, so I started thinking about how we could replace her, just in case that bigger money offer never came through.
I contacted Will and told him that we had lost Pam. He told me he was still willing to do the show, if we could find another girl. I figured that as a DJ, Will would have access to lots of girls that he could ask. He even asked his own girlfriend, but she gave him that same line about not wanting to appear in “reality shows” that we had heard from several other actresses.
A few weeks went by, and my quest to find a new girl continued. Then I got a call from the casting lady from LOVE TRIANGLE. She had great news for me -- they had raised the “performance fee” for the show to $500 per person.
This was awesome news! If the money had really been her only issue, as Pam had said it was, then surely $500 would be enough to get her to fill out the damn questionnaire. (At this point, I was even willing to fill it out for her!)
The casting lady did say she had called Pam but Pam had not picked up her phone. It seems Pam was playing “the difficult actress.”
I was asked, “Do you think you can call Pam and convince her to do the show for $500?” I promised I would try, but I didn’t think I would have any more success than the casting lady had had.
I called Pam, and, as expected, I got her voice mail. I left a message, reminding her that she had said the money was her only objection to appearing on the show. Now she was being offered two and a half times the original amount.
Pam never returned my call. I called the casting lady and let her know that Pam was not responding. The casting lady just didn’t get it. She couldn’t understand why Pam would try out for a show and then back out.
I didn’t really have any explanation for her, other than the fact that Pam was “a typical LA girl.” The thing that bugged me the most was that Pam had not only cost herself $500, but in the middle of the worst recession the country had ever known, she had just cost Will and I $500 each as well. (Not to mention a free vacation for one of us!)
I never did hear from Pam again. But I wasn’t going to let the loss of one actress discourage me. I had filled out that brutal questionnaire, after all, and I didn’t want all my hard work to go to waste.
I figured a good way to find an actress would be by placing an ad on Craigs List. I posted an ad with the headline, “Looking for the Girl Next Door.” I found out that when you post an ad like that on Craigs List, you get a lot of spam from prostitutes who don’t actually bother to read your ad. I had a lot of offers for “dates” from hookers, but none of them were looking to be on a TV reality show!
There were a few girls who sent me pics, but I was having a hard time figuring out which ones were the whores and which ones were the real actresses. (There is probably a joke in there somewhere but I'm too classy to make it!)
But then one day I saw an ad on Craigs List from a girl named Amber. Her ad said she was looking for two guys to be on LOVE TRIANGLE with her. Apparently she had tried out for the show and the producers had told her she could be on it if she could just find two guys to do it with. This was perfect! It’s like it was meant to be.
I wrote to Amber and suggested a partnership. She wrote back and said she would be happy to do the show with Will and I. At last we had found a girl who actually wanted to be on the show -- a girl who might not flake out!
Amber sent me her pic, and I forwarded to the casting lady, explaining that Amber was our replacement for Pam.
I never heard back from the casting lady. About a month later, LOVE TRIANGLE went into production, without me, Will and Amber.
I think it was a combination of us finding Amber a little too late, and the casting people being so in love with Pam, they just couldn’t picture Will and I with any other girl.
I don’t know how they were able to tape a dating show in L.A. without me in it, but somehow they found a way.
I was disappointed, mostly because this show was paying five times as much as most reality shows.
My experience with LOVE TRIANGLE taught me that if someone backs out of a project once, they will most definitely back out again.
The lesson I learned is that there is nothing more certain -- and uncertain -- than an "L.A. Yes."