All good questions. I'm kind of curious about the answers myself.
Well, to the first question, I can give some sort of answer. I was not, as it turns out, just a background extra, seen only in a crowd scene. There was a big party scene that I was in, but I was also in two other scenes, one of which may end up being the very first scene in the commercial.
As for whether I had a speaking part, though, all I can say is, uh, maybe? I'd said before that they'd decided to make the commercial without dialogue. Now...I'm not so sure. They did have us say some lines. On the other hand they did some takes without sound and were speaking directions while filming. It could be, therefore, that the commercial's still going to be silent, but that they had us speak just so we'd look like we were talking, even if our voices aren't actually going to be heard. On the other other hand, though, they did have boom mikes, and they were quite insistent about everyone nearby being quiet during filming, neither of which seems would be necessary if they didn't plan on using the sound. (Plus, that many shots of people talking without any audible dialogue might seem weird.) So maybe they're using dialogue after all. So...I may or may not have a speaking part, in that I did speak on camera but I don't know if my voice is actually going to be heard in the finished commercial.
With regards to when and where the commercial will be shown, again, there are contradictory indications. Well, not so much with regards to the when; I heard that the commercial would be delivered to the client five weeks after the shoot. How much time passes between delivery to the client and the commercial's actual airing, I don't know, but in any case it seems it's going to be at least five weeks before the commercial is shown. As for the "where", we were told that it's going to be shown on the web, that eBay is making a series of short films to show on the internet. However...one of the other cast members, a veteran actor who's worked on some major movies (and who came in for this job despite the low pay just out of his respect for the casting company), said that one of the crew members had told him that it was in fact going to be airing on national TV. The size of the crew, and the involvement, according to the call sheet, of the Creative Artists Agency, seemed to him to supply further evidence toward this conclusion. His opinion was that the claim about the web commercials was just a cover story, to allow them to get away with paying as little as they were--since for a nationwide commercial they'd be expected to pay SAG rates. (If so, it seems to me it's rather a silly and short-sighted cover story, since once the commercial does air, you'd think people are going to notice...)
"What do you think about all this?" he asked me at one point, near the end of the shooting day. I replied that I was new to all this--that this was my first commercial job--and that I didn't really know the industry well enough to have an informed opinion. (He then said to me that, since I'd been cast in this commercial by a very influential and respected casting company, this might lead to big things. We'll see.)
What I actually think about all that, though, is that probably either he had misunderstood what the crew member he spoke to had said, or, more likely, his informant was mistaken. Aside from the aforementioned transparency of such a ruse as he supposes was perpetrated, there's also the fact that what they were filming seems rather too long for a standard TV spot--reasonable for a short film on the web, sure, but not for a television commercial. Still, while I may think his suspicions implausible, he certainly knows a heck of a lot more about the industry than I do, so I don't suppose I can discount them completely. (I suppose it's possible, for instance--though I still don't consider it probable--, that in addition to the web version, a much shorter version will air on TV. If that happens, though, I have no idea how much of my part would make the cut.)
Anyway, here are some things I've learned about the acting profession: (Some of these are, in fact, things I'd already heard, but now have confirmed through personal experience.)
- While on the job, actors are not called "actors". They are called "talent". This seems to me to be at least mildly insulting to the cameramen, the sound technicians, and all the other crew members present, who surely are not without some sort of talent themselves, but what do I know?
- Actors (excuse me, "talent") eat(s) well. No, seriously. There was a lot of food available, in great variety. The variety, alas, played upon my weaknesses. I've always been fond of trying out new things and varying my experiences--I seldom if ever order the same thing twice in a row when going to the same restaurant. (Which made it frustrating, when I was growing up, that my mother had the tendency to try to divine everyone's favorite food and then give them as much of that as possible. I ended up deluged with salmon and with cream of asparagus soup--both of which, sure, I liked, but neither of which I wanted to eat every day.) So with so many different foods present, I felt compelled to try out a little bit of just about everything. Bottom line: I ate way too much yesterday. (However, there was still tons of food left over--including, at breakfast, four cereal boxes that went completely unopened--, so I certainly didn't feel like I was eating more than my share.)
- Acting can be hot work. This was most apparent in the aforementioned party scene. With all the multiple takes, standing around in an enclosed room under lights, I was sweating fairly profusely by the end of it. Of course, the fact that my costume included a black leather jacket worn over a black t-shirt no doubt didn't help in this regard.
- Acting consists mostly of sitting around and waiting. I'd been there for five hours before I was in any shots. And while, granted, there was some preparatory business to be taken care of before shooting--costuming, make-up (not extensive as in theater; just some powder to reduce glare from lights)--there certainly wasn't five hours' worth. And many of the others had to wait even longer before they were used in any shots; one woman was to appear, if I gather correctly, in only a single shot by herself at the very end of the commercial, but had to wait around with the rest of us for about eight hours before they finally shot her scene. (Then again, she was dismissed immediately after that, so she didn't have to stay around as long as the others.)
One of the actors decided to take advantage of the wait to slip out to an audition for a part in another commercial, apparently gambling he could be done and back before he was needed for a shot in this one. His gamble didn't pay off; he was AWOL when it came time to shoot the big party scene, which he was supposed to be in. When he did finally show up again and was confronted by the crew, he made the excuse that he'd just had to move his car. He was berated a bit and told that he should have let someone know before he left, but they did still end up using him in a later scene. (That is, a scene that was shot later, though it actually comes earlier in the commercial.)
- Okay, this doesn't really have directly to do with acting, but: there is a reason I don't wear jeans. I find them extremely uncomfortable. And I have learned that I still find them just as uncomfortable now as I did years ago when I last wore them.
So...that was it for my first commercial acting job. But to see the results...I guess you're going to have to wait at least five weeks.