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Secret Agent Man

Breaking Down the Science of Acting

Breaking Down the Science of Acting
Photo Source: Robert Wilson

Did any of you attend the summer conference held by the Institute of Thespian Studies? If you missed it, you have to make a point of going next year. It was definitely the place to be and yours truly had the honor of being this year’s keynote speaker.

If you’re not familiar with the organization, the Institute of Thespian Studies has been around since 1986 and it’s made up of scientists, psychologists, and one former agent who spent time in a mental institution.

Thanks to private funding, these brilliant minds spend their days studying the behavior of people like you. That’s right, you! And they’ve had quite a few breakthroughs. Just last year, ITS published undeniable proof that actors are born with a missing gene that prevents them from saying no. That paper is credited with explaining the career of Channing Tatum and other actors who appear to be in every other movie.

This year’s conference was held in a Century City hotel, just minutes from the majestic offices of CAA. In the afternoon, when the wind was blowing just right, you could smell the commissions.

Upon arrival, I was pleased to discover the ITS planning committee had installed face-recognition scanners at all the entry points. This prevented any personal managers from sneaking in. Last year, there was an awkward incident when a drunken manager talked his way inside and started screaming, “I’m just as good as an agent! I’m just as good as an agent!”

It was early, so I decided to take a stroll around the main floor. This is where the action is. There are vendors everywhere, selling and promoting the latest products. The one that caught my eye was a hand-held device that can be used to detect desperation. I liked the inventor’s pitch so I purchased four, one for myself and three for the other agents in my office. It would be a handy gizmo to have around when we’re meeting with potential clients.

An hour later, it was my turn to address the crowd so I hurried up to the banquet hall. The list of speakers was impressive. I was following a medical researcher who had done a fascinating study on the contents of flop sweat.

As I stepped up to the podium, the audience greeted me warmly. My presentation was simple and direct. It was called “The Scarlet Letter.”

Using a PowerPoint presentation my assistant put together during her vacation week, I drew a correlation between actors and their desire for things that begin with the letter “A.” The list included attention, approval, audiences, applause, affirmation, acceptance, and agents.

I’m pleased to say the presentation received thunderous applause, and a few scientists of the female persuasion asked if I would like to discuss my theory later that evening. Score for the 10 percent kid!

On the way out, I bumped into a familiar face. It was another agent. He seemed a little scattered so I asked what was wrong. The poor guy looked at me with twitchy eyes and said, “I feel like my clients are getting crazier! They’re always getting in their own way! Will the madness ever stop?”

I patted him on the back and smiled. “We weren’t drafted, soldier. We signed up for this. So let’s fight the good fight.”

And on that note, I headed off to meet a shapely scientist from Belgium who designed a nonlethal cattle prod agents can use when they’re dropping clients.

What will they think of next?

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