A couple days back I got a phone call from a Chris who said he knew a friend of mine who had given him my contact info so he could talk to me about being involved in an unspecified project. I assumed, due to my friend's activities, that this was about a small locally produced film. Either that, or the guy was a scam artist trying to rope me into a pyramid scheme. Or being a drug courier. Or a fluffer. I agreed to meet him at Panara Bread.
So yesterday I walked into Panara and asked a guy if he was the Chris I was looking for. Nope, but he recognized me from a local film I'd been in. I thought that was an auspicious omen, but omens took a dive because when I found Chris it became immediately apparent that this was the pyramid scheme thing. I actually sat through a whole pyramid scheme pitch once in my young, foolish and unemployed days, and I've learned that if the recruiter won't tell you up front what the nature of the work is, the nature of the work is selling Grit, the family newspaper. Or being a drug courier. Or fluffing. Not that I think I'm too good for any of these jobs, but they're not for me.
So anyway, as soon as I sniffed the nature of his game I decided to use it as an actor's exercise; I'm about as far from the pitchman type as you can get, so it couldn't hurt to observe and learn. The main thing I noticed (beyond his good grooming and well-rehearsed pitch) was that he maintained constant eye contact. I'm the kind of scared little bunny rabbit who's uneasy about looking folks in the eye; I fear that I unnerve people by looking bang at them then instantly flinching away. This guy put me at my ease by looking right at me, not challengingly, just confidently. Sure, he was up to no good, but I felt pretty comfortable with him looking at me. It was the pitch, not the pitchmaking, that annoyed me. I got to remember that: eye contact makes you look confident, not aggressive.
A big part of his pitch was designed to convince me that the mysterious organisation he was representing was "working with" some movers and shakers, but the fact that he met me at Panara bread rather than, y'know, his office, pretty much blows the "we're a big awesome company" facade. There's no shame in having to do business in Panara bread, but don't try to convince me you're already moving and shaking. Anyway, the guy wouldn't tell me what the job was: "That's what you'll learn in the workshop that takes place over the next few weeks." I said it didn't seem like something that needed me. He said, with an undertone of either contempt or frustration, "It's not." Having mutually rejected one another, we shook hands, I grabbed my tea, and I split.
Unflinching eye contact. I'll remember that.