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That weird echo . . . the awkward pauses . . . the confusion as you try to figure out who's talking and whether they're talking to you . . . the suspicion that, as you pour heart and soul into the phone-box, someone on the other end is probably making a funny face. Really, what better way to audition for a job than a conference call? But the conference call audition is a fact of life for commercials directors, and as competition has stiffened, its importance has heightened. With agencies now trying to choose from so many candidates, "a ridiculous amount of weight is placed on the conference call," says Jon Kamen of @Radical Media.

Is this any way to choose a director? As director Bryan Buckley points out, the audition process "doesn't indicate who can shoot better, but who can BS better." Kamen, too, objects to "all of this ridiculous phony enthusiasm that's expected on the call." But the real bad news for directors these days is that the conference call may be just the beginning. The auditioning process "used to be one conference call," says Chelsea Pictures' Steve Wax. "But now it's multiple calls, and then directors are expected to prepare full treatments and maybe fly in for personal meetings."

What really bothers directors is a new trend in which full written treatments are expected from them after the conference call. "I consider that almost high-schoolish," says Kamen. Bob Giraldi says these written presentations -- explaining, in elaborate detail, the director's vision for the commercial -- are sometimes accompanied "by graphics and maybe even a video."

Kamen says the pitching process has begun to resemble what agencies go through when trying to win an account. But, he notes, "in the agency's case, it's for a whole account -- this is just for one commercial." Or, more likely, for nothing at all. Kamen: "Often the agency has four or five people jumping through these

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