A satirical short about struggling actors in Los Angeles, shot in mock documentary style, L.A. Phant follows an elephant-man-like, wannabe actor’s attempt to get his foot (clubbed as it may be) in the door.
As we are told from a brief interview with friends, John Merrick (Glenn Swan) came to L.A. from London to pursue an acting career. John’s not you’re typical neophyte actor, in fact there’s nothing all that typical about him, he resembles the elephant man, complete with burlap sack over his head, black cape, disfigured hand and club foot. I know it doesn’t sound funny but John’s optimism about making it along with the absurdity of his circumstance pulls it off. As John puts it “I’m a natural entertainer, it’s coursing through my veins.” Perhaps the best and most telling segment of this film is the acting class sequence. Here acting coach Heidi Weneke-Lopez (Andrea Beutner) is the perfect parody of the exploitive swami. Her coaching style consists of students yelling, “I hate you,” at each other and crawling around pretending to be angered cats. When a student hugs her out of appreciation, Heidi is more concerned with examining the student’s check than accepting any gratitude. Of John she says, “he just needs to keep taking classes.”
John finally lands an interview at a talent agency, meeting with agent Ben Pankin (Gene Woland), another dead-on portrayal. Here we get to see John’s head shot, and learn he’s certainly not disfigured (at least as the photo shows). Pankin ask John to remove the hood, but we aren’t allowed to see anything as the shot is set up to hide his face. Pankin chastises John for lying to him. Here it comes, right? No, his eye color was wrong on the resume. John is eventually turned away from the agency because they already have someone like him, good one. But he retains his trademark optimism saying, ” . . . eventually you get enough gold dust on the scales and eventually the scales begin to tip and soon enough ,they’ll lean to your favor.” At the end we learn John crashed an audition for an orange soda commercial landing the part. Gold dust, orange soda, it’s all the same in Hollywood.
So what’s this all about? People either look at John as some freak or as just another struggling actor. Typically those who see him as a prospect are those getting money out of him for trying to get in. On another level, well, there’s the absurdity of a guy hiding his face, possibly for no good reason, and trying to make it in an image driven industry. Do I get it? Damned if I know, but what matters is it works either way.