One of the biggest mistakes actors make is not knowing their type, or as often referred to as a brand. Most believe that they are actors and can play many roles. In a majority of theater, this is true because of the distance between the actor and audience. But on-camera, which is more intimate, who you really are and what your look represents is obvious, and character make-up and wardrobe can rarely shield that.
The teachers you choose to train with will be a major influence in the development of your craft, and thus will have a strong impact on your career. But so many actors choose teachers for the wrong reasons. Wither they select one who is less expensive, offering some kind of deal, located close to where they live, recommended by unqualified sources, they know actors in the class, or ONLY because the teacher is or has been a casting director. These are not good reasons for such an important decision. Don’t be one of those reckless actors who wastes money and time going in the wrong direction. Be in control of your career and those you are assembling for your team.
Commercial auditions are challenging for most actors. Audition material or scenarios are at the most 20 seconds, which means you need to be up to speed right away. No time to get into the material. You are only in the audition room, on an average of 5 minutes. Just a few minutes to get comfortable, answer questions, take direction, hopefully get a rehearsal, slate and do one or several takes.
I believe that the following audition pointers that I formulated from personal audition experience, teaching thousands of students and observing actors who have auditioned at my casting sessions, will serve well your auditions for commercials (as well as TV and film):
- As you walk into the audition, don’t think about anything you worked on. Let it all go. Be present to whatever happens.
- Be respectful, positive and professional without losing your personality.
- Give full attention to the person who is directing you: Don’t be distracted by anyone or anything. When you are being given direction, don’t be figuring out how to do what they are saying. Just listen and trust that you got it: otherwise, you might miss input.
- If clarification is needed, ask questions. Questions are only irritating when they are unnecessary. Those running the session won’t think less of you because you request answers. Their input will help you to do a better audition for them.
- While being recorded, if they talk to you or ask questions, don’t second-guess what they want to hear. They probably want to get to know you and see your personality. Just talk to them as opposed to trying to impress.
- If the session director or CD is rude, short-tempered or seems ambivalent, do not take it personally. It may be their nature or they may be dealing with problems or previous actors who tested their patience. Stay pleasant, positive and do your work.
- “Get centered” before starting your audition. Breathe, take one or two seconds before beginning or find your own way to “get centered” but don’t take a self-indulgent period of time to begin. Don’t be influenced by the anxiety or negative energy of those running the session.
- Do not rush your audition. When actors are nervous or “in their head,” many speed up the dialogue or their improvised scenarios. When actors are connected and focused, they don’t rush. On the other hand, don’t speak really slowly or take long pauses between the lines.
- Stay Focused. Whether you are auditioning for one person or a group, reading into a camera or speaking to an actor or a few actors, auditioning with a bad actor or a great one, in a small room or a large theatre, stay focused and don’t allow unexpected incidents to upset you and/ or put you “in your head.” No matter what happens, go with it and adjust quickly.
- Motivate Out.For improvised and scripted on-camera scenes, when possible, find a way to “motivate out” your actions and/or dialogue at least fifty percent of the time to maximize your facial exposure.Most new actors constantly look at their partner(s), which keeps them in profile and they are upstaging themselves. Don’t cheat out. Learn out to “Motivate out.”
- Look into camera. When auditioning with a reader and told to do the dialogue looking into the camera, don’t look back and forth between the two. It makes you look nervous.
- Use the cue cards when needed. Most actors feel they will do better if they memorize the audition dialogue. That is true for many but if for one millisecond you are not sure of it, LOOK AT THE CUE CARD. It is there to help your audition. If you are convinced you know the copy and are stubborn about looking at it then you will go in your head to try to remember and will often loose the flow of your audition.
- During the read, trust and commit to your instincts. Unless given a specific direction, don’t consciously perform anything you rehearsed. Some of the choices that you rehearsed might not feel right in that moment. Don’t interrupt your instinctive interpretation trying to perform them. Allow for your read to flow – you will most likely organically do most of what you rehearsed. When you are connected and “out of your head,” you are open to instinctive moments that are often better than those you planned.
- Ask to do it again. When you feel your solo audition was lacking or if you have another interpretation that you would like to do, politely request, “If you have time, I would like to do it again” or “do another interpretation.” It is not a foul to ask. If they refuse, say “thank you” (mean it) and leave. It’s worth asking.
There is a lot involved in learning to do your best at commercial auditions. And for additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running
Auditions can be tough to come by. You want to do well to have a better chance at booking the job as well as leave a favorable impression so that you will get more auditions with the casting director. Unlike theatrical auditions where you know you will normally be reading a script with a reader or sometimes another actor, there are many types of commercial auditions: dialogue, one-liners, monologue copy, short scenes, longer scenes, two or more person scenes, improvisation, reactions, skills, questions, etc. etc. Some auditions require no preparation. But most require a little and some a lot.
Audition preparation differentiates the professionals from the amateurs. Here is what professionals do:
Get correct information: When you receive an audition call, text or e-mail, note ALL the data. You don’t want to prepare for the wrong role or go to the wrong address.
Confirm appointments: Call, text, e-mail or respond via the casting sites to whoever contacted you to confirm your audition. If you don’t confirm in a timely manner they will assume you are not going and will assign another actor the time that was delegated to you.
Obtain the commercial copy in advance: Before most dialogue commercial auditions, CDs post the copy on submission websites for the auditioning actors. Join these sites so you have access.
Prepare material: material when posted. Ask your representation if there is copy. If there is, arrange to get it. If it’s not up on one of the sites, ask your agent or manager if it can be e-mailed or faxed. If not, get to the audition early. When there is copy, the more time you have with it in a quiet environment, the better your preparation.
Investigate, motivate, find your connection and make choices. Prepare several interpretations. Professionals usually approach theatrical auditions working with a “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why.” Yet many don’t consider using these acting basics for commercials. If they work in every other medium, why would they not be of value for commercials? – especially now when the tone for most of them is underplayed, natural and realistic. Many actors feel that all they have to do is memorize the material to be prepared. Memorization can be helpful but finding your own connection to and interpretation of the role and material, I believe is much more valuable.
I strongly believe that if you prepare with these basic acting tools they will help you to do better auditions.
Select wardrobe: Wardrobe helps define the character for the actor and offers a visual image for “the powers that be.” On the casting breakdown, in the script, or from your representation, ascertain what kind of wardrobe you should wear.
Don’t be on time: – BE EARLY
When you are early you have options. If you arrive at the audition early and there a lots of actors waiting then go ahead, sign in and go prepare. If you get there early and there are just a few actors, look at your script or story board, prepare and relax yourself for a few minutes then sign in on time. You work too hard to get auditions, you never want to feel hassled so you can’t do your best work in the audition room.
I recommend that you leave plenty of time (when possible) to travel to your commercial auditions so that even with traffic, maybe getting lost and finding parking, you can be early.
Walk around while rehearsing at your audition: With dialogue, while you are preparing, walk someplace close by to rehearse in your full voice. When some actors sit and rehearse quietly, it is sometimes tricky to go on-camera and switch to their full voice. Some even speak in an “airy” voice which can be disempowering to their audition. Also, walking around and speaking in your full voice helps maintain a good energy. Be sure to keep an eye on how the session is running so that they don’t have to go looking for you.
Stay focused: While waiting in the lobby, prepare (or if you have already done so) then review your choices and put yourself in a relaxed, positive and confident state of mind. Focusing yourself this way, I believe can really make a difference for most actors. If you see friends at the audition, feel free (if there is time) socialize for and few minutes then go back to relaxing and focusing your energy.
There is a lot involved in preparing for commercial auditions. To learn even more from four of Los Angeles’ top commercial casting directors, go to Master Talent Teachers and watch my FREE video on this subject. And for additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running
Written by: Carolyne Barry
The number of actors submitted for any given commercial depends on the type or role and in what city it is being cast. If the role is that of an early twenties, wholesome, attractive all American college girl casting in Los Angeles there may be thousands of submissions. As opposed to casting a role of a 5 foot tall, mid forties man who speaks fluent Russian and can juggle – there might be a dozen, if lucky.
In minor markets, actors will mail or deliver their pictures and resume to the CD. In the major markets, most commercial jobs and more and more TV and film work are cast utilizing online websites. Basically, the way on-line casting works is:
• actors pay a fee and join the site(s), or their agent(s) or manager supervise the posting of their client’s pictures and resumes
• the casting website company displays the actors’ photos and resumes online
• CDs post their casting breakdowns on the casting website. CASTING BREAKDOWN: CDs posts the descriptions of the roles they are casting (delineated by gender, age and physical type) online for for the agents, managers and/or actors to view.
Normally , in major markets, there will be hundreds if not thousands of actors submitted for most roles. Casting directors often have only hours to prep and set up a casting session. They will go online and scroll through screen upon screen of thumbnail photo submissions. Your pictures have to stand out, say something and look like you. The CD looks at many (not all) of the submissions to choose the actors to bring in for the audition. . I would guesstimate, depending on the role, that 90% of those submitted will not get the audition because on most days a CD sees only around 60 -100 actors per role.
So how do commercial casting directors choose the actors to bring in for their commercial auditions ? Obviously, your main photo should catch their attention. So it is very important to have a current professional photo that captures what you really look like on a good day. It is also important to have a resume that with or without strong credits is presented in a way that is impressive. And having four to six other shots posted that show your various other “looks”.
Since pictures are so very important, obviously you must get the best and the best doesn’t usually mean the most expensive. This takes research. Check out working actors photos which you can find online casting sites or on most photographers websites. Study what it is that makes their pictures “pop” and try to use that information when you shoot and select your headshots.
After pictures, the second most important submission tool for actors is their resume. When industry professionals look at a picture and want to know more about the actor, they view his or her resume. It needs to persuade them to bring the actor in to audition or to hire him/ her for a job. Make sure your resume is not just a list of what you have done. Your credits, training and skills needed to be presented in a way that is professional and impressive (but truthful). You can have a somewhat notable resume’ even with anemic credits when what you have accomplished is presented smartly. In my book HIT THE GROUND RUNNING, I have full chapters on getting great photos and creating impactful resume’s.
There are too many actors who want what you want – to secure auditions and get work. Granted, you are not in competition with every other actor – just the hundreds or thousands who are your age and type. To compete for the auditions, you must have powerful headshots and impressive resumes. Check out my book HIT THE GROUND RUNNING (under products on www.carolynebarry.com) for the information you need on these two subjects and so much more.
A challenge with monologue dialogue commercials auditions is how to truthfully start speaking. With 10, 20 or 25-second copy, there is no time to work into it. You must be connected at the beginning otherwise those viewing your audition may lose interest and fast forward to the next actor. I believe that when you use a “who” and a short pre- life you will get an immediate connection to the dialogue.
Who: The person you have chosen to relate to with the copy. The selected “who” is one you believe that you can connect to best with a particular piece.
Pre-lIfe: the thoughts, feelings and/or action that the actor thinks, feels or does that precede and motivate the scripted dialogue or the physical action.
Both these tools are major acting and audition assets for scenario and scripted commercials as well as theatre, film and television work.
The “who” is primarily important for auditions when you are doing monologue copy to the camera, – not so much when you are auditioning with other actors. You might be thinking how can I speak to someone when there is no one there. Well, what about when you are talking on the phone? There is no one to see but you are totally involved in the conversation. And with practice, you can have that same connection with your “who” when looking into a camera.
I believe that people have a different energy, connection, tone and verbal delivery when talking to the various people in their life. For example I have a different relationship thus a different way I speak to my students than I do to my family or a loved one – also different than when I talk to someone I work for than I do with a funny friend. This is probably true for you.
Understanding this can help when you select the most beneficial “who” to speak to when preparing your audition material. Allow each piece of commercial copy to suggest a meaningful person for you to relate to.
In order to create an honest “pre-life” during your audition prep you must first DETERMINE YOUR “WHO.” Next, decide what that person said to MOTIVATE YOUR FIRST LINE. It is helpful to hear a short question. It is not only thing you can hear but it works best most of time. If you choose to see something, respond to it by having a thought or two. The pre-life happens quickly and should take one or two seconds (no more).
Now that you
Know who you are talking to,
Know what you have heard or seen,
Once you hear the words in your mind
Honestly react to it with a simple, physical, UNREHEARSED reaction.
Allow this reaction to motivate the first line.
The key to an effective pre-life is the simple physical UNREHEARSED reaction during which you might utter a little sound. If it is an honest reaction it will be different every time. When you are preparing, each time that you do a run through, allow for the “pre-life” reaction to be instinctive and different – not the same unless it organically happens. Trust, never question, your instincts while auditioning. Committing to them helps keep you “out of your head.” Don’t be concerned with how you are doing.
Auditioning using a “who” and “pre-life” should result in more callbacks and bookings. It also reinforces the craft, which assists actors in becoming better actors.
To learn how to use “The Pre-Life and “The Who” watch, my FREE video, Master Talent Teachers
If you missed previous craft and audition technique articles and videos you will find them in the archive on my COMMERCIAL page on Master Talent Teachers
You have submitted your photo, resume and a succinct and engaging cover letter to several commercials agents and you have interest from one or more who have set-up meetings, -now what. How do you prepare so you will have a great interview?
Before the meeting, research the agency so you will be able to knowledgably talk to the agents. For the meeting:
• Be on time (even though you will probably have to wait)
• Dress and groom yourself appropriately for who you are and to meet a person(s) who can help with your career
• Bring additional pictures and a reel of your acting work (if you have one)
• Bring a list of your commercial industry contacts (if any)
• Be prepared to read commercial copy (some agents do readings, some don’t)
• Be in an authentically positive mood
• Ask questions that will help you determine if that agency would be the right one for you.
It is important to remember that you will be interviewing the agents as well. So many actors are happy to have the meeting that in an effort to be signed they are often afraid to let their true personality show and are hesitant to ask questions.
During your meeting, agents will be evaluating you to determine if you are a fit for their agency. They will look at many things: physicality, personality, type, essence, age, credits, professionalism, talent (if they have seen you in a class or production, have auditioned you in their office or have viewed your reel) and if they need and/or want your type for their rooster. Bottom line, you are a product to them. This is a subjective business. Each agent will choose clients based on his or her criteria, taste and needs.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE
There are many commercial agents, smaller theatrical agencies and managers who sign actors based primarily on type, a look and/or personality. Talent is not their main focus. Do you want representation that submits just your look or one that represents you and your talent? I suggest that you encourage your potential representation to see you act. If they don’t do auditions and there is no professional work to view, consider shooting some quality video of yourself doing two or three short commercials and/or short scenes. (If you do create your own reel, make sure it is edited together and does not run more than three minutes.)
It is important for whomever you go with to know your work in order to best represent you. If you are anxious to get a “start-up” agent or acting is a hobby, the distinction of them wanting your type as opposed to you and your talent may not be important. If you have choices or can be patient, then signing with someone who appreciates your talent is better for your career. Being an actor whether for theatre, TV and Film or commercials is a business. In order to be a success, you need to train, market, promote and select representation that gets what makes you special, guides you and creates opportunities to book work.
To be prepared, check out my FREE video, MEETING with COMMERCIAL AGENTS at mastertalentteachers.com in which three top Los Angeles Agents talk about what they look for in their meetings with prospective clients.
If you missed the first article in this series covering HOW TO SUBMIT TO AGENTS, you will find it and the accompanying video in the archive on my COMMERCIAL page at mastertalentteachers.com. In my next article, I cover how to create a successful relationship with your agent and thus get the necessary opportunities to audition for and book television commercials. Don’t’ miss it.
In major markets, there are hundreds of agents. Attaining legitimate representation for commercials is usually rather involved so it important to choose the agents you wish to target and research them:
In major markets, there are hundreds of agents. Attaining legitimate representation for commercials is usually rather involved so it important to choose the agents you wish to target and research them:
- In major markets buy updated books that list and describe agents and managers (In Los Angeles, these books are sold at Samuel French and New York at the Drama Book
- Obtain a list of franchised agents from SAG.
- There are agents who are not SAG-franchised. That does not mean they are not reputable. Those who are members are just easier to check out and are accountable to a supervising entity.
- Ask industry pros you know as well as your friends, teachers, relatives, and classmates the following about agents:
– Whom do they recommend or have heard about with great reputations and who should be avoided?
– What is the best way to contact them?
– Is there anyone they know who could help get more information or has an “in”?
- If you belong to a networking group, check with their members and their records.
- Go to the websites of those you are considering and read about the company history and the agents.
- Once you have a short list, check your choices with the Better Business Bureau. Find out if they have had claims filed against them. Read more