For over 15 years I’ve worked as a producer and for over 10 of those years I’ve also worked as an actor. Seeing the audition and casting process from both in front and behind the camera has been eye opening and often startling.
The fact is, regardless of your experience or level, commercials are our bread and butter. We all know that the acting skill required for commercials often comes down to your ability to keep your energy levels up after 12 hours on set, in the cold, repeating the same thing over and over… Don’t get me wrong, there are some that require great skill and creativity, but generally these are few and far in between. Commercials are not Shakespeare. But, they have their place and should not be sniffed at. Why? Money, I hear you shout! Yes and very important, but also exposure and more importantly, connections and relationships. Many huge casting professionals and TV/Film directors start in commercials – many even continue to do commercials throughout their career.
The reason why my experience has been eye opening and often startling, is because so many take commercials for granted and approach them with little care or respect.
So here’s a little reminder, along with 3 key insights on how to be get and maintain success in your commercial casting.
Even if there’s no script to learn, read all the info that is available to you beforehand (your agent should be sending you the spotlight breakdown to read). Quite often casting directors will write notes, sometimes just words, that can give you an indication of what they’re expecting and looking for. Often they’ll include notes from the director too. These are crucial.
The more you know about what the job actually is, the better placed you’ll be to understand what’s needed in the casting. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen people turn up to castings and not even know the name of the company or brand that they’re there for…
Think About It
Once you’ve read all the info think about how you can approach the scene and character. Even if it’s 5 minutes – often that might be all that’s needed. Have you experienced that scenario before and what can you use and bring to the character/scene? Is there anything you don’t understand or that is unusual that you need to do a bit of research into or think about in more detail? Is there something different that you can bring? Should your delivery be subtle or dramatised?
If you wing it and wait to be instructed once in the room, you might only get one take and blow your opportunity. Give yourself the best possible chance.
It fascinating as an actor to watch actors come into the audition room and go through the process. Watching the tapes back is pretty enlightening too i can tell you! One of the things that constantly baffles me is the amount of actors that come in either with no energy and enthusiasm, or an energy that is negative or way off what the brand / scene / character is.
You can lose the job literally in that moment that you say your name and agent to camera.
Your energy is a huge part of how you communicate. Be mindful of your energy levels. Make sure you’re focused, alert and engaged with the situation and people. Say your name and agent confidently, positively, and clearly down the lens. Please.
I do wonder if this often due to nerves, because they can close you down and make you numb. Think about how you’re coming across and ensure this is not effecting you and how you’re being perceived. You are being chosen to represent a product.
Usually the people making the final decision for commercials will be the client, so marketing professionals at the company (because they’re paying), and they’re looking at you in a different way to a director or producer. They’re not usually experts in acting… their primary concern is, is this the right person to represent our product. So your energy, how you look and how you come across are vital… sometimes above your acting skills! Commercials are very different to TV, film and theatre.
I know what it’s like, you’re rushing to a casting in your lunch break, maybe had a fight with your partner last night and are still reeling, were delayed on the tube, Pret gave you cows milk in your coffee instead of soy… and this is another casting with no lines that probably doesn’t even need any acting ability, and, and, and …
Remember this – you’ve been selected out of probably hundreds of people to be there. Someone is paying for the casting space to see you perform. That casting director is getting job after job and they’ve chosen you for this one – what might they choose you for next? Each one is an opportunity. Keep the bigger picture in mind.
Regardless of what’s going on around you at the time, have that reality check with yourself whenever you need to. Ensure that you keep a professional, respectful and positive attitude. Don’t let it slip.
Non of us are perfect. We all have our off days. I’ve made some cringe worthy blunders and probably still will! Just do the best that you can, don’t give yourself a hard time when you have an off day, and think PEA (Preparation, Energy, Attitude)!
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, make sure that you’re enjoying the process. What’s the point otherwise? Do what you love.
Do it for you and do it your way.