by Casting Director, Laurie Records
The theatrical world differs in many ways from the commercial world. Things move at a slower pace. There seems to be a willingness to venture outside desired specs, if any were even specified. Subtlety in wardrobe is respected; encouraged, even. Thinking outside the box may just be… cool. In commercials, the shoot is tomorrow (or yesterday) or sometime incredibly soon. There’s no room for creativity with the specs. When a role is for an Asian female, mid thirties… you can’t go East Indian on a whim. If casting a chef, you are at a disadvantage when there’s no chef coat to wear. In commercials, the person walking in the room should be precisely what the director/client is looking for, in that moment.
Commercial actors should never forget that there is no time for imagination in commercials
I know at times I sound like a broken record… look like your headshots! Wardrobe is important! Blah, blah, blah. I believe that you, the actor, are much more likely to take these strong suggestions seriously, if you know why it’s so important. Today I’ll give you a few more reasons to add to the list. There are MANY.
Look like your headshot. Are you the type of person who likes to change up your look? Do you go from blonde to strawberry blonde to brunette on a whim? Do you go from short hair to longer hair at any given time? Have you decided to grow a beard for kicks? When the casting director doesn’t know this, it’s a problem. You really should have a headshot reflecting how you will walk in the room. Worst case, a simple note saying FULL BEARD, SHOULDER LENGTH HAIR, and CREW CUT… works. But walking into the room saying that you are willing to shave or dye your hair doesn’t really. The director, the agency, and the client want to see the perfect person for their commercial, NOW. They don’t want to imagine. They don’t even want to take the additional step to peruse your profile to see additional shots of you with no beard or with a different color hair. Most likely they will question the casting director’s discretion for calling in the wrong type. The commercial world is in the here and now. Stop thinking that it’s just as good to say that you are willing to conform to the ideal (in your slate), as it is to be their ideal already. It’s not. Logically, this makes sense. There is no time (nor will, frankly) for imagination in commercials.
Wardrobe. At times it seems that some commercial actors fight wardrobe instructions. I’m not sure why. You don’t want to be the actor whose feedback is about their wardrobe instead of their performance. There have been plenty of occasions that I hear about the poor wardrobe decision the actor made and they don’t get a callback. Of course this makes me crazy because I want to say, “they are a terrific actor! They are perfect for this role! Just call them back and I’ll make sure they come in appropriate wardrobe.” But I rarely get the chance. It’s crazy but it happens all the time. Do everything you can to be in the perfect wardrobe. Don’t give the decision makers an immediate reason to nix you… because it was inconvenient to follow the wardrobe instructions. I’d even take it a step further and suggest you invest in a few really good wardrobe options for the roles you get called in for all the time. If you are an upscale looker, you must have a few upscale options. If you are a service industry type, make sure you have some well fitting, flattering khakis and a polo. BUY the wardrobe you need. You are investing in your business. And don’t get lazy and decide to wear the same outfit from the last audition you just came from. Plenty of successful actors have perfected the art of changing in their backseat. Surely you can too. When you aren’t in the right wardrobe, you aren’t right for the role. There is no time for imagination in commercials.
Both wardrobe and changes in look (no matter how temporary)… can change your type. A very handsome upper middle class man can become a rugged, blue-collar guy with the addition of a beard. Even though *I* know you can go back to handsome clean-shaven guy in 10-15 minutes, my clients don’t. I know what you look like clean-shaven, because you came in last month… because all of your headshots show you clean-shaven. But all my clients see is an inappropriate actor for the role… and I wouldn’t have called you in had I known. I know that the actor being put on tape for a role must be perfect for the role in that moment. And you should, too.
Of course there are exceptions. Surely you have heard stories (or experienced it yourself) of someone being asked to dye their hair for a role, get a haircut or shave their beard. It happens. But do you want to count on an exception being made for you to book a commercial? Trust me. You don’t. Just be the perfect choice from the get-go.