by Casting Director, Laurie Records
A multi-part series for the not-so-established actor hoping to improve their career.
Your first couple of commercial auditions with substantial casting directors are exciting and potentially a little nerve-wracking.
Ideally, you want no one to be the wiser that you haven’t been to a SAG commercial audition before. There are telltale signs that an actor is green, which you might want to avoid. And as a rule, the less annoying you can be to the casting staff by avoiding rookie mistakes, the better. And before all you veterans stop reading… there are some tidbits that you seem to be missing as well.
Commercial actors should never walk into a studio with an audition appointment, and not know the basics of the commercial audition process.
Let me break it down to the simple nitty-gritty:
1. Upon entering the studio, look for a monitor or sign which lists the jobs for the day and the studio number in which they are taking place.COMMERCIAL VETERANS, YOU ARE GUILTY OF SKIPPING OR MISSING THIS STEP! Most commercial casting facilities have multiple jobs going on in a day. Many studios/stages are in use. There is always a sign that will direct you which studio to report. Look for the sign.
It’s the first thing to do. Don’t report to the wrong studio. Don’t ask random people where to go. Look first. I promise you it is there and it will keep you from wandering, asking inappropriate people, and wasting time… and most importantly looking like you don’t know what you are doing.
2. Sign in. There is always some sort of sign-in sheet. When the commercial is a SAG job, there will be a form called an exhibit E.
Some casting directors use an exhibit E when the job is non-union… because it is easy, and it’s what they are used to. Some have their own, less formal sign in sheets for non-union jobs. No matter how big or small the job is, there is a place to sign in, and you should upon arrival. It is the way the casting staff knows you are present.
An exhibit E has a spot for: Your name. Always use your “stage name”/name on your LA Casting account.
Social Security Number/membership number: NEVER write your Social Security Number down (who knows why the form still has it… it’s just out of date) and membership number is your SAG number. If you aren’t SAG leave it blank.
Agent: If you have one, fill it in. If not, don’t.
Actual call: Your assigned audition time.
Time in: When you actually arrived.
Time out: When you leave.
Interview number: If this is the first time you have been called in on the job, circle 1st, if it is a callback, circle 2nd, if you have been called for an additional callback, circle 3rd.
There are spots to check off sex, age, and ethnicity. Ethnicity means: your background, decent. Are you Asian, African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, etc…? It is curious to me the number of actors who don’t know what this word means, and how to fill it out on an exhibit E. Now you know! If you still don’t know what box to check, ask a friend (or agent) before you attend an audition.
3. Read and listen. There will be information pertaining to the job as a whole, as well as specific audition instructions posted. There will likely be boards posted (drawings of what happens in the commercial), as well as any dialogue, also called sides. So, before asking questions, read and listen. Commercial auditions are fast-paced, and the casting team has to get a lot of actors in and out in a day. The assistant doesn’t have time to individually address unnecessary questions. That’s why info is posted for actors to read.
Think of it as an FAQ answer sheet. Look for written instructions/information. It is there. Listen for verbal instructions as well. If it is important… you will hear the assistant reiterating information verbally.
4. Ask questions. Please note this is #4 on the list. It should always come after the previous steps. Don’t jump the gun on this one.
But, if necessary, ASK! You aren’t forbidden to speak or ask a question at an audition… but unlike what you were taught in elementary school, there IS such a thing as a stupid question. Example: asking a question when the answer is posted on the wall. You can avoid showing how green you are to the process (or lazy as is the case with the veterans in the group) by completing steps 1-3 before asking anything.
5. Wait to be called into the room. Be attentive in the lobby. Don’t disappear or drift into la la land and miss your name being called. Some assistants will repeatedly call/shout your name, until you pop up… and some will just move on. Then, “ta-da!” do your thing! If you need instruction from here… it’s a different time and a different article.
If you novices out there follow these simple steps, you will fool them all into believing you know the commercial audition process like the back of your hand… which will increase the casting team’s confidence in you, and in turn will boost your own confidence.