by Casting Director, Laurie Records
A multi part series for the not-so-established actor, hoping to improve their career.
When trying to crack the code to commercial casting, an actor has many options to demystify the process:
*Just go to auditions and learn about the commercial casting world on the fly. This isn’t a terrible option if you are fortunate enough to have a sufficient amount of auditions where you can gain knowledge. Talking to your friendly fellow actors while waiting for their audition could be helpful (or annoying if they are trying to concentrate, so use your best judgment).
*Take a class. This is a no brainer and no news to you. Which one? I don’t know! There are great and bad ones out there and you gotta be careful.
*Read a book. A less expensive option and a new commercial actor can gain some basic useful knowledge. There are some things you can learn from a book, so do it…. Some things you can’t, so this needs to be combined with other options.
***Get a job, intern, and hang out at a commercial casting office. Ah Ha! Now we are getting to something interesting….
Commercial actors should never blow off an opportunity to work in a commercial casting office… there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained!
I have heard over and over again, and wholeheartedly agree, that working in a commercial casting office is the best learning opportunity for an actor pursuing that kind of work. I think it is commonly thought that working in a casting office is good, in hopes that the casting director/staff will get to know you and call you in more often. Sure. That’s probably fine and true. But I would venture to say that it isn’t the best part of the deal… it is what you learn from watching other actors audition, listening to the conversations, hearing the feedback, etc. That is where the value is, folks! Being called in more often by the CD is just icing on the cake!
Commercial casting offices may or may not have a permanent core staff (depending on how established and busy the casting director is), but they almost all take on “guns for hire” on the days they are holding casting sessions. Those folks most often work in the lobby (checking actors in, taking Polaroid’s/digitals, follow up with agents with no-show actors, etc.). Some casting directors hire help for the office, to help answer busy phones, make phone calls, manage logs and paperwork. In between performing these duties is a great opportunity to view a few auditions on the ever-present monitors in the office. Another casting job is session directing. Some of the busier casting directors have more than one session going on per day. They can’t be everywhere at once, so they hire a session director to “direct” the session and make sure the auditions are staying on course per the director’s vision. Camera operators often perform both jobs. You can imagine the education one gets when in the studio all day filming/directing actors in their auditions. This job obviously takes specialized training… which would be worth getting for you overachievers or for folks who want to make a nice wage while learning the mysteries of the commercial world.
If you have the opportunity to work in a casting office, take it. The education will be priceless. If you have no connections to “get in” to work in a casting office, make your own. Drive around to each office and express your interest in being an intern or working the lobby/in the office. Drop off your resume (not your acting resume, by the way!) and shake some hands. Follow up with a phone call or an occasional email. Inevitably, casting offices need new people to work, especially last minute. So be ready. If the likelihood is good that you will need to leave during the day for an audition, make sure and be up front with that info. It usually isn’t a problem, but no one likes surprises. At the very least, your face is in front of some folks in a casting office when you drop off your resume. You could make a few extra bucks, you could become better known by the casting director and called in for more auditions, and most importantly, you will gain priceless knowledge of the commercial casting world that will only serve you better in your own audition experiences.