Do you find yourself shrugging your shoulders as you head off to your commercial audition? Do you hope to find out what’s going on once you get there, with little to go on beforehand? Sometimes precious little information is given to the actor before their arrival at the audition—sometimes being the key word. Often times, I believe actors are uninformed because they have neglected to read the given information carefully, if at all. Other times, there are important clues that may not be so obvious, but are extremely helpful when preparing for a commercial audition. When you get five minutes in the room, you don’t want to spend that time finding out what you should already know.
Commercial actors should never ignore the clues given before an audition.
Clues? Really? If it sounds like I’m suggesting that commercial actors need to be part time detectives, I am. When you find yourself having to do a bit of detective work, instead of being annoyed, take comfort in the fact that you will be one of few who do it. Take the advantages when you can get them!
The first place to look for clues is in the “project information.” This is all the info that was put out on the original breakdown. Now, if you submitted yourself, the breakdown should be well covered territory. Read every ounce of info to know if you should be submitting or not, which includes everything from availability (audition/callback/shoot), to general type (gender, age range, ethnicity and any extra type information, e.g. charactery, beautiful), to requested specific skills (improv, guitar player). But when you receive an audition where you are submitted by your agent, it’s all new and it’s all potentially important. What should you look at specifically? Start with the role name. “Man” or “Woman” gives you zilch. “Dad” or “Mom” as a role name gives you something. You aren’t just any man or woman, you are a parent. Remember commercials deal in stereotypes—ideal stereotypes. Next read the role description. There might be a healthy paragraph written or very little. If you start with the role name “Man,” and the description gives you “a family guy,” then you are still getting somewhere. Bring your warm, dad-like self to the audition, vs. your edgy tough guy. In general, dads aren’t edgy in commercials. If they want you to be an edgy, tough guy Dad, there will surely be some information on that. Lastly, look at the project notes. The casting director may give broad notes for all roles: “subtle comedy people” (find the humor in the script, but don’t get crazy) or “very real looking actors” (don’t come too made up/overly manicured). You may find some acting notes, e.g. “director loves super subtle performances” (no over-the-top acting) or “expert improv folks only” (be ready to add your own comedic finesse to the script). Do you see where I’m going with this clue thing?
The “audition notice” info is the next stuff you’ll want to check out—carefully. These are the things casting directors fill out and attach right before they send out their times. Always look at the wardrobe, not only because the wardrobe is a ridiculously important component of the commercial audition, but because casting directors put other, unrelated but important info there. We do this because we believe you read the wardrobe notes (and maybe not so much with the other notes). Read the wardrobe info and carefully consider anything you find there. You will also want to check for any copy or boards. I always hear actors say they didn’t know there was cop—even though it was attached and noted several times—as their reason for being unprepared. Don’t do this. And, while you are looking over the copy, memorize it. The last thing I’d advise reading carefully is the “audition/callback message”. I believe you can find this at the very tip top of the audition email. I’m consistently surprised by is how many actors don’t read this note. It’s the casting director’s last chance to give you all the important details. If there is any direction to be had ahead of time, it just might be there. You don’t want to skip this.
I believe you have all the info listed above in the body of your audition email. Read every ounce of that email carefully. If you look at the time, date, and location only, you are doing it wrong. If there are any links given in the email, click on them. When you read ALL the information carefully, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of a majority of actors that will be seen with you, unfortunately for me, but very fortunately for you.
What else? You can get some clues from the product itself. Watch current spots! You can walk in the room with a really good guess, at the very least, of what the tone and feel of the commercial might be—certainly when paired with all the other clues you’ve gained from the project info and audition notes. You’ll know better what to wear, what to do with your hair, and whether it will lean toward comedy or lifestyle. There’s a chance the product will be taking a turn in a different direction, but all you’ve lost is a little time if your educated guess is wrong. No big deal, really.
The highly successful commercial actors I know take their audition prep/detective work very seriously. I know this is no coincidence. If you plan to compete, I’d suggest you do likewise . . . not forgetting, of course, to have fun when you are in the room. When you, the actor, has fun in the room, we, the viewers, have fun too. And commercials, for the most part, are fun! Or they should be. Period.
**Want to take a 4-week Commercial Class with Laurie Records? Check it out and sign up now at: www.laurierecordscasting.com.**