The casting process is an often misunderstood and mysterious process. Actors try endless things to make their best impression but it is often overlooked because honestly, they’re just trying too hard. A great majority of actors are kiss-asses. They walk in a room with the biggest smile they are capable of and then serenade the casting director with polite mindless conversation in hopes of wooing them in their favor. It’s not about that. It’s about the work, plain and simple. It’s about you.Commercial and television/film auditions are entirely different beasts. In a theatrical audition you have a script, you’re a character. Most of the time you’ve had at least a night to prepare for your role. You walk in and know what to expect. That can never be said of commercial auditions. You never know what they might ask you to do. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t be prepared. You can. And you should. Commercials pay far too well not to be.
So you get the call from your agent or manager. You have an audition tomorrow at 4:00 pm at the Casting Studios on La Brea in Los Angeles. It’s for Tide Detergent and you’re going to be seeing Ross Lacy. Congratulations, you’ve just made it through half the competition. For every role in a commercial a casting director receives anywhere from 500-1000 headshots. He or she will then decide to call in anywhere from 20-100 people depending upon his/her personal work style, the production company’s needs and/or time constraints.
So, if you get called in for an audition you’re lucky. You should realize that. There are hundreds of actors that would love to be in your shoes. You got the audition, obviously there was something about your headshot or resume that the casting director liked so it makes sense to just be yourself, right? Easier said than done. Especially when you get there and you’re the only brunette sitting in a sea of bottle bleach blondes. You might feel like you’re out of place, like you’re not supposed to be there. Don’t worry, you are. You have just as much right to be there as those other people. Don’t let the mind games get to you.
Anyways, you got the call. Great. Now what? Your agent or manager might mention how to dress or they might not. If they don’t, assume casual but have other options in the car just in case. What does casual mean? Jeans and a t-shirt? Slacks and a blouse? Shorts and flip flops? It depends upon what you play. What do you normally play? Are you the teenage boy-next-door, the hot chick, the uptight business woman, the goofy best friend? You have to know your type. You will be type cast in this business and believe it or not, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you figure out what you are (be honest), you can start promoting yourself as such and then it will be clear to casting directors what you play so they’ll be sure to call you in next time they’re casting a such and such type. Casual dress is dependent upon what you play. Figure it out and then go shopping for those clothes to ensure you look the part.
Okay, so you’re dressed, you have your headshot and resume in hand (never forget to bring a headshot and resume to an audition – it’s one of casting directors’ biggest pet peeves) and you arrive at the location, now what? Commercial casting facilities typically never have enough parking for the number of people that enter the building. Read all the street signs to ensure you’re parking in an appropriate parking lot or on the street where you’re not violating the time or residency restrictions. It’s never fun to leave an audition and come back to find a parking ticket on your car, trust me.
So you enter the building. There are people milling around everywhere. There are several different rooms. Which one is yours? At most commercial casting facilities there is a sign or big board that had the studio numbers and the name of the product the commercial being cast in that room. Sometimes it also has the name of the casting director. Every place is different. Find your room and quietly make your way to a table beside the room. Here you will find the sign-in sheet and any instructions, scripts or storyboards you need. If there are instructions provided they will normally be posted on the wall over the table. Read the instructions first then sign in.
If there’s a storyboard be sure to look it over several times and read the captions. If there is a script provided, take a copy and go to somewhere somewhat quiet away from other actors auditioning for the same spot but still within sight and sound of the casting room so you will be able to hear the assistant or casting director when they call for the next people. Study your material so that you know it fairly well. If you have lines be sure to say them out loud a couple times to ensure that you can annunciate them correctly. There is no worse mistake than to say the name of the product incorrectly while on-camera.
When your name is called follow the casting director or assistant back into the room. He or she will head to their desk, couch, or other area. You are expected to head straight to your mark. If you have a purse or bag with you put it against the wall near the door so it will be out of the way. Your “mark” is a piece of tape on the ground where you are to place your feet. If there is no mark on the floor stand at the back of the room in front of the camera. The casting director will give you instructions if he or she hasn’t already done so. You will most likely slate your name first and then proceed with the audition. Slate with confidence but remain casual, cocky is not attractive. If you have lines they will be on a board to the left of the camera (from your view). Use the board if needed but do not keep your eyes on the board. Focus on the camera (unless told to do otherwise).
Following your slate you will do the copy. Good luck. Remember to speak clearly and loud enough for the camera to pick up. If there wasn’t a script or storyboard you are most likely at what I like to call a “personality test”. You are being cast for one of those many roles in commercials where you see a person standing around or walking or performing some activity but they do not speak. You are a principal role which means “residuals” (the most wonderful things in this industry) as long as your face is shown. So, the producer are just looking for someone they like the looks of and that would be easy to work with. You will be asked one of a million personality questions. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies? Where are you from? Or my personal favorite…tell me a little bit about yourself. Here is most actors’ mistake in such a situation, they talk about acting. Or about the industry. Or about dance or singing. Everyone in this industry dances and sings. And obviously everyone auditioning is an actor. That doesn’t make you stand out. You have to be original. You have to be you. To be remembered you have to have your own uniqueness. Talk about what makes you the person you are. If you do this, the casting director will be more likely to call you in for another audition and as long as the producers like your appearance, they’ll bring you back for a callback. Good luck fellow actors, it’s a tough business.