Having trouble with commercials castings? Want to audition for commercials more successfully? Founder of Actors Anonymous, Lisa Cawthorne, shares some brilliant insights from her years spent in front and behind the camera with Mandy.com.
For over 15 years I’ve worked as a producer, and, for over 10 of those years, I’ve also worked as an actor. Seeing the audition and casting process from both in front and behind the camera has been eye-opening and often startling.
As you all know, commercials are not Shakespeare. Although some jobs demand creativity and great acting skill, generally, the capability required for commercials acting-wise is being able to keep your energy levels up after 12 hours on set, in the cold, repeating the same thing over and over again...
But commercial jobs have their place in an actor's life and should not be sniffed at.
Why? Money, I hear you all shout!
This is true but exposure and, more importantly, connections and relationships also grow out of working on commercials. Many huge casting professionals and TV/film directors start in commercials and many continue to do commercials throughout their career.
The reason why my experience has been eye-opening and often startling is because so many professional actors take commercials for granted and approach them with little care or respect.
Read through these key insights – that I call PEA – on how to obtain, and maintain, success with your commercial castings so you can get the most out of every opportunity.
Even if there’s no script to learn, read every single piece of information that is available to you beforehand (your agent should be sending you the spotlight breakdown to read). Quite often casting directors will write notes, sometimes just words, that can give you an indication of what they’re expecting and looking for. Often they’ll include notes from the director too. These are crucial to know and understand.
The more you know about what the job actually is, the better placed you’ll be to understand what’s needed in the casting. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people turn up to castings and not even know the name of the company or brand that they’re there for.
Think About It
Once you’ve read all the available info, think about how you can approach the scene and character. Even if it is only for 5 minutes - often that might be all that’s needed! Have you experienced that scenario before? What can you use and bring to the character/scene? Is there anything you don’t understand or that is unusual that you need to do a bit of research into or think about in more detail? Is there something different that you can bring? Should your delivery be subtle or dramatised?
If you wing it and wait to be instructed once in the room, you might only get one take and blow your opportunity. Give yourself the best possible chance.
It fascinating from a fellow actor's perspective to watch actors come into the audition room and go through the process. Watching the tapes back is pretty enlightening too, I can tell you! One of the things that constantly baffles me is the amount of actors that come in either with no energy and enthusiasm, or an energy that is negative or way off what the brand/scene/character is.
You can lose the job literally in the moment that you say your name and agent to camera.
Your energy is a huge part of how you communicate. Be mindful of your energy levels. Make sure you’re focused, alert and engaged with the situation and people. Say your name and agent confidently, positively, and clearly down the lens. Please.
I do wonder if lack of energy is often due to nerves, because anxiety can close you down and make you numb. Think about how you’re coming across and ensure this is not affecting you and how you’re being perceived.
You are being chosen to represent a product.
So often the people making the final decision for commercials will be the client (I.E. marketing professionals at the company – they are paying!), and they will be looking at you in a different way to a director or producer. The client isn't usually an expert in acting. Their primary concern is choosing the right person to represent their product. So your energy, how you look, and how you come across are vital... sometimes above your acting skills!
I know what it’s like, you’re rushing to a casting on your lunch break, you've maybe had a fight with your partner and are still reeling, you were delayed on the tube, Pret gave you cow's milk in your coffee instead of soy(!!) ...and this is another casting with no lines that probably doesn't even need any acting ability, and, and...
Remember this - you’ve been selected out of probably hundreds of people to be there. Someone is paying for space to see you. That casting director is getting job after job and they’ve chosen you for this one. What might they choose you for next? Each one is an opportunity. Keep the bigger picture in mind.
Regardless of what’s going on around you in life, have that reality check with yourself whenever you need to. Ensure that you keep a professional, respectful and positive attitude. Don’t let it slip.
None of us are perfect. We all have our days. I’ve made some cringeworthy blunders and probably still will! Just do the best that you can, don’t give yourself a hard time when you have an off day, and think PEA (Preparation, Energy, Attitude)!
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, make sure that you’re enjoying the process. What’s the point otherwise? Do what you love.
Lisa Cawthorne - Founder of Actors Anonymous.
Find Actors Anonymous on Social Media.
It's so good to be reminded of these 'nuggets' of wisdom - thank you!
Very helpful! Thanks.
Thank you. Just the advice I need.
Wow I love this. This is very encourging insight news before. Thanks!
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