Commercials are lucrative opportunities for any actor, but how do YOU get into the commercial-acting game?
"I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" "Can you hear me now?" "Do you know to post videos toooo Facebook?" "Idk. My BFF - Jill?" "Where's the beef?"
I'm fairly certain at least one of those quotes rang a bell for you. Where did you hear it? A commercial! Commercials are ubiquitous in our society: television, streaming services, YouTube videos, and now even gas station pumps!
Commercials are everywhere and so are the actors that help create them. Commercials are lucrative opportunities for any actor, but how do YOU get into the commercial-acting game? Is it the same as a theatre audition? Same as a film audition? How can I stand out in the audition room, when I'll I'm saying is, "Buy One, Get One?"
There's a lot to consider when auditioning for commercials. So -
How do you book a commercial audition?
1. Do your research Knowing what product you are representing when you audition is crucial. You don't want to go into the audition room pronouncing it, "App-ah-lei" only to find out, "Um, it's pronounced, 'Apple'." Google is your friend - look up how to pronounce the product, service, or company so there are no surprises in the room. Can't find the pronunciation? Try asking your agent to see if they can get it for your from the casting office. Don't have an agent? It's okay to ask the moderator at the audition how to pronounce the product name if you've exhausted all search options OR if it's a new product. It's also not a bad idea to research previously shot commercials of the product. See if you can get a feel for how serious, silly, conversational, etc the tone of the commercials are. You can also check out who is directing the commercial and see what else they have worked on in the past to get a sense of what tone to take in the room. Beware of imitating a previous commercial actor's performance. They called YOU in to audition - not the last person they cast.
2. Make friends with the camera Auditioning for commercials isn't the same as auditioning for a film or television show. Oftentimes you don't have a reader and you're asked to play straight to the camera - which can be intimidating. Don't let the camera be a glassy-lensed stranger: make the camera your friend!
Don't just be selling a product to an intimate object, imagine the camera is your best friend (and actually put them there in your mind's eye) and play the audition as if you're just so excited to tell your friend about the tastiest sports drink, the latest Pixel phone, the best dog-walking service you've ever used, etc. The more you can personalize the camera, the more fun you'll have and the more the audience will trust you to tell them about a good product.
Bursting the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera can be weird, but like a theatrical monologue, when you personify the person you're talking to, your performance becomes more truthful - no matter how big the emotion or physicality the commercial requires.
3. Energy is Everything Commercial actors are there to express the lowest lows and the highest highs of a person's life with our without a product or service - so energy is key. Commercials are meant to grab your attention quickly and for a short period of time, so you should maintain the kind of energy that alerts the audience that they should be paying attention to you RIGHT now. Of course, having the right kind of energy is as important as having it period. No matter the subject matter, commercials are positive. Even if the tone of the commercial is serious or sad, your tone should be hopeful and inspiring. Now, towing the line between energetic and fake can be hard. Sometimes being physical can get you in the right frame of mind. Before going into the audition room, try doing ten jumping jacks or push-ups. Sometimes literally getting the blood pumping can inform a performance without it coming across as trying too hard. 4. Face the Facts As much as your body is, your face is there to tell the story. Use it. Your opinion about the product or the circumstance surrounding the product should be clear on your face (remember, commercials aren't subtle). The old on camera adage of "if you think, the camera will see it" is true even with larger-than-life commercials. When you share your opinion with your thoughts and fears, you encourage the audience to reflect those feelings about that product too. Does this mean pulling a face or doing a silly look just for the heck of it? No - only if the commercial calls for it. Still, when you form an opinion about why you're making a face, it will come across as an honest moment in time.
5. Be prepared to improvise Commercial casting directors are looking for actors who are good at being "in the moment". Sometimes, commercial pitches are wacky and very much unlike real life; therefore, they need actors who can be amidst that chaos and just roll with the punches. Improvisation is an indispensable tool for the commercial actor. It's amazing what kind of creativity comes from actors being "in the moment". Perhaps something in the script just isn't quite working, but when the casting director tells you to just improv the scene, something clicks and the scene suddenly makes sense! If you're tied to the script, you don't have the flexibility to find those golden off-the-cuff moments that can be so critical in an audition. Improvisation is all about creativity, commitment, trusting instincts, and truly listening - all skills that are essential for trying something new take after take.
Know the script, know what the directors are trying to achieve, & then be prepared to let it go. It might just be what they're looking for!
While there are a myriad of ways to rehearse and prepare a commercial audition, these 5 tips will definitely help you get noticed in the room and - hey - may be the key to booking the gig! Another way? Get used to being in front of the camera. Take regular acting classes and audition as much as you can. The more you work that on camera muscle, the less scary a commercial (or any on camera) audition will be and the more FUN you'll have. Commercial are FUN! They exist in a world that is sillier than our own. So go in, be yourself, have fun, and book your next audition! Break a leg!
-The ATC Team
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BOOKING THE COMMERCIAL AUDITION w/ PR Casting Director, AJ Links - Learn how a successful commercial actor hits all the right notes in a commercial audition with this workshop taught by on of Chicago's most prominent casting directors. Get immediate industry feedback & work from true commercial copy! For 4th Grade - Adults.
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Article written by Rae Lindenberg