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Auditioning for a Commercial

If it is your first audition ever, or your first time auditioning for a commercial, or maybe you have been to an audition and felt like you didn’t know what was going on; in whichever case, these tips may help you with your confidence and how to focus on a great performance.

1 Plan your Route. Plot the way to the casting office on Google Maps and print it out for reference: If it gives two time estimates, assume the longer one, you should never, ever be late

2 Learn your Lines, if you have any; Sometimes you may be told there are no lines, you may have them mailed to you, or you may be told to download them from a specific Website. If not, go to www.lacasting.com, look for and click on the word “Sides”, and then search by the name of the character, casting director, or project. If you find the sides there, you can download them free of charge. If not, check www.showfax.com and www.nowcasting.com: Both have free sides available for subscribers. Non-subscribers can download from Showfax for a small fee.

If the sides are available online, you are expected to memorise them before you get to the casting office, but print them out and have them IN YOUR HAND during the audition, just in case.

If you can’t find them online, get to the audition location well before your appointed time, look for them there, and study them before signing in.

3 Look the Part. Unless told otherwise, dress for the role as much as possible. Practice appropriate grooming; i.e. a man on a fishing trip might have some stubble and slightly mussed hair, but a corporate CFO would be clean shaven and have every hair in place.

4 Take your Headshots and bar code with you: Your headshots should have current resumés attached to them. Get your bar code from www.castingfrontier.com before you go; Some casting directors have phased out headshots and resumés in favour of the bar code, but some ask for both.

5 Take Money for Parking. Casting offices rarely provide parking for actors, so you may have to park at a meter or in a parking structure, and remember to allow time to walk to the venue.

6 Sign in Before your appointment time, but not before you are ready. Make sure that you know your lines, and that your hair, makeup, and clothes, are ready for the camera.

7 Be Friendly – but not too friendly: Be warm and polite to everyone you meet at the casting office, but don’t shake anyone’s hand unless they offer you theirs first.

8 Listen Carefully to Instructions. The people running the casting session want you to look good, because that makes them look good, but they won’t want to waste a lot of time with actors who can`t follow directions.

9 If the Session Runner offers you a rehearsal; take it, and if they don’t offer, ask for one. If they are in a hurry they may so no, but it won’t hurt to ask. Rehearsingcan help both of you to make sure you know what is expected of you, before anything is recorded on tape.

10 Accept Notes Graciously: If the session runner asks you dial back your performance, or turn it up a bit, it is not to be rude, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad actor; they are just trying to help you give the right performance for this spot. Thank them for the suggestion and put it to use.

11 Slate like a Professional: When the session runner asks you to slate, that means look directly into the camera and  state your name. What you are actually doing is introducing yourself to the casting director, who will be watching the tape later; so do it like you are happy to meet them, and do not fidget or look away.

12 Be a Team Player. If you have been paired up with another actor for the audition; the casting director wants to see you work with them, not against them. Try to connect with them as if they really are your spouse, or sibling, or business associate, or whatever the scene calls for; but don’t touch another actor unless you have agreed to it in advance.

Sometimes an audition will be based on improv: Usually the casting director wants to see how you interact with other people, so just work together. If you make the other person look good, you make yourself look good, so don’t be a scene-stealer, or worry too much about being funny. Also keep it clean, and steer clear of race, religion, sex, and politics.

13 Maintain your Eye Line: Whether you are delivering lines to another actor, or straight at the camera; maintaining eye contact throughout will create a much stronger impression. It is usually better to get one or two words wrong, than to break eye contact. However if you completely forget your next line; pause, look at the sides in your hand, re-establish eye contact, and continue. Do not apologize or show any sign of embarrassment, and NEVER stop the scene until the session runner says “cut.” Even when you finish your lines, stay in character and maintain eye contact.

14 Be Ready for the callback; a second audition. Keep the sides, so you will have them if you get called back. Also keep a record of any notes the session runner gave you, and what you wore to the audition. If you get called back for a second audition; which might be in front of the writer, director, casting director, ad agency representative, and client; you want to do and look the same as you did the first time. The casting director does not want to be surprised at that point.

Follow these suggestions and you should have no trouble selling yourself, so stay confident and ‘break a leg’

About James Carey

James Carey