Commercial Audition Tip #13

Make Mistakes Winning Moments

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.” Many artists have said they only learn through their mistakes. Please believe this – making mistakes is not a problem. It’s how you handle the mistakes that can be a problem. It’s up to you.

Here are 2 anecdotes to illustrate:
Some time ago a friend of mine had a callback for a Caffeine Free Diet Coke commercial. My friend is a very likeable blue collar guy with a warm smile. All he had to do at the callback was take a sip, smile and say, “Tastes like Coke, without the caffeine.” He kept saying “Tastes like Caffeine without the Coke.” Take after take he continually said the one line wrong. He kept smiling through the whole thing and good naturedly laughing at himself. Of course, inside he was dying. After multiple takes, in which he never got the line right, they let him leave. On the way home, he thought he might as well keep driving back to his rural hometown, convinced his agent would let him go and he’d never work again in LA. Later that day his agent called to tell him he booked the spot. My friend was astonished. On the set, he became friendly with one of the producers and he asked why they booked him since he never got the line right at the callback. The producer said that the creative team was so entertained by the actor and he was so likeable through all his mistakes that they felt he was the right guy for the commercial. The producer also said, “We knew you’d get the line right.” And of course he did and the shoot was a huge success and my actor friend went on to make a nice chunk of change on this commercial.

Here is the opposite scenario:
A few years ago, the casting office was working on a car spot. We were casting a Hero Spokesman, who had to deliver 30 seconds of fast paced dialogue, while walking through a car showroom. The actor hired was excellent and had been booked many times through the office. About noon on the shoot day we got a call from the set to see whether the back-up actor was available. The guy who’d been hired kept making mistakes and rather that staying calm; each mistake seemed to get him more uptight. It didn’t help that he began swearing after each blown take. The director reluctantly came to the conclusion that he couldn’t get a decent performance from the actor. The actor originally hired was sent home and the back-up actor ended up in the commercial. The casting office didn’t hold it against the actor. In fact we all had empathy for him. After all, who hasn’t had a bad day? But this could have been avoided if early in his career the uptight actor learned not to beat himself up when he made mistakes. The most important person to forgive is yourself and if you don’t learn this lesson, you’ll have a hard time staying in this business.

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COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #12 – LISTEN

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #12 – LISTEN
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

Listen to the direction being given at an audition.
Sounds simple enough, right?
One of the biggest complaints we hear from Session Directors is that actors don’t listen.

Focus completely on listening to the directions as they are being given.

If you’re focused on how you’re going to perform the spot at the same time as you’re getting directions, chances are you’ll miss some key details.
Your attention is divided.

If you’re not clear on something please ask questions. There is a real pressure in commercial auditioning to ‘move things along’ at a fast pace; it’s your audition; you have a right to ask questions. AND better to take the time there than have to stop mid-way through the take.

Frequently, everyone auditioning for a part will be called into the studio and given the directions as a group. Unless you’re first up, it’s a good idea once you’re brought in to tape your audition to ask if you can quickly review the directions “just to make sure I have them right.”
Every Session Director really appreciates it when you get it right on the first take.
You don’t want your second take used up correcting a mistake you made the first time through.

Listen and Make Sure You Understand What’s Being Asked Of You.

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COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP # 11

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP # 11 – KEEP AN AUDITION LOG
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

What Do You Write In A Log?

1. The name of the session director.
Like all good business people, it’s important to remember names; when leaving an audition casually ask the session director his or her name.
After you leave the room, jot the name down and a few notes about their appearance…obviously you want to connect the name to the person.
Knowing the session director’s name establishes that helpful human contact. While it doesn’t mean you have to become good friends, establishing a friendly contact you’re more likely to feel more relaxed and maybe even get that extra bit of help.

At the end of a casting day session directors are frequently asked who they liked. Obviously if you did well and they know your name you’ll get mentioned. (By the way, if you did poorly, don’t worry…bad auditions are forgotten…even if they know your name.).

Also if you go into a callback and you address the camera operator by name it establishes you as a regular at that casing office and can serve as an ice breaker when you enter the sometimes chilly atmosphere of a callback session.

2. Jot down what you did in the first call. More often than not, a Director will begin your callback audition with “We loved what you did in the first call. Let’s start there.” Be ready.

3. Make notes on what you wore. It’s not imperative that you wear the exact same outfit to the callback, but you might feel better in that ‘lucky’ shirt.

4. Make notes on what went right with any audition and what you need to work on.

You’re an active participant in your career.

CHART YOUR PROGRESS. KEEP GROWING.

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COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #10

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP # 10 – GOOD AUDITIONS ARE REMEMBERED
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

Frequently we hear actors express this frustration at not getting called back:
“I gave a great audition and nothing happened.”

Our best advice is to avoid holding on to that disappointment.

It’s not out of the ordinary for a Director to say “I love this actor’s work. And I’m determined to find the right project for them.”

Good auditions are, in fact, remembered. Perhaps your look wasn’t quite what they were after or they went with a different ethnicity, gender or age; there’s always a good possibility that the spot itself got canceled.

Something else to please remember: We can attest to the fact that bad auditions are immediately forgotten.
You might be thinking everyone is talking about how you stunk up the studio. First of all, it’s seldom as horrifying as you thought it was and secondly, it’s all happening way too fast for anyone, other than perhaps yourself, to dwell on it.
Hey, we all know everyone has a bad day now and then.

Good auditions are remembered, bad auditions are forgotten.
Your task: No matter what, Move On and Stay Busy.

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Commercial Audition Tip #9

AUDITION TIP #9 – REDUCING ANXIETY
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

Actors frequently add to the anxiety inherent in the audition process.

Here are a couple of important ways for you to make the audition process a more pleasant experience:

Casting offices are more often than not in areas where parking is a challenge and sometimes metered parking is what you’re stuck with.
Keep a roll of quarters in your car. Not all meters take credit cards.

Leave early! (See Above for Parking Hassles)
As you know, Los Angeles traffic is wildly unpredictable.

Carry a change of clothes in the car for last minute auditions – for men, slacks and a dress shirt – for women, an upscale blouse and dress slacks.
It’s not a deal breaker if you happen to show up in the wrong clothes, but you’ll feel more confident if you are dressed appropriately.

If there’s copy and it’s available – even if it’s only 1 line- download it before the audition.

When you get a callback, double check the location. There’s no sicker feeling than driving for 45 minutes and discovering the callback session is at a different location. Ahhhrrrg!

If it’s a callback, check the copy – make sure it hasn’t changed…sometimes scripts get altered at the last minute.

And last but not least, EMBRACE THE NERVES – HEY, IT MEANS SOMETHING IS ACTUALLY AT STAKE.

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Commercial Audition Tip #8

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #8 – MAGICAL MOMENTS
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

When a casting director is preparing a commercial breakdown, the first step is to read the director’s treatment. This treatment can be brief or the length of a novella. In the treatment the director describes his or her vision for the commercial from camera moves to casting. Inevitably, under the Casting Heading, a director will mention how crucial it is to get the right performers.

Something that you might not know is that directors frequently note they are looking for the unexpected – for the unplanned moments that just happen – the spontaneous moments that the actors provide.

Directors look to actors to supply magical moments that will make the spot memorable. These moments can be a look, a gesture, or a surprising line reading. These magical moments make certain commercials stand out and make viewers want to see them again and again.

How can you create these magical moments? As with any performance, you can’t guarantee an outcome. But the first step is to do your homework, the kind of homework you do for any audition:

Who are you, What do you want and What obstacles stand in your way?

Are you the hero, the Brand X character (meaning that you represent a competing product) or the victim?

Fuel your imagination. Create a life for yourself in the context of the commercial. Imagine the environment. Create a moment before.

Then when you go into the casting studio, stay in the moment and allow things to happen. Don’t try to force anything.

Over-prepare and then go with the flow. Trust that your instincts and your imagination will be there for you.

Remember one of the greatest joys of acting is the element of surprise. To go down an unplanned road can be absolutely exhilarating.

Now that’s what it means to have fun.
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Commercial Audition Tip #7

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP # 7 REMIND YOUR BRAIN
ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

Sometimes the whole audition consists of an interview question.

Sometimes there’s a scene in the spot but they begin the audition with an interview.

At Callbacks the Director might ask you a question unrelated to the scene you’re about to perform (“So, what’s been going on with you recently?”). He or she wants to ‘break the ice’ with the actor.

More on the Interview Process in future blogs…
But…
Please Remember:
Before you go on any audition…
Be thinking about what you’d like to talk about.

It reminds your brain that there always a chance there will be an interview at the audition.

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Commercial Audition Tip #6

ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #6
DON’T SELL THEM ON HOW BADLY YOU DID

If you think your audition has gone into the crapper wait until you get out of the room before having a nervous breakdown.

Short of the Director telling you that you were terrible, you can’t presume to know where they’re at. The worst response is to slump your shoulders and look unhappy as you leave the audition room. On more than one occasion we’ve heard a Director say “I really like that actor but he seemed depressed.” Inevitably at that point they’re beginning to like you less.

Selling them on how badly you did is one sale you don’t want to make.

As to not assuming anything, here’s a prime example: At a callback session, the director was trying to work with an actor who was so nervous that we had to stop twice to get him water. Jon kept thinking: Please let this guy go. He’s in a panic. You’re never, ever going to hire him.

Long story short, something about him clicked with the director and client and the nervous actor got the job.

Do your best not to make assumptions. Sometimes actors think they’ve missed the mark, but without realizing it, a creative moment will bring it all to life for the Director and you’ll BOOK THE JOB.

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Commercial Audition Tip #5

COMMERCIAL AUDITION TIP #5

COMMERCIAL ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON

TAKE AN ON-CAMERA CLASS

Ok, this isn’t exactly an audition tip but we feel there’s an important aspect of the business of acting that sometimes goes overlooked.

We all know that auditioning for commercials can be fun.

But there are some frustrations:

You never get to see yourself on-camera (Unless of course you book the spot).

You seldom get feedback.

Whether you choose our classes or not…

We highly recommend periodically taking an on-camera commercial workshop.

In a guided way, it’s a chance to take a look at what you’re doing. It’s very easy, over time, to unconsciously slide into habits that run counter to booking the job.  Habits you are not aware of, until you see the playback.

Also, and we’re happy to say we’ve seen this many times in our classes, you can discover strengths on camera that you didn’t realize you possessed; this holds true for the experienced actor or newcomer to the business.

A once-a-year investment in an on-camera class is invaluable.

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Commercial Audition Tip #4

COMMERCIAL ACTING WORKSHOPS WITH JAN AND JON
AUDITION TIP #4

ACTUALIZING THE ENVIRONMENT

BE SOMEWHERE
It’s not unusual to see an actor deliver a fine audition but
there’s just something missing.

We all know that every casting studio occupies a neutral space.

It’s up to you to create the scene’s environment in your imagination.

If, for example, it’s an office scene create the space in your imagination – How many desks are there? Carpeted? Windows? Dark? Light filled?

When Kate Winslet is preparing a role she covers her office wall with post-it notes, does months of research, and endlessly analyses the script, including fully imagining a sense of place.
When she arrives on the set the background work she’s plugged into her imagination will help her to make the reality of the moment that much fuller.

Obviously commercial auditions are on a smaller scale but the process is the same.

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