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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