As an actor, commercials are a great way to build up your resume and pay some outstanding bills. For many actors, it’s their main source of income. Whatever the case may be, auditioning for commercials is a skill all on its own, separate from auditioning for film and television. Here are some crucial tips on how to break into the commercial market.
Commercial Headshots: Broader is Better
While we’ve talked a lot about the importance of being specific when it comes to your film and television headshots in our previous blogs (check out Getting the Perfect Professional Headshot), Casting Directors have a slightly different process when it comes to commercial work. As actors, we still want to embrace what makes us unique in our commercial headshot, its more about our overall energy as opposed to specific archetypes. Commercials are marketing in action, in order to sell products, companies need someone that audiences will be drawn to. Your headshot should reflect this idea. Casting wants to see the REAL you, this includes your authentic age range.
You Can’t Control Everything
When it comes to advertisers, they need to keep a number of things in mind when it comes to the company’s demographic. Unfortunately, most of these factors just can’t be helped no matter how great of an actor you are. Things such as height, age, and ethnicity all factor in to the final decisions. Sometimes, they need a whole family and it will come down to which people look the most alike. This being said you can’t beat yourself up over not booking this one because in no way does it reflect your acting ability. Just go into the room and control what you can in the moment.
Spike that Camera
One of the first lessons we learn as film actors is “don’t look directly into the camera”. This can often make it uncomfortable when we’re asked to break the fourth wall in a commercial audition. A lot of commercial acting simply comes down to your expression and personality, and often there is no dialogue. In these situations, the camera must become your scene partner and the gateway to your audience sitting at home ready to buy the product you’re selling.
Practice with a Product You Actually Love
Like any other skill, practice makes perfect. In order to become more believable in the audition room, take a product that you use every day, something you know and love, and do a commercial for it. This is a great technique because often times casting won’t be able to tell you the actual product name. Once you’ve found a truth in your excitement for this product you’ll be able to take that same energy into the audition room and substitute it for whatever they’re selling.
The Audition Starts Before the Camera Rolls
Since advertising sells to a consumer, companies are looking for someone to be likeable and genuine in order to become the spokesperson for their product. From the moment you walk into the room you’re leaving an impression on Casting, so make sure it’s a good one. Find a moment to bring in some humor and have a bit fun but be careful not to overdo it. They want someone that people will want to hang out with when they see them on camera. Bring as much of yourself as possible into the room.
A lot of companies have a specific vision of how this commercial is supposed to look. If they give you a redirection do your best to commit to that direction and execute it with enthusiasm and energy. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re not understanding what they’re asking you for.
Don’t Fall into the Imitation Trap
Try your best to avoid channelling people you’ve seen in similar commercials. No company wants to get lumped in with their competition, they need something that will make them stand out among the hundreds of commercials on air already. The script can only do so much if the actor is simply copying what they’ve seen done a million times over. No one else is going to walk into the room and be you, so use this to your advantage. Make it your own.
Don’t Think About the Money
Don’t give yourself any excess pressure by putting a price tag on the job. Overlook this section of the breakdown if you can and focus on what you can control: Do a good job and hopefully you’ll get a callback.
And Lastly… Have Fun
The reality is that you won’t be the right fit for every commercial, however you can still make the best of the opportunity. Go in, meet some new people and play a bit. What other job lets you pretend to eat a bowl of cereal or run on the spot like a maniac in front of a bunch of strangers? At some point, you decided to play make believe for a living because you couldn’t see yourself doing anything else, don’t forget that every audition (as crazy as it may be) is a chance to do just that. PLAY! Try not to weigh yourself down with the pressure of booking every single job. One day you’ll be exactly what they’re looking for and all of the craziness will pay off.