Mailing a hardcopy headshot and resume to commercial casting directors is a thing of the past, certainly in Los Angeles. I think we can all give a collective shout of approval for that! It’s a huge financial savings to actors and a step in the right direction for the environment. Like everything else, the way of the Internet is the way of the commercial casting industry. You submit yourself and/or your agent submits you on commercial and print jobs online daily. It only makes sense that you create and maintain your industry relationships in the same manner. Have an update or a booking to report? I’m a strong advocate of communicating this information online. Sure, you can post your exciting news or new headshots on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You should definitely update your personal website and your online actor profiles. But you may want to personally share this information with some casting directors. Email is the obvious way to do this, but not any ‘ol willy-nilly email will do. Actors are getting creative; sometimes in the best way, and other times, not so much.
Commercial actors should never send unprofessional emails to a casting director.
There is such a thing as being a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, and it’s not something to aspire to. There’s also something to be said for not having all your eggs in one basket. I’m just a fountain of idioms and figures of speech, aren’t I? Allow me to inch toward the point. I have a front seat to observing and listening to actors on a regular basis. Being a commercial actor is an exciting thing. Unfortunately, being a commercial actor can also be a long, hard, frustrating haul at times. A career in commercials will be both, count on it. But there are some actors who go with the flow better than others, even when they suffer the same inevitable set backs. They keep on the sunny side and don’t let bitterness take over. I’m intrigued by these actors, so I’ve studied them. Do they possess superhero powers to deflect the effects of rejection? I don’t think so . . .
Commercial actors should never have just one ball in the air.
I chirp like a bird about the details of commercials. The wardrobe you should be wearing, the types you should have represented in your headshots, the research to do ahead of time, the copy, your audition time, listening, reading – the importance of the minutiae. The details will get you the callback, the details will book you the job. Attention to the details will win you the respect of the casting office. Sometimes the Small Picture (and by that I mean details) is a great place to focus. And sometimes, it can lead you astray…
Commercial actors should never lose track of the Big Picture.
Blaming an agent is an easy thing to do. You can easily pin almost everything going wrong in your career on them. It’s common. I hear it all the time, and it’s not my favorite. Sometimes I’m sure it is warranted. But it’s my strong belief that it is a veeeeery rare occasion that your agent is sabotaging your career. And even if they are, you have some responsibility in that. Let’s talk about it…
Commercial actors should never blame their agent.
There are a small handful of commercial agents that have, on occasion, made me furious. This is a fact. But don’t get cocky. So have actors…infinitely more times than agents, but that’s neither here nor there. What we should talk about is the blame game. Talent agents are given blame far more often than they should. And I don’t think it’s helpful. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. It takes all responsibility (and power, frankly) out of the hands of the actor and leaves you a helpless victim. This isn’t the case…or it sure as heck doesn’t have to be.read more
Commercials are funny things. The commercial audition is even funnier. Not to say that I don’t take the process very seriously. I do. And you should, too. But we aren’t curing cancer. Often times (certainly in the last few years) commercial auditions call on your comedy skills, ask you to be silly, improvise, or simply to have barrels of fun. Because if you are having fun, we, the audience, likely are too. However, comedic or not, the commercial audition can be a minefield, occasionally leaving an actor to feel embarrassed or bad about their performance as they leave. Sometimes you should feel that way and other times you shouldn’t . . .
Commercial actors should never feel embarrassed about an audition when they shouldn’t be.read more
So, I went to see Bridges of Madison County at the Ahmanson Theatre. If you are anything like me, you might wonder why I would do that. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic, but I’d heard the book was good (no, I haven’t read it) and the movie with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood did well (all the way back in 1992) but I never saw it. At this point, I just haven’t been interested in BOMC. After seeing the national tour of the musical, my interest hasn’t grown. Groan.
You’ve all figured out by now, there is no one road to commercial success. No recipe to follow. There’s no, “if you do x, y & z then you will book.” Here’s the good news and the bad news all wrapped up in one sentence:
Commercial actors should never forget… you are hired for who you are.
What does that mean, exactly? Just what you think. You will book a job because you have red hair and you will not book a job because you have red hair. You will be hired/not hired for any and all of your physical characteristics. Your height, weight, age. Your gender. Actors are hired because of their agent… and yes, actors aren’t hired because of their agent. You will be hired because of your social media presence. You will be hired because you have no social media presence…or because no one cares if you have a social media presence. When you have a special skill, you can be hired because of it. I’m guessing a special skill wouldn’t be used against you…gotta love special skills. Your perceived imperfections will both hurt you and help you. Your perfections will do the same. I’ve heard, “She’s too pretty,” more times than I can count. No kidding.
This month is going to seem like I’m pulling out the tough love. A possibly RUDE choice during these jolly holiday times. Some may jump to sharpen their pencil to send me disapproving thoughts. I would urge you, however, to be open to the possibility that the topic this month (and every month, frankly) comes from a place of love. Yes, out of love for the brave actor artist. I’m on your side.
With that being said . . .
Commercial actors should never half-ass their career.
Now that is rude. Believe me, I actually looked up synonyms for the half “arse” word. And nothing seemed to pack the necessary punch. So I’ll stick with it.
It seems like there are endless examples of when the power is out of the commercial actor’s hands. You are all painfully aware of those. But like a broken record, I’ll remind you of my belief that booking a commercial is not a numbers game, it’s not luck… there is plenty of power that truly does rest in your hands. I’ve written about the importance of research, arriving on time, in wardrobe, knowing the copy, etc., etc… this is well-covered territory. But I’d like you to be able to identify the jobs that REALLY have everything to do with you grabbing the booking that is yours (almost) for the taking.
I’m not going to beat around the bush. Carrie The Killer Musical Experience onstage now at the historic Los Angeles Theatre is not a piece of high art nor a very good musical. DON’T STOP READING. I know, I know, I just said the musical isn’t very good. The original Carrie the Musical opened on Broadway May 12, 1988 and closed May 16, 1988. That was not a typo. It had a 5 day run (and 16 previews to be fair). There was a revival (with revisions to the show) in 2012 that was only slightly more successful. It had a run of about a month. This is not a secret. I’m not the only one with the belief it’s a crappy show.