I always like to keep things in perspective when casting. A favorite phrase of mine: We aren’t curing cancer, we are casting a commercial. This is important for me, personally, to keep in mind because things can get stressful quickly in the world of commercials and sometimes it feels like the walls are caving in. As things move quicker and quicker and demands become more insane, actors will be increasingly finding themselves in the position to save the day.
I just scrapped my planned subject for this column. Why? Because I was going to address some nuances… some (seemly) silly subtleties of the commercial world. Unfortunately, it’s become clear over the last few casting sessions I’ve had that some bigger issues should take precedence. Knowing the finer nuances of the commercial audition will prove worthless if you are performing (knowingly or not) some giant jerk moves. You may think you know the golden rules of commercials, but I’d urge you to read with refreshed eyes and consider once again if you are causing a small to large crisis in the world of a commercial casting director.
Commercial actors should never… break the golden rules of the commercial audition.
There are many, many different commercial audition scenarios. Just when you think you’ve experienced them all, I guarantee there will be a new curveball thrown your way. And it’s part of the fun, yes? But there are consistent scenarios that you can expect to encounter on a regular basis and those are the ones you want to know how to handle like a pro. If you are a commercial actor, you will be partnered up and placed into families on a regular basis. There are ample opportunities to shoot yourself in the foot when attending a family or partner audition, and I’m not sure actors always know when they are doing it. So let’s discuss.
Commercial actors should never… sabotage themselves in partner or “family” auditions.
You might be familiar with the idea of “being impeccable with your word”. It comes from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. Or perhaps Robert De Niro’s character in Meet the Parents and the “circle of trust” talk with his future son-in-law played by Ben Stiller may be more familiar to you. Surely one, if not both rings a bell and strikes a chord. Trust, and your impeccable word plays a huge part in your reputation as a commercial actor. You gotta keep your word. Period.
Commercial actors should never break trust.
I’ll admit, I’m a little excited and a little scared. I’m attempting to tackle a topic that doesn’t have a clear answer: How an actor finds commercial representation. I’ve had many actors ask and my answer is always something close to shrugging my shoulders. But that’s a cop out. There are MANY ways an actor can obtain a commercial agent and I know of plenty of them. The painful part of the process is no one can say which one or which ONES will work for you. There are variables that are in your control and out of your control at any given time. In the end, you just need to try things and work at it. But making informed decisions is a good thing, and that’s where I (hopefully) come in with some help.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but I very clearly remember having it. I was talking with an actor who has been at it for quite some time. He isn’t famous but has been hired plenty of (MANY) times over the years—you know, where lots of actors find themselves, somewhere in that grey, middle area of the success arena. He told me, “When I go to a theatrical audition, I know I can book it. When I go to a commercial audition, I never think I will.”
Commercial actors should never give up on commercials without realizing it.
Do you find yourself shrugging your shoulders as you head off to your commercial audition? Do you hope to find out what’s going on once you get there, with little to go on beforehand? Sometimes precious little information is given to the actor before their arrival at the audition—sometimes being the key word. Often times, I believe actors are uninformed because they have neglected to read the given information carefully, if at all. Other times, there are important clues that may not be so obvious, but are extremely helpful when preparing for a commercial audition. When you get five minutes in the room, you don’t want to spend that time finding out what you should already know.
Commercial actors should never ignore the clues given before an audition.
You’ve heard it, likely felt it, and probably had some panic about it: commercial budgets are shrinking, in general, and that can feel like very bad news. And honestly, on plenty of counts it is, or can be. But knowing more regarding lower budgets can benefit you. There is a silver lining and you should know how to find it.
Commercial actors should never be ill-informed regarding the rise of the lower budget commercial.
Let it first be said that lower budget commercials can definitely be SAG. Non-union does not necessarily equal low budget and union does not always equal big bucks. And when I mention the budget, I mean the budget of the entire commercial, not actor pay exclusively. The production of lower budget commercials, in general, are gaining in popularity. So when do I start spreading the good news? Let’s get to it now.
I find it funny to say that I’ve considered writing about the subject of actor gifts to industry professionals and have decided against it several times. Why? Because it’s controversial, I guess. There are two camps: believers in gift giving to industry pros, and those who are firmly against. The “against gift folks” believe we, industry pros, need you and your talent. When you are booked on a job, your being fantastic on set is your gift to us. We should, perhaps, send a thank you gift to you. t’s one way to look at it, and I respect the viewpoint, but not always the way in which it’s delivered (see kindness blog last month). If you are a no gift giving advocate, you are off the CASN reading hook for the month; I don’t want to attempt to change your mind. If you are interested or a believer in giving gifts, and want to do it well, this column is for you . . .
Commercial actors should never give industry gifts in a less than effective way.
I spend a lot of time talking about actor tools and how they play an essential role in commercial success. There’s training, headshots, special skills, the resume, and agents (to name a few) that should be consistently razor sharp. I’m also a big advocate of extreme professionalism. Arriving on time, prepared, and in proper wardrobe seems easy enough, but actually isn’t always a given with commercial actors. But in the end, while working on consistency in all of these wildly important things, if an actor can sprinkle kindness on everything they do in the industry, they may see results that can’t be imagined.
Commercial actors should never underestimate the power and effectiveness of being kind.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve taken on the topic of kindness—it’s a big one for me. I value kindness in people and especially actors. I don’t want to take a political turn in any way, but I’m feeling the importance of showing kindness is growing daily all around the world, and in our commercial industry. And frankly, there are a lot of not-kind moments that can and do happen in commercials.