Guilty. I am guilty. I’m guilty of searching the Internet or talking to any number of people until I find the study or person who says what I’m looking to hear. A glass of red wine each day will help you live longer. Who am I kidding, let’s go with THREE glasses of red wine. Butter is good for you. Coffee is good for you. Cardio isn’t the key to losing weight; certainly not jogging. Laughter is more effective in curing cancer than chemo. One of my favorite pastimes is to find someone or something that will corroborate whatever serves me to believe is true. I’m convinced you can find a study that will report your desired results, no matter how outlandish it may be. I’m beginning to believe I have this in common with many commercial actors.
Commercial actors should never . . . stop believin.’
There is a lot of information about commercials out there. There is no shortage of commercial actors, and even teachers, sharing information (and misinformation) and opinions stated as fact. It’s nutty and therefore completely understandable that it can be difficult to get to the truth. My short and sweet suggestions when processing information is to consider the source (whether it’s a person or publication), make sure you are talking specifically about commercial vs. theatrical, and, if possible, determine if the info is current in a rapidly changing industry.
It’s next to impossible to get feedback on a commercial audition. It’s not a frequent request made of a commercial casting director and, to my knowledge, it’s not normally given. This may sound like a line, but commercial casting directors are just too busy. The pace of commercial casting is insane, and only getting faster and more furious. So the future of getting feedback on your commercial audition isn’t bright, folks. This leaves you little to no information to go on as to the reason you didn’t get the callback. Some people advocate letting the audition go after you finish and never looking back. I would never recommend that, there’s simply too much to be learned. But I can say . . .
Commercial actors should never wonder why they didn’t get the callback.
In general, honesty is a good policy, a great policy in fact. There are instances when I beg actors to be 100% honest. The first example that comes to mind is anything to do with an actor’s special skills. Actors should never lie to their agent or in a casting session about their ability to perform a skill. There’s a big difference between being a competition level swimmer and someone who swam across the pool a few times. When asked in a casting session, or (hopefully) by your agent prior to being submitted on a job requiring a skill, you want to be very clear and extremely honest. But there are other times when it’s fine, for business reasons, to be less than painfully forthright. When asked by an industry professional how things are going acting-wise, you may want to hold back on divulging that you haven’t had an audition in 4 months, or have never booked a job. Instead, a generic, “Fine,” could be a good choice, or even a, “Working hard! Figuring it out!” could be in order.
Knowing when to be honest and when not to be quite-so-honest is important. But . . .
Commercial actors should never stop being honest with themselves.
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
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.