In March, we had the very charming and knowledgable Karen Ryan of Canvas Casting speak at our seminar. She had some great stuff to tell everyone and you’re welcome to comb through our live tweet of the day by searching the hashtag #cniseminar (where you’ll find all previous seminar tweets too). But Karen has a lovely Irish accent, so tweets are a pretty poor substitute for the real thing. That said, here are five great takeaways from the day.
1. Set Your Commercial Scene
Yes, commercial auditions are short and there isn’t much time to show off your acting chops. But you know what you can do? Set your scene with the subtle actions you would normally do in the situation of the spot. Are you supposed to be an office worker at their desk? Type the way you would actually type, with the expression you’d actually have. I’m doing that now and if I turn my attention on myself, I seem to be weirdly biting my bottom lip and I look perturbed. Why do I look perturbed? I don’t know, but it could have something to do with the fact that Prince died today. More importantly though, those are two things I could use to be a more believable actor in my audition. I had an acting teacher who once advised me to pick one thing in a room and decide that thing is the camera. How does that make you behave and what kinds of normal actions would it catch you doing?
We were thrilled to have crowd favorite Killian McHugh back for another CNI Seminar. (Our bad for letting so much time pass between his visits.) There was so much to glean from his Q&A that I scribbled down way too many notes to include here. Attendees definitely got the benefit of extra info on this one! While it was almost impossible to choose the five biggest takeaways from the event, I tried to select some that you may not have considered before.
Rock Your Vote
Your union vote, that is (although Killian is definitely a fan of exercising your voting rights in any form). We all know that budgets are shrinking. It’s happening across the country in every industry, and actors and casting directors are feeling the effects of it now more than ever. If you’re a member of SAG/AFTRA make sure you’re voting on union contracts because, you know, they affect your wages. Only 28% of members voted on the last commercial contract. That’s cuckoo bananas. If you don’t participate, you don’t get to complain, capisce?read more
By now you’re probably used to Lindsay’s ‘5 Lessons’ from our monthly seminars in Los Angeles, but I wanted to touch on one topic our guest speakers Emma & Marcus Nelson spoke about in January: working for a casting director.
As actors, it is extremely easy to get caught up in the art of your craft. It can be hard, especially in commercial casting, to remember that this is a business. A business designed to make corporate clients a lot of money, not for you to share your inner artistic truth with the world. (Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and a place for you to do that but it probably isn’t in a commercial audition for cold medicine.)read more
Colleen Wainwright started out as a commercial copywriter, transitioned into being a commercial actor, and then transitioned again into being someone who writes about those things for your benefit. She’s like a self-help/self-empowerment guru who seems like she’s your good friend and has been writing for CNI’s blog for longer than it’s been called a blog. You know, back in the days when there were newsletters.
The topic she brought to this month’s seminar was “12 Ways to Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet.” Now, you’d think I’d just give you the 12 things, but you know what? Maybe this will teach you to actually come to the seminar. You’re still only getting five takeaways. Deal with it. (Also, just kidding, she wrote them all up here.)
To Move Forward, You Have to Know Where You Are
We had acting teacher and kind person extraordinaire Kimberly Jürgen at our September seminar and she had some great advice to give us, tackling auditions more from an acting angle rather than a casting angle. Here now is your top 5 recap!
Your Type Is Your Default State
Think of your type as the state you wake up in, not what you’re layering on after your morning coffee. While we like to think we can control how we’re perceived, the human brain is very powerful. It’s so powerful, it’s reading the tiniest of cues as to your true essence, cues that you don’t even realize you’re giving. So you can put on that sexy vamp outfit or style your hair like a heartless Wall Street brah all you like, but if deep down you’re a big ol’ prudish sweetheart, it’s going to shine through anyway. Save everyone the time and take the button-up sweetheart headshots, so that you’re spending your time wisely. Save the other types for when your career has already been established and you’re trying to distance yourself from Disney or whatever.read more
Casting director Arlene Schuster-Goss of ASG Casting came to distribute pearls of wisdom at our August seminar. Having been in Los Angeles since the ’80s and starting ASG Casting in the early ’90s (have you guessed what ASG stands for yet?), she had a ton of great tips to share with us. Below are the day’s five biggest takeaways.
1. Everyone’s Budgets Have Been Cut
We gave you a “Top 5” lessons post from our July seminar with casting director Justin Radley of ASG Casting, as we usually do with our speakers, but an important topic came up that we felt deserved its own breakout post: Comedy Experience.
Justin ran our attendees through a very helpful exercise, staging a mock commercial submission and audition process using an actual project they cast that is now airing. (Sidenote: if it weren’t already airing, he wouldn’t have used it. The rule about not giving out any details of a project is strictly adhered to by casting directors.) First, he read the most basic aspect of the role description: the gender and age range. Everyone who fit that description was told to stand.
1. Watch Commercials As Homework
Studying the typical roles in commercials is going to help you know how they usually cast those roles, thereby telling you what your type is. If you think of yourself as “hip twenty-something,” but you keep seeing people that generally look like you being cast as “young mom,” maybe it’s time to throw that look into your headshots. Above all, it’s important to be honest with yourself when watching these commercials. Holding onto the notion that you would be cast as “Handsome Office Hero,” when the world sees you as “Funny Office Sidekick” isn’t doing your career any favors. Embrace your real type.read more
Commercial casting director Chadrian McKnight of House Casting joined us for our June seminar to give actors his perspective on the industry from his experience as both an actor and a casting director.
Here are the day’s five biggest takeaways:
1. Improvising in a commercial audition isn’t about jokes
Improv is geared toward comedy (although it doesn’t have to be and has a history with drama as well), but people often perceive that to mean “make jokes.” Really, improvising in any scene is about specificity and showing your own personality. When they tell you to play with the lines, it’s an opportunity to relate the scene to your own life and how you would behave in the situation. So you can add some funny details that show who you are. It is not a call to try out that new racist redneck character you’ve been workshopping. Also, please stop workshopping that character.
2. The Midwest Has Babies Earlierread more
Commercial casting director Stuart Stone spoke at our May seminar, bringing his years of experience and some great insights for actors with him. Without further ado, here are the day’s five biggest takeaways.
1. YOU’RE A MARKET
Remember that there’s an entire industry based on making money off of actors. There is no end to what you will be coerced to buy, all in the name of making your career, so make sure you’re being smart about it. And never pay more than $500 for headshots.read more