I LOVE auditioning for commercials. They are usually ridiculous and require on-the-spot memorization or improvisation. Sometimes you have scripts, or “copy” (as they call it commercially,) and sometimes you don’t. Oftentimes it’s about your reactions to something that is happening and sometimes it is about how well you can manage technical jargon.
No two commercial auditions are ever really the same. But there are basics to know before you enter that room.
Let’s walk through an average commercial audition:
Let’s say this is a Coke audition and it takes place at the casting offices of Beth Melsky.
1 – First things first – before you even open the big glass door, look down to your right. There’s a black board with stick-on white letters that will tell you where you’re going. The other auditions will also be listed so take your time to read it. In this example, the Coke spot is in studio C and there’s an arrow pointing you in the right direction.
2 – You pull open the door and head over to the sign-in sheet placed outside the studio. Read ALL the information there. There will usually be “sides” or “copy” (the script for the session, if there is one.) Grab one of those. There may also be story-boards – a blow-by-blow comic strip of the commercial to give you an idea of how they are planning to shoot it. There will sometimes be a confidentiality agreement that you will have to sign to do the audition (don’t panic – just sign it. It’s to protect the ad company and the brand.) Then there is the sign-in sheet. Just fill it out as required. It always asks for your SS#. You do NOT have to put it down. But do say “avail” (meaning it is available if needed) in the box. Unless you don’t have one, in which case, you probably shouldn’t be auditioning.
In some casting offices, there is now an electronic sign-in process, too. You will need to set up an account with The Casting Frontier for this. You can do it on the spot at your audition but I recommend doing it right now:http://castingfrontier.com/ It’s a great tool and I imagine it will only get better over time. There will be a computer somewhere in the casting office that you will use to sign in electronically. At Beth Melsky (NY) there are two – one on the reception desk and one to the right of that by the wall. You will be asked to enter your account number manually or to scan in your barcode-card (which Casting Frontier will send you if you request it – it costs about $5 extra I think.)
3 – When you’ve done all the above, read over the script as many times as you can. Get as familiar with the spot (industry lingo for commercial) as possible. Eventually you will come to see the same people at your auditions – it’s easy to get distracted and chat away with your friends, but stay focused and save your talk until after your audition. If I have time, I will usually go out into the hall or the bathroom and read my lines out loud a few times just so that it is in my body. It’s good not to walk too far away from the studio for a long period of time as the casting director or assistant will be coming out and calling in the next actors. So you want to be able to hear when it’s your turn.
4 – When it’s your turn, you can pop the script back where you found it. “Wait! Won’t I need it!?!?!” you panic.. Yes, but commercially, if there is a script it is USUALLY written out on a big pad in big, readable letters right next to the camera. This helps keep you facing the camera and also helps you look like you’re not reading anything. (I’d recommend doing an on-camera commercial class to get familiar with this way of working. It’ll be worth it.) Before you start the casting director/assistant will take a snapshot of you with the video camera and then ask you to slate. This means look directly into the camera when they tell you to and say your full name. For example: Hello! I’m Angela Dee. They will probably then scan you from head-to-toe with the camera to give the clients (in this case Coca-Cola and their ad agency) a good look at you. You may be asked to do it over again a few times or not at all. Regardless of how many times you have to do it, do not fret. You will never really know why you are being given the directions you are. Just do what’s being asked of you to the best of your ability and stay confident. After all an actual commercial can ask you to perform in many different ways just to make sure that they have what they want if they decide to change it here and there.
5 – If the audition calls for improv, then be prepared to play pretend in a big way. Yesterday I auditioned for a job that had me pretend I was in my living room dancing and singing to myself – embarrassing and HILARIOUS. Another time I had to have a conversation with another actress as if we were in a doctors waiting room and she was being annoying while I was politely trying to get her to be quiet. In the call-back they left us there talking for about 2 minutes – with no direction and no interruption. It was insane!
6 – When you are done, say thank you to the Casting Director and also shoot a nice thanks to the other actor if you worked with one. And leave the offices quickly and quietly – there will be other people preparing and working so it’s best not to disturb them.
So, there you go. That’s pretty much it. I think the more you become comfortable with the initial set up of a commercial audition the more relaxed you will be. And, of course, the more you are willing to make an arse out of yourself – without pushing it over the line and looking like a crazy person, that is – the more fun you’ll have.