Your choices and the quality of your preparation will always give you an edge on your competition at any audition.
Not your look, not your outfit, and not your voice—your preparation.
When it comes to commercial auditions, however, most actors consider themselves prepared if they’ve just read the copy over a few times until it’s more or less memorized.
This is shoddy preparation and exactly what perpetuates low-to-no commercial booking rates.
It’s a very small industry. It’s quite easy to visit most major commercial casting offices in one season. If you walk in unprepared, you risk closing more doors than you open.
In all fairness to actors, they’ve generally been fed a great deal of fluff about commercial auditions and how they work.
The playing field becomes murkier with more commercials casting for “real people” and more commercial agents taking on actors who are fresh off the bus to LA/NY.
These conditions can make it feel like commercial auditions don’t require the serious preparation that theatrical auditions warrant.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Adopt the following four tips to stick out from the crowd and win the role:
1. Join a high-level, craft-centered acting class.
Audit. Do your research. Talk to more seasoned actors about what got them results.
And no, you don’t need to join a class specifically for commercial acting if you want to book commercials.
At my studio, I help actors launch their commercial careers by teaching them how to deploy a winning choice within seconds. This is an essential technique to employ for commercial auditions where frankly, you don’t have much time with the sides or to rehearse with your partner.
The technique you use to analyze a scene in class, be it for Netflix or Neil LaBute, is exactly the same technique you must use to analyze commercial copy for being a Helpful Honda Guy.
Treat the commercial copy like a short scene.
Every scripted piece you work on is real life with all the boring bits cut out—it’s life on fire! This will give you a competitive edge, as it is exactly how the production and casting team treats it.
2. Don’t worry about your look.
Too many actors go into commercial auditions with the assumption that they don’t look enough like what’s described in the breakdown and therefore feel they don’t have a real shot at booking it.
The breakdown is not gospel; it’s just a guideline most of the time.
Furthermore, the lore of commercial auditions aggravates this mythology as actors tell one another, “Well, booking commercials is really just dependent on your look.”
It’s far more important to bring your empowered self into the room, and to the performance. That kind of confidence creates memorability: the more memorable you are, the more likely you are to book the job.
3. Don’t imitate what you’ve seen on commercials.
We’ve all been inundated by commercials that we can’t help but want to imitate the performances we’ve all seen over and over again, because heck, those actors booked it.
Don’t be the super-dufus that annoys his long-suffering wife.
Don’t be the overly-saccharine mom who lives and dies by the cleanliness of her carpet.
You are only you. You can only be you. So be you.
If you can address the commercial copy with the help of a class or coach that assists you in bringing yourself to the role while you channel your inner super-dufus or overly-saccharine mom, or summer-salad-eating-coworker—you have a much stronger chance of booking the role because you’ll be instilling it with more authenticity.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but your winning performance will truly feel as easy and effortless as if you were playing yourself.
4. Improvise even if you aren’t asked to.
So many actors feel like they have to be given an invitation to improvise. Commercial auditions are opportunities begging you to improvise.
Often the client feels tepid about the copy that the writers have come up with.
Bring your ingenuity and wit to the sides and at the very least, add a final line at the end that’s not already there.
This is a ravishing opportunity for you to let your personality shine, while showing everyone in the room that not only can you solve their casting problem, but you can also add value.
The only time you wouldn’t do this is if you are given strict instructions to stick to the script.
Overcoming the labyrinth of commercials gives you another stepping stone on your path, and they can truly help you become a more seasoned and mighty theatrical actor. Many of the legends of cinema and TV have done them, and many continue to do them.
At my studio, we help actors launch their commercial careers and make the bravest choices that book the job—the dangerous ones that other actors are too afraid to make.
So be ready to work, open yourself up to more financial abundance, and get ready to gush about how you can’t wait to save 15% or more on car insurance with Geico.