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Laurieby Casting Director, Laurie Records

…be unprepared for an audition.

Louis Pasteur said, “Luck favors the prepared.”  I prefer the added pizzazz by Edna Mode (of The Incredibles), “Luck favors the prepared, darling.”  We can debate the role luck plays in an actor’s career until we are all blue in the face.  Frankly, I believe it to be a waste of time.   There is a lack of control one has over luck.  On the other hand, preparedness is entirely in the hands of the actor.  You have heard it hundreds, possibly thousands of times…

Commercial actors should never be unprepared for an audition.

This may be one of the most commonly given pieces of instruction to the actor.  I can SEE your eyes rolling.  We all know being prepared is one of the keys to success.  That is the reason it’s preached so often and freely, but oddly, often without much additional explanation beyond instructing actors to bring a headshot/resume and look over the copy.  I say there’s no time like the present to break it down.

Things an actor must do to be prepared for their commercial audition:

Watch and study commercials.  Are you addicted to your Tivo?  This could be extremely detrimental to the Commercial Actor.  You must stay current on what’s out there.  What types of campaigns/spots are popular and which actors are being cast?  Are the commercials comedic with quirky, charactery actors?  Are beauty spots airing with beautiful models and gorgeous cinematography?  Is the acting “real” or leaning toward “over-the-top”?  What are the actors wearing in fast food commercials?  When do you see and urban/edgy actors being cast and what product are they selling?  Are you catching my drift?  Where do you fit in??  Watch network TV, cable, late night, morning and mid day to make sure you see the gamut.  When you receive an audition notice, Google or check Youtube for past spots to be the most informed actor you can be.

Watch the director’s reel.  If you are fortunate enough to have this tidbit of info (you won’t always), there is no excuse not to have seen the director’s reel prior to walking into the audition.  Google, once again is your friend.  It’s possible to find a reel on the director’s website, the production company’s website, or you may even find a spot or two on the Casting Director’s website.  Viewing the reel will give you a feel of the director’s style.  Every little bit helps, folks.

Look up the Casting Director info in your audition log.  What?  You don’t keep an audition log?  Start now.  In this case, look up any notes you have taken on the CD’s preferences and what they have called you in for in the past.  Are they time frame friendly (even though I know YOU would not need one) and should you bring an extra amount of patience because they tend to run behind schedule?  Do they usually ask for a hardcopy of your headshot/resume?  Does the CD tend to bring you in for offbeat/oddball roles?  Do they love when you “make it your own” and go a bit off script, or do they prefer you stick with the letter of the copy?  Are they a beauty CD who require talent to be camera ready or do they do mostly “real people” casting?  What’s your callback ratio?  Might it be a good idea to schedule a quick session with your coach to increase your confidence?  Knowing these details can help you on multitudes of levels.

The ones you think you know, but read on anyway:

Download the copy.  Check LA Casting the night before, as well as the morning of your audition.  Hopefully the Casting Director (through your agent) will instruct you to download the sides if there are any.  If they don’t mention it, check anyway!  Sometimes in the mad world of commercials, this detail may be forgotten.  I personally believe the easiest way to search the sides library is to search by the Casting Director’s name (first or last) or casting company.  This narrows the chances of you using the wrong keyword(s) in your search and missing them.  Example: searching “Jack and the Box” vs. “Jack in the Box”.  They will not pull up.  But, you would find them if you search by “Jack” or “Box”.  Less is more.  However you choose to search, make sure your spelling is correct.  Check the morning of the audition for revised sides… or a last minute first time posting.  Then, (stating the obvious) work on it.

Check the audition details.  If you receive your audition notices via email, read them carefully and thoroughly.   It’s easy to assume that you know the audition location when you see the Casting Director’s name.  Don’t.  Even CD’s with permanent homes occasionally change up the audition location for a variety of reasons.  Know the name of the CD, location (map it), the name of the job (you would be surprised… which shows exactly little prep usually happens), the wardrobe (when in doubt, bring a couple options and leave in your car) and let’s also add the role name (sometimes this really matters).  While you are at it… read ALL the CD’s notes… especially the role description and project notes.  Again, it’s the little things.  If you get this info verbally from your agent, write it down and go over it again after you get off the phone.  Don’t assume you remember all the details from the initial conversation.

After you have done all you can to prepare for your commercial audition, walk in with confidence.  Many of your cohorts are not as prepared.  Don’t be stuck in your preconceived notions, however.  Make sure you listen to the direction given by the Casting Director/Session Runner.  Just because Pepsi commercials have been quirky and comedic lately, doesn’t mean your spot will be.  Your take on the copy may not be what is asked for at the audition.  Digest the instruction carefully.  The CD/Session Runner will tell you everything you need to know, enabling you to give the best possible audition to book the role.

Laurie Records, Casting Director