A multi-part series for the not-so-established actor hoping to improve their career.
It seems things are picking up in the commercial world! As many actors are feeling the financial squeeze of a handful of slower months, there is no better time than the present to recommit (because I assume that you already consider yourself committed) to making the most of every audition opportunity. A commercial audition is a deceptively easy thing. Truthfully I could go on for days and days (and have… read the past articles) about the details of the process that when paid attention to, separate the successful commercial actor from the unsuccessful one. What’s on my mind this month? Wardrobe. The thoughtful wardrobe choice in a commercial audition can give you a big return on time and effort spent.
Commercial actors should never ignore the simple, but profound detail: wardrobe.
I always say that wardrobe is underrated by far too many commercial actors. Think about it. It is one thing that you have absolute control over when many times there are factors in which you have none. Why blow it off? A thoughtful wardrobe choice in the right commercial audition can practically guarantee a callback and put you on the path to booking the job.
Never blow off wardrobe when:
*The Casting Director requests a wardrobe that is out of the ordinary. Good examples of this is when you are asked to come in period clothes (i.e. 50’s attire, hippy, 80’s etc.). Sports fanatic attire, black tie, Goth, a specific uniform-if you don’t have these specialty items, hightail it to the thrift store (ok, maybe not the black tie… borrow from a friend) and get something. It will be worth the money. Work at collecting the specialty wardrobe items that you will be/have been called in for. Don’t forget hair (men, you too) and makeup (ok guys, you are off the hook on this one… most of the time). You will see many actors in the lobby who didn’t put forth the effort. Do not feel foolish or embarrassed. Your reward will come in the form of a callback.
*There is no dialogue. Obviously, look has a lot to do with who is cast in commercials with no dialogue. “Look” is not just your face and size… it’s your wardrobe, hair, etc. When you have dialogue, a lot of your prep time is spent with the lines. Don’t mistake the commercial audition with no dialogue as a “no prep necessary” audition. Spend the time you would normally take going over lines working on your look. (Side note: I’m not mentioning the importance of understanding the non-verbal action in the scenario, which can take just as much prep time as dialogue… because that’s a whole different topic, not because it isn’t important.) It may be tempting to shrug off no dialogue commercial auditions… but in the end, the paycheck is the same and you will have a leg up if you simply pay due respect to something that is totally under your control… the wardrobe.
What if the wardrobe request is vague? Watch commercials. If you have anything other than a same day audition, there is no excuse for not doing some wardrobe research (and a great thing to do when you have a day with no auditions, but want to be active in your career). If you have an audition for McDonald’s, why not turn on the TV or search the Internet for current (and I do mean current) McDonald’s commercials. Take note of the typical wardrobe and look of a McDonald’s customer or employee. Wear something along those lines to your audition.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I was recently casting a web series in which we were looking for a Japanese Mobster. The requested wardrobe was “upscale casual, respectable”. The men who came in were great… and they looked great. Most came sharp-looking, put together, button-down shirt, slacks, etc. One actor was a little more daring… he came in a traditional Japanese outfit. I wish I could tell you specifically what kind… think martial arts-ish, linen, sharp looking robe and wide-legged cropped pants, and barefoot. Not what I asked for… but totally appropriate and very cool. Feel free to take chances like this, but have a backup outfit on hand (which would need to be what casting did request) and ask the lobby person if what you have on is appropriate or if they would prefer you change. When you take this risk, make sure you are doing it very well… no risky wardrobe for risk-taking sake. That is a waste of time.
Of course you should also have your standard audition wardrobe for the typical roles… i.e. casual mom or businessman. Keep those on hand and look your best when the usual is asked for.
In the end, the clients want to be able to see you in the commercial NOW. They want you to be so perfect for the role that you could shoot the commercial just as you appear before them. This is different than them imagining you in the right wardrobe with the right hair… visualizing you being right for the role. Few have the time or the desire to be imaginative in this process, as crazy as that sounds.
Bottom line: Never underestimate the power of going the extra mile in your wardrobe preparation. There are instances where superb wardrobe will equal an instant callback (and then hopefully a booking), and at the very least a mental gold star by the Casting Director… which is never a bad thing.