I wish I knew the ratio of actors showing up to a theatrical audition who are cool with “familiarizing” themselves with copy in the lobby versus the ratio of actors who show up for a commercial audition and are asked to do the same thing. I think it’s safe to say that this practice is a rarity in the theatrical world and is generally thought to be unacceptable – to put it mildly! I would also venture to say that it happens all the time in the commercial world. Actors very often take their first look at a script just prior to being put on tape… and, yes, it is considered very acceptable.
Commercial actors should never underestimate the importance of knowing commercial sides prior to arriving at an audition!
Now, it isn’t completely fair for a couple of reasons for me to compare the importance of knowing sides for theatrical and commercial auditions. Theatrical appointments are received days in advance and commercial auditions can come up just hours prior to the expected arrival time. There is no excuse for being unprepared for a theatrical appointment when you have the time to prepare, and it is a given that there was material to know.
When it comes to commercials, however, very often there is no dialogue at all or just a simple phrase to deliver. No big deal. At other times, though, you can find yourself with a hefty bit of dialogue. Commercials are unpredictable in this respect, and you are only given two to 24 hours to get up to speed. That’s not much time, which makes it all the more important that you are prepared.
I would never expect actors to prepare with the same fervor for a commercial audition as they do for a theatrical one. I don’t think you have to make arrangements with a coach to go over commercial dialogue.
BUT, far too often commercial actors devote no time at all to looking at their sides before arriving at the studio. This is where you can seize an opportunity to shine. Certainly, if the casting director has specifically requested the actors to download and know the sides before coming in…DO IT! You would be shocked at how many actors don’t pay attention to those instructions, or simply feel that they don’t need to take the time to prepare.
Ironically, the pro’s can be the biggest offenders in this area. Just when you feel like you don’t have a chance because so-and-so who always books the job is sitting next to you, chances are good that (when there is a decent amount of dialogue) you are far more prepared than they are. Don’t be intimidated when you hear them almost brag about the fact that they haven’t seen the sides before. Get excited! When an actor doesn’t know the script, it is immediately apparent on camera…NO MATTER HOW LONG THEY HAVE BEEN IN THE BUSINESS!
An even better opportunity to be an ultra-prepared commercial actor (thus inching closer to booking that ever-elusive job) is to check for sides even when the casting director hasn’t directed you to. Details can be overwhelming in casting, and forgetting to mention that the sides are posted is very easy to do. An easy and simple rule to follow is to check on L.A. Casting for sides each evening, some time after 6:30. By 6:30, all the sides posted that day will be there, and they won’t be posted again until 10 a.m. the next morning. (If you look for side before 6:30, they may not be there yet.)
Search for sides using the casting director’s name (last names tend to work best). This way, all sides posted by that casting director will appear and you will avoid errors, such as searching by the wrong title, misspellings, etc.
When you have spent time going over a commercial script, it will show. Preparation gives you an easy leg up on your competition for the day because honestly, most actors don’t take the time study their sides. Any chance to stand out in a commercial audition should be taken. Let’s face it – discipline is all I am talking about here. The time you spend preparing will be time well spent when you book the commercial.