by Casting Director, Terry Berland
There are similarities and differences between auditioning for commercial, film and television. Each venue has its own set of rules that make up the process. The most fascinating discovery is finding those similarities and differences in preparing and rehearsing the script for your audition
SIDES/SCRIPTS: Commercially we refer to the copy as a script. Theatrically, the copy is referred to as sides. Commercial copy is usually not posted when you are given your call time. We don’t want your audition to feel over-rehearsed. We expect you to know how to cold read to deliver a spontaneous feel to the read. We also have a cue card with the copy written on it near the camera lens.
For film and television the sides are sent out with the audition. With email we can easily send the entire script if it is not being kept under wraps by the film or TV show. With television, the entire script probably is not available because it is constantly being re-written until the shoot day. Sometimes it is even re-written while the shoot is going on.
THE AUDITION/APPOINTMENT: Commercially you almost always receive your audition appointment the day before, and sometimes the same day. Whereas, television you may receive your audition 24 hours or less and film your appointment is given to you a couple of days in advance.
THE AUDITION EXPERIENCE: For commercials the person or persons in the audition room are the session director and/or casting director. You audition is captured and is posted to the Casting Director, Producer, Writer, Art Director and Director. The commercial creative team likes to see lots of choices (the more the better). We only eliminate someone if they do an embarrassingly bad job. For television the casting director tapes you and narrows down few selected choices to send to the director and producer.
The way you use the camera is different too. At a commercial audition you look right into the camera whereas film and television, you ignore the camera.
BOOKING: Television and film, many times you know you’re booked a week to a couple of weeks in advance, but you won’t know what day until production knows how their shooing schedule is going. You might have to wait until twenty-four hours before.
DRESS AND PROPS: Commercially, you dress towards the character. It is acceptable to dress as the character such as a waitress, doctor or a dressy party. You are given props at the audition. Don’t bring your own props. Whereas in film you are told who the character is and you dress slightly indicating the character. For instance, if you are a lawyer, you can wear a suit; nothing really more than that goes into the preparation for wardrobe. You don’t wear costumes and you can expect not to be given any props.
SELECTION PROCESS: In commercials, the casting director is not involved in the actual selection process, whereas in television and film, the casting director is much more a part of the process.
THE TECHNIQUE: The fascinating thing is that there are similarities and differences between the commercial, television and film auditioning technique. When I teach, it’s fun and extremely effective to keep reminding the actor of the similarities and differences. An actor can relate because they are usually studying acting on a long term basis and have fit in a five or six week commercial class in-between. There are actually more similarities with commercial and film than sitcoms. One similarity is the energy. Sitcoms are much more over the top. The biggest similarity is the foundation of your acting that you constantly have to tap into. The actor has to know where they are, who they are and to be able to identify their relationships resulting in a feeling of connection. The personality of the actor/character has to come out and the words become secondary. In other words, the acting has to drive the copy. This is difficult in commercials because the words are not natural and may include product information.
If you let the copy drive the situation, it would feel like a read. Preparing and reading for a commercial is a challenge because there is not a character to dig into that you love. I compare commercial copy to the short scenes in film or dramatic television. There definitely is a way to create layers and texture to the character.
A good reminder is that you are never selling anything in a commercial. You do need to understand the sell and know the writers have all that figured out and are actually using you as a vehicle for their sell. When you know how to analyze the sell, you can then use any script or commercial improv as a vehicle to reveal who you are and how you feel.
It’s all about you!
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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”