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In a commercial audition, the Casting Director or the Session Director gives you directions before you start. The directions will usually be made up of:

  1. The general feel of the spot
  2. The feel of who you are in the spot/attitude
  3. Your relationship to other characters in the spot
  4. A particular facial expression transition they are looking for
  5. Where your eye line should be

It goes without saying that with all of these guidelines, you still have to, and should, make it your own. No one gives you line readings.

Out of the list above, do you know which is the most important piece of direction to the director? If your answer is #4, you are right.

The transition is the most important acting direction.

How you execute a transition shows who you are and how you feel.

Here is a perfect example of a casting I did for Fruit Of The Loom. Two guys are BBQ’ing. They are standing next to each other chit chatting, shooting the breeze, when they hear a thunderous sound in the distance coming closer and closer. Suddenly, there is a crashing sound and horses jump over the hedges into their yard. Standing in front of them are men on horses who, by the way, are wearing Fruit Of The Loom. An everyday occurrence, right?

The transitional direction was as follows: you should subtly look at each other when you hear the thunderous sound, look towards where the sound is coming from, and at the moment the horses jump over the hedges, look away from each other to the horsemen and then back to each other.

The director is going to look intently at the monitor, specifically looking for your transition.

From happily chit chatting/shooting the breeze to the transition of 1) Something in your face showing a recognition of an unusual sound coming from the distance, 2) looking at your friend for some kind of common confirmation, and 3) looking at the horsemen now standing in front of you.

When you are listening to the list of directions given to you, know how to pick out the most important piece of performance direction from what might be a long list of general directions.

Listen carefully when the session director starts talking about transitional looks. Transitions of facial expressions are very important to be able to do and they are usually subtle. Oxymoron of the day: sharpen up on subtle.

Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.

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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.”