Hello my dear actresses and actors and welcome to a new episode of Stories of an Acting Student for Acting Students, the column that helps you achieve your dreams!
Everybody knows it, commercials are the best way for a rising star to kick start their career. In fact, many of Hollywood's greatest had exactly this kind of experience. Leonardo di Caprio, Mila Kunis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt… they all got into this amazing industry starring in commercials. It may seem like it’s not a big deal, but auditioning for a commercial not only gives you the possibility to get comfortable with the selection process, but it also helps you make connections and get spotted.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not always easy. This is a challenging industry and sometimes you might feel helpless and ready to give up. But if you hang in there for just a bit longer and follow our tips, you’ll see that going through the whole selection process can be fun and gratifying!
Why is auditioning for commercials important?
Advertising is getting more and more important and commercials are not like they used to be. In the past, we were used to watching phoney scenes with overacting characters and trivial messages. But the industry is changing. Commercials nowadays tend to spread more complex concepts and their budgets are getting higher and higher. In fact, it’s not even that rare to bump into a commercial produced by an important director or starred by a famous actor or actress.
Moreover, you never know what might happen when you give yourself a chance. Sometimes it takes a few lines to spot a star and you never know who is watching your audition or what connection that person might have. And if this doesn’t happen, DON’T WORRY! You had the chance to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Not only that, but you gave yourself the possibility to learn from a new experience and next time you’ll know more than the last time you tried.
As I said before, the industry you’re trying to get into is a challenging one. Lots of other talented kids are fighting for the same role you’re going for and sometimes it’s natural to feel like giving up. But as hard as it can get, it may also be very rewarding. Imagine being on the sofa, watching TV with your parents, and there you are. It’s really you, carrying that backpack around or sporting those new cool sneakers. Imagine how gratifying it can be to watch yourself on a screen and to know that you were the best amongst a lot of candidates!
A real commercial audition experience… Mine!
You might think I’m saying these things just to give you courage, but let me tell you what happened to somebody who has been in your shoes before… You guessed it: I’m talking about me. When I was younger, around 8 years old, I was trying to get into this amazing yet demanding industry, and I decided to audition for a toy commercial. It was a very popular one at that time and a lot of young rising actors were trying for the same role I was.
I remember being very nervous the day of the audition and at some point, the only thing I wanted to do was to go home. All I could do was walk frantically up and down that room crowded with kids and their parents.
I was honestly thinking of quitting when my mom sat me down, looked me dead in the eyes, and made me realize something. By auditioning that day I had a 50/50 chance of making it, whereas by not going in, I would give myself a 0 chance of achieving what I wanted.
So in I went, all nerve wrecked and trembling. I started very shyly, but after warming up I gained confidence and began speaking up and really hitting those lines. The more I went on, the more I realized that there was nothing to worry about. The director was kind and gentle and, as soon as I got used to the room, I was shooting my best shot.
Eventually, I ended up not getting that part and although at the beginning I was sad about it, I realized that I had gained something from it anyway. Not only I went in and did what I had to do the best way that I could, but I also built another important experience for myself, something that I could show to my following audition and be proud of.
Useful tips to stand out
Apart from telling you about my experience (to make you understand the mindset you have to approach these opportunities with), I want to share with you a useful guideline to make sure you’re going to shine amongst your peers!
Headshots: the first thing you want to do is making sure that your current appearance matches your headshots. Of course, you’re going through a moment of your life where you’re changing very fast, but you also have to consider that casting directors are looking for a specific kind of actor or actress and giving them a picture that doesn’t match your current self is going to mislead them.
Clothing: be sure you dress accordingly with the commercial age requirements. Once again, if the producers are looking for a young rising star they surely wouldn’t like to see one who dresses and presents themself like an adult. In the opposite case, if you are auditioning for a role younger than your actual age, help yourself with clothing that matches their age requirements.
Outline your character: although it may seem wasteful “just for a commercial”, preparing your character is going to help you with the delivery. There is a difference between going in and repeating the lines you learned by heart or going in and actually acting out a clear character you have in mind. To help you in this process of building a character, try to create in your mind a vision of what was your character doing before the scene of the audition. For example, if in the scene you’re supposed to hang with your friends while sporting a new cool backpack, try to imagine what you were doing before or what you were talking about.
Be ready for adjustments: sometimes it can happen that when acting a scene out, the director might realize they want to change a word or the whole phrasing and you have to be ready for that. At the same time though, be sure you learn at least your first and last lines. In fact, while it is normal to not know the whole scene by heart, you don’t even want to spend a whole audition showing just the top of your head because you’re reading everything off your script.
Last but not least, go and HAVE FUN!
What about you? If you have other useful tips for your peers share them with us in the comments!