Commercial work has to be one of the least predictable markets in the acting world. While, yes, acting in a commercial often entails directly pitching a product to the camera or dramatically eating a fork full of pasta, it can also be much harder to navigate or even know what to expect when you show up for a commercial audition. Why? Because commercial auditions span a variety of different mediums. With everything from web videos to television commercials to even print advertisements up for production, it’s hard to know what to expect when you schedule your first commercial audition. And, with major bookings and opportunities on the line, you might not want to blow your chances of booking that coveted commercial acting gig.
So how do you a nail your commercial audition? Like all auditions, there’s no hidden gem that nobody’s telling you that will immediately cause you to book any acting job. But, according to New York City casting director, Matthew Wulf of Wulf Casting, there are some things that actors can know about commercial auditions. And here are some of the key components you should keep in mind at your next commercial audition.
1. Be Yourself
“While there are a lot of similarities in casting across different mediums, commercials primarily focuses on one’s natural personality rather than a performance. For commercials, the actor acts as a gateway between the brand and the consumer,” explains Wulf. “As generalized as it may sound, their job is to be likable. The actor is in charge of engaging and charming (to varying degrees) the audience, and to deliver the message of the brand.” Meaning that, all-in-all, there’s really nothing to be concerned about. And, if you’re the right fit for the project, the casting director’s will recognize that without much of a second thought. “He or She has to have an compelling and aspirational presence on camera, and the audience needs to almost instantly understand and relate with the person they’re seeing,” Wulf continues. “For the most part, this ‘performance’ from the commercial actor has to 100% genuine and authentic.” So take the pressure off yourself! Because, in the end, being yourself if more than enough. “Relax and be yourself. We want the natural, charming and engaging ‘you’ in the room, not a nervous performer.”
2. Don’t Get Caught Up In The Commercial Copy
“If there are sides, it’s usually a small amount of a quick 30-second scene and you should have full understanding of the message or the idea you need to convey,” says Wulf. “Depending on the material – you need to make the words your own (that is to say them in your own natural voice). You can enhance them and make the dumb commercial copy not dumb by making it authentic and putting your unique stamp on it.”
3. Don’t Overthink Your Improvisation
However, not all commercial auditions provide you with copy. And, in that case, there’s still no need to fret. In fact, even if the improvisation they give you feels unnatural or awkward, the least you can do is give it your all. Because that’s all the casting director is really there to see. “If there are no sides, usually what will happen is the director will give you prompts to perform very
natural actions or improvise a conversation/delivery. The best advice in these situations is to not overthink it,” says Wulf. “Listen so you understand what’s expected of the scene, and be as authentic as possible. Be confident in whatever you’re doing and make it shine. Perform the actions, as simple and as mundane as they may seem, with a confidence and savvy and a charm that makes you stand out. That makes the viewer want to know you, or want to be you.”
4. Dress Like You’ve Already Been Cast
But, just as regular auditions, another factor of showing up to an audition is getting ready for it. In fact, when it comes to commercials, the actor’s appearance may just hold a little bit more weight. “Look your absolute best, from the moment you walk into the office. Make sure you are groomed, your skin looks impeccable and you can use makeup to hide blemishes before we see you,” Wulf advises. “Make sure you’re attire is clean and your nails are groomed. Wear tailored attire. Meaning, make sure it fits you.” Not necessarily making or breaking your chances of booking the role. But definitely aiding in how the casting director (and a potential audience) might view you. “Look at what style is used in modern advertising and let it influence you. Natural fibers tend to look great on camera and has a visual impact when the client sees you. Im not completely against prints or plaids, but don’t let it define you either,” Wulf continues. “In the end, just like the read/performance, you want to make it all seem natural and effortless.”
5. Make Sure You Don’t Have A Commercial Conflict BEFORE You Audition
Booking lots of commercial work can be great for your career and your wallet. But, when it comes to booking commercials that are similar to other ones, there could be an overlap in your contracts. And, if that’s a possibility for you, you may want to double-check before you waste any of the casting director’s time auditioning. “It’s a bit of a grey area as to what is/is not a conflict, so as long as you are upfront about any potential conflicts, we can decide on our end,” explains Wulf. “The issue comes when actors who just want to audition/work will ‘omit the truth’ when asked about conflicts, only to disclose them in the very final stages of the production. Such as after they’ve been booked or after they’ve already shot everything. Not disclosing this kind of information can essentially blacklist you, or worse.”
6. Be Nice To Everyone You See
“Actors should keep in mind that a lot of what is going on in the waiting room, we know about in the audition room,” explains Wulf. “If you’re rude to the assistants, we know. If you’re nice to them, we hear about that too. Keep in mind the casting studio is still an office, so treating it like your personal hang out or dining room table or personal bathroom isn’t acceptable. Be mindful of yourself, your fellow actors, and the staff and don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Your actions when you think the casting director isn’t watching will label you just as much as your performance.”
So, if you have a commercial audition in your sights, don’t get too overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, trust in yourself, and go into that audition room as prepared as you’ll ever be. You got this.