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Commercials 101 w Actor David Banks and CD Sue Crystal

What do you get when you cross the dorkiest actor alive with one of the most prominent Casting Directors in NYC? Don’t think too hard because there’s no answer.

Ahem. Let’s talk about commercials!

You’ve seen DAVID BANKS on the big and little screens, you’ve laughed with David Banks, you’ve laughed AT David Banks… Just who is this guy who has booked 100’s of commercials as well as TV & film roles and theater? How did he become so successful in the business?

The name SUE CRYSTAL should ring a bell. Sue has been a Casting Director right here in our city since the late 1980s. You may recognize some of her work for such companies as Sears, Sprite and most recently the Kidz Bop commercials. http://kidzbop.com/

If you see Sue, tell her I say hi! (Mention NYCastings because you know – word association.) Let’s get to it!

 

DavidBanks_IronMaiden_PhotoByAndyRooney_ExactDigital

DAVID BANKS can now also be seen on the other side of the camera. He wrote, produced and starred in his wrapped original film CUT! Now David is scripting Re-CUT! Http://www.thecutmovie.com

 Twitter: @DynamiteDork , Website: Http://www.davidbanks.tv Photo by: Andy Rooney of Exact Digital http://www.exactdigital.com , Twitter: @exactdigital
What is it about show business that you love and hate the most?

I can answer both of those questions with one answer. It’s the rush of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Will my manager call with amazing news or none at all? As actors we are all fairly sensitive, and nothing beats the feeling of walking out of an audition and knowing you did EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO NAIL IT! Sometimes we get instant feedback in the room with true laughter and other times we get absolutely nothing.

Tell us what it’s like studying at the Groundlings and why you chose that particular school. http://www.groundlings.com/

I have always been a fan of improv and the actors who were able to tap into it at a moments notice. I started to hear something more and more at auditions years ago, “Feel free to make it your own” or “add anything you like to the character.” I have always admired the actors with extreme improv skills, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, etc.

With so many struggling actors out there, do YOU still struggle?

I think we all do. Not only with the entire auditioning process but with ourselves. I can’t think of one actor that hasn’t struggled. If you meet him please have him or her call me so I can take them to the nearest psychiatrist for a head check. [LAUGHS] I’m always setting the bar higher and higher for my goals, and although it’s nice to check them off as I go, I’m constantly setting even higher ones. Will I ever be out of the struggle zone? Probably not in my eyes.

Break down one of your most recent television commercials.

My most recent was a spot for Advance America with a casting director I admire very much Jane Doe Casting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9Ry8_qWpCE I try and give every audition the exact same energy and excitement whether it turns into a booking or not. I still get just as excited about a booking now as I did back in the day. We all tend to beat ourselves up right before we enter the audition room. Especially the longer we wait. That just means more time to think. Am I right for this part? Am I prepared enough? Am I too prepared? Am I young enough, old enough? [LAUGHS] The hardest part is definitely the waiting game, which we all know too well. Sometimes we find out immediately after and other times so much time has passed I forgot I even went to the audition. Typically a commercial shoot only lasts a day. I always say soak in every minute of it! Working with a new director, production team, the entire experience all the way down to the gourmet dinner and craft service table.

Do you consider yourself a metalhead or a meathead?

HA HA! I’m definitely a bit of both, although I gravitate more toward the metal side. Balancing sanity between auditions is an art form in itself. I find a good shuffle of songs from 80’s metal to hair metal can easily keep me happy. Am I that guy rocking out to Whitesnake or Def Leppard on the freeway with a cup of coffee in one hand and my sides in the other? Most likely I find the older I get the more roles I am wearing a suit. So the minute I get home I love to escape that and throw on a vintage metal Tee.

How important (or un-important) is social media to an actor’s career today vs 10 years ago?

It’s crucial! Today when an actor signs on to a film I believe it’s his or her responsibility to be sort of a marketing partner for the project. Our job as an actor doesn’t end the day we finish shooting, It’s actually just the beginning.

Have you ever gone on an audition unprepared?

Not that I can remember. I’m a little obsessed so I usually lock myself in my room and don’t leave until I have it memorized entirely. Because I know if I don’t, there is someone right behind me that knows it frontwards and backwards. If I get the sides on a Friday for an audition on Monday I know this weekend won’t be much fun [LAUGHS]. It will consist of ordering pizza in most likely.

In 2004 you made your film debut in a movie called Doing Hard Time with Steven Bauer, Boris Kodjo and Michael Kenneth Williams. You lost 20 lbs for this role. a) How’d you lose the 20 lbs? b) Was your contract contingent on you losing the weight? c) Did you gain the weight back right away, or ever?

It was a choice that I made. The character was a skinny meth dealer. I fasted for a while. 2004 was the year I decided to take this on as a full time career and do nothing but this. I figured since I might be eating little to no food for a while between bookings why not be skinny. [LAUGHS] Some weeks there will be peanut butter and bread and others will be a bit better. Perhaps that’s why I’m always excited to work. You will most likely catch me near the craft service table. DavidBanks_Glasses_PhotoByAndyRooney_ExactDigital


Check out David Banks’ Theatrical Reel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np9QOZzMabI . Photo by: Andy Rooney.

You recently co-wrote and starred in the film CUT! What attracts you to horror film making? 

I have always been a fan of the horror world. Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Chucky. I sat down with the director David Rountree and we bounced ideas off each other for a while and wanted to write something truly terrifying with a twist and attach people we grew up admiring. Sam Scarber, William McNamara, Suze Lanier. To have them as a part of this project was a real blessing.

 

What’s more fun, working on a film or commercial? Why?

I may get punched in the stomach for this but I really enjoy commercials. They say it’s a stepping stone for TV/Film but I really love the entire process a bit more. From the casting, the callback, the avail, shooting and just watching how it all turns out in the final edit. It’s still a rush for me.

Who makes your commercial reels? Why is it important to have a reel?

I have a good friend in the UK named Ryan J. Thompson who will spend weeks crafting just the right reel. He will send a couple examples along the way and keep me updated on his choices which always blows me away. Finding him was an absolute blessing. He is super passionate about the entire journey. When casting directors put out a break down for a certain role and they aren’t familiar with your work, it’s a nice way for them to get a sense of who you are and what you can do. The first few years of your career is crucial in building relationships with the casting directors, so until they know what you can do, it’s our job to have a reel that they can see right along side of your headshot.

How did you find your publicist? (or did publicist find you?) What was the first interaction you had with your publicist? Why did you choose your publicist?

I was researching a few online and finding just the right one was very important to me. This town really is small. I found MLC PR on an actor’s page through IMDbPro I had worked with years ago and noticed she had MLC PR listed so I reached out and it turned out that Kelli Jones grew up in the same town I did (Petaluma, Cali) It felt like just the right move and it absolutely was.

Do you have a specific wardrobe just for auditions?

I have one closet full of my go to gear (suits, ties, polos, khakis) and another filled with things I rarely use. Lab coats, super hero costumes, referee, cop etc. [LAUGHS] You never know what you will have to be from one day to the next. You sort of build as you go.

One of your specialties is talking fast. Is that something you perfected over time because you realized there was a need for it? Why is talking fast your ‘signature’ thing? (Readers – Click the link to see David Banks talk super fast in the @NYCastings teaser: https://youtu.be/CgerbtYrEiM )

Well I have always been a pretty nervous guy, and was always being told for the first few years to PLEASE SLOW DOWN. So instead of doing something I knew was next to impossible I decided to hone in on that and make that sort of my thing. I still get nervous even after all these years. For me the acting is just the talking and introducing myself to a new room before the read. I have to “ACT” like I am calm and in control when I’m really going a mile a minute on the inside.

How did your family respond when you told them you wanted to be an actor?

They told me to GET OUT and start looking for a place to live! I’m kidding. I think they were just glad I finally put down my drum sticks and left my bedroom for something other than an occasional snack. I was in and out of bands for most of my younger years which they always supported so I knew this would be something they would accept.
Did you have a back-up plan in case acting didn’t work out?

Never. My father always said having a back up plan is too often used as an excuse for failing to work the primary plan with all of ones energy and resources.

What or who influences you when working on screen or in theater?

I have always been influenced by the 80’s comedic types Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy. Nothing like a classic Vacation movie to bring out the real laughter.

What are your best and worst qualities?

I don’t think you have enough space for the worst qualities. [LAUGHS] Perhaps I will just list the top three: – Always tough on myself – Put my career before relationships – Don’t believe in vacations My best quality is that I can laugh at all my worst qualities.

Have you ever worked as an extra? What would you tell an actor who wants to work as an extra? Should they not do too many extra jobs or that’s the only way they’ll be categorized and never make it into bigger roles?

I always think it’s a very nice way to learn the business. Everything from taking your mark to working with others. I worked on a beer spot where an extra got bumped to a principle because the director liked her look and she made a killing on residuals. I also worked on a commercial last year where the guy who was hired lied about being able to play bass guitar so they pulled someone from the crowd of extras who could actually play and he was bumped to a full scale principle. It was exciting to see that happen. Although I do think there is a time where you have to say no more extra work.

Do you ever really know what a casting director is looking for?

Does anyone really ever know? I think they have a pretty damn good idea, but every once in a while they will throw in what is called a wild card just to shake things up. Sometimes they are super specific and other times it will just say “Hero guy”. I personally like when they narrow it down (friendly, likable, warm hearted, guy next door, etc.)

When you audition, do you do it off book? Do you bring the script with you even if you don’t look at it?

I won’t go in the room unless I know it 100%. The script is usually right on me. How do you deal with rejection? I heard something a few years ago that really changed my whole outlook on rejection. “Don’t worry about booking the job, because that will only last a day or so, concentrate on making a new fan in that audition room because that will last a lifetime.”
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View David Banks’ Commercial Reel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qUcGrUP4Rw .

Photo exclusive to NYCastings.

What’s a fun fact about you that no one knows?

Hmmmm. The up close and personal time, huh? I start every day with a prayer and end each one with another. Giving thanks to God for each and every opportunity and the excitement to take on another. I have spent the last 16 New Years Eves in a different church for the countdown just thanking him for the previous year.

 

If you are offered two auditions or roles simultaneously, how do you decide which one to take?

I always ask my agent or manager if there is a window for the audition. If there isn’t I will always show up early just to be safe to see if I can sneak in. Nothing sits in my head worse than missing an audition. If the casting director can’t fit me in I always peak my head in and let them know I made the attempt. As far as a double booking it then boils down to the rates and relationship with the casting director. Thank goodness we have managers to handle this for us. Isn’t it hard enough for us running around hearing all of these NO’s? [LAUGHS]

What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

If you are really going to do this DO IT WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO GIVE. Don’t do it as a hobby, and certainly don’t put a time limit on it. I have seen too many people come out here from Missouri, Maine or Michigan with that whole mentality of giving it a try for a year. That’s like saying I have never picked up a violin but I’m going to be a professional violinist and if I don’t make that happen in a year, I will quit. Sounds pretty ridiculous right? I had a meeting with a manager in the beginning of my career who asked me if I had 10 years to spare, because that is what it will most likely take to make a name for myself, and if I did I just might have a shot. I said, YES I DO. He still didn’t represent me because he already had seven others that were my exact type. Find your niche and find the right agent or manager that believes in it just as strongly as you do. www.davidbanks.tv If you want to read some more personal tidbits about David Banks, go here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilana-rapp/actor-david-banks-of-cut-_b_7181376.html

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SUE CRYSTAL has cast very popularcommercials as well as Indie features and more. Previously, Sue was a successful Theater Director and Acting Coach. Her answers to my questions are gold, so pay close attention!

Why and how did you become a casting director?

I was a Theatre Director and Acting Teacher. I basically decided one day that I wanted to do something in film or TV and I didn’t know what. A friend of mine hooked me up with a job assisting a Casting Director on two films. Then I started to get my own jobs on Indie Films and Commercials as the Casting Director.

What’s it like auditioning children?

The approach with children is basically the same, just much slower….to make sure they understand everything. Patience. The direction needs to be simpler. It really depends on their age. Below six years is more difficult.

How do you handle an actor who is really cocky?

If an actor has a bad or cocky attitude I usually just dismiss them quickly. I usually do not run into this though.

Have you ever ‘caught’ an adult or child actor crashing an audition?

Yes, I have caught actors crashing my audition. If I think they are good for a role, I invite them in, if not, I politely ask them to leave.

What’s it like auditioning the same person multiple times over the years who never get booked for the projects you’re working on?

If I like them and think they have talent I wish and try to get them booked. If I think they are not talented, I might ask the agent not to send them anymore.

How important or unimportant is an actor’s reel?

For commercials, I generally do not ever look at a reel. For films, I will look at reels. They still have to read for the role perfectly to get cast.

Often times an agency will only be allowed to send a certain amount of actors / models to an audition. Example: Each agency might get five slots. Who decides on how many slots each agency gets?

The Casting Director decides these things.

How do you get your jobs?

My business is all on a referral basis.

After the audition process is over, what’s the next step?

Commercially, after the first audition, the tape is sent to the Ad Agency, Director and Producer. I send a list of my picks and comments. A call back list is sent back to me decided upon by the agency and director. After the call back, the top three pics for each role (in order of preference) are sent to the client. This is decided up by the director, agency and me. For film, I work directly with the director only on everything creative.

Do you ever receive gifts after an audition or after someone books the job?

Actors might send a thank you note, flowers. No gifts necessary!

Do you reserve a studio to do the auditions or do you have your own space where you hold auditions?

I reserve a space. Usually Endeavor.

What advice do you have for actors who are auditioning for you?

Don’t try to shake my hand or get in my space. Don’t be late. Wear the proper wardrobe (and make-up), be prepared, don’t ask too many questions…especially asking what I just told you. Listen! No (never) any excuses for anything. Be able to take direction. Ladies, hair out of your face so I can see you. Oh, also, never stop and get flustered in the middle of a reading, keep going as nothing happened! Don’t ask to read again, if I want you too, I will ask you to.

What if an actor is unprepared but you feel they would be perfect for the part?

Being unprepared is seriously bad. But I will give a person a second chance if they are right for the role.

What’s the difference between casting for commercials vs. television/film roles?

For the actor, for films, know the character and be prepared. Do your homework! For me, more off script you are, the better. Dress (and MU/hair) appropriately for the character so that we believe you can be that character through your acting and looks. Best to be a trained actor. Be open and flexible to direction. Basically the same for commercials, although it is a different animal. Some actors are better at commercials, some better for “legit”. Some great at both. Although, commercials are a lot about a “look”.

How do you feel about self-tapes and sending digital auditions in vs. auditions in person?

I never allow self-sent tapes for commercials. My clients don’t seem to want them. For film, yes to self-tapes.

Anything else you’d like to say that would help actors better understand the casting process? I think I pretty much covered everything above.

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