Look Before You Leap into Commercial Auditions

Look Before You Leap Into Commercial Auditions

Commercial Audition Training – Lots to Learn

When I interview people before taking my classes, so many tell me that they have been told to start their acting careers by training for commercials. I would like to silence all those who are perpetuating this disempowering misconception. They are destroying acting careers before they even start. But I do understand that when most people look at actors in commercials, it looks so easy. It is no wonder that many think that it is a way to break into acting, be seen and make lots of money. Yes, it is fun, creative and can be lucrative. Most working commercial actors can make it look easy because most are pros. As you will discover, there is a lot to do, learn and know before starting to audition well and book commercials.

WHEN TO START: I strongly believe that you should study acting for a year or so and Improvisation for a good six months (at the least) before doing a commercial class. Then you will be more prepared to go get a commercial agent and start auditioning – hopefully, while you continue to professionally train consistently. I believe that when people start auditioning too early, it often creates major problems with craft and confidence. And when those actors do less than stellar auditions, there is a good chance the casting directors they audition for will choose not to see them again, even in the future after they train and improve.

Although, I do have lots of students with little or no training take my beginning commercial workshop. And, I also have agents send me total beginners (who are great commercial types) to learn enough basics to be competent at their auditions. AND after the class, many of these rooky actors who are good commercial types and/or have strong performance talents or skills, do book some work. On the other hand, from years of experience, I am convinced that those who want to book lots more work, plan to have an acting career and want to feel secure about their craft need to prepare and train first before jumping into the commercial arena.

MISCONCEPTIONS and CHALLENGES: Many feel they don’t need to study acting first or that after they book a few commercials, they will use that money to study – I truly believe that thinking is ass backwards. Don’t be fooled, this is a commitment and requires more than you know. Before pursuing any venture, you really need to understand what is involved, Here are just a few of the issues rookies as well as trained actors should know about before auditioning for commercials:

  • GETTING AN AGENT: Getting a good agent can be challenging. Agents are inundated daily with dozens of pictures and resumes of actors who want commercial representation.
  • COSTS: Between training, commercial wardrobe, photos, a website, reproductions, casting sites and mailings, it can get expensive. Plus, by working a job that gives you the flexibility you need to audition, your income usually will not be as good as if you had a full time job.
  • TIME CONSUMING: Depending on the location of the casting facility, each audition will normally take on the average of 2 ½ to 4 hours, to travel back and forth, park, prepare, wait and do your five minute audition. And often but not always, actors go out on dozens of audition before booking one.
  • HIGHLY COMPETITIVE: Getting auditions is very competitive. There are hundreds to thousands of actors submitted for every role. Only 80 to100 are seen each day per role. So you have normally a 10 -15% chance of getting an audition when submitted.
  • MONEY EARNED: The money that most new actors think they will earn form booking a commercial is not always the case. It depends on many factors whether the commercial is: union, non-union, local, regional, national, international, one spot or multiple spots, the number of actors, on-camera or voice-over, buy-out and/or residuals. Actors can earn anywhere from a few hundred to (in rare cases) a few hundred thousand dollars doing a commercial.

My main intention in laying out these misconceptions and challenges is not to discourage you from pursuing commercial work but to help you avoid the pitfalls that can make it difficult to make a good start. There are many more misconceptions and challenges you should be acquainted with before jumping into beginning your commercial acting endeavor, do watch my Look Before You Leap Into Commercial video.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com

How to Balance a TV Host Career and an Acting Career – Part One

Try the 80/20 approach.- By TV HOST COACH/ACTRESS IDALIS DE LEON

How to be a Host and ActorSo you’ve just nabbed a TV host agent and built a pretty impressive acting resume for the past several years.

How can you pursue both TV hosting and acting?

One career at a time. Here is what I used to do and it worked brilliantly for me. I established myself as an actress first because I started booking roles right away. Feel the temperature of the market by seeing who is responding to your selected headshot submissions. If you are going out on hosting auditions or even commercial auditions and are starting to get call backs and good feedback, this is momentum. The key to show business, it’s all about momentum. Go where the river is flowing, go with the momentum. If you find yourself swimming upstream, you should check and see if you are pursuing the right career at the right time. You see, when I started to pursue hosting they just happened to be shopping for a new VJ at MTV. Good timing? Well, sort of. It’s not like a genie appeared and bowed down in front of me with an array of choices. You see “Hosting” chose me. I feel the same way about acting. It chooses you.

Here is a play by play of how it happened. I was pursuing acting and had a good run, about two or three years of student films, co-stars and roles in plays Off Broadway in New York City. As I was looking at the breakdowns for more acting auditions I kept seeing host auditions. I was working on my speaking skills and secretly dreamed of being a host, so I eagerly submitted, not thinking anything of it. My acting call backs had slowed down and it was the perfect time to see if I could make a go of it with hosting. Little by little I would go on hosting auditions in between my acting auditions and soon, I started booking more hosting jobs than acting jobs.

Commercial Agent Representation – Submissions

In major markets, there are hundreds of agents. Attaining legitimate representation for commercials is usually rather involved so it important to choose the agents you wish to target and research them:

  • In major markets buy updated books that list and describe agents and managers (In Los Angeles, these books are sold at Samuel French and New York at the Drama Book
  • Obtain a list of franchised agents from SAG.
  • There are agents who are not SAG-franchised. That does not mean they are not reputable. Those who are members are just easier to check out and are accountable to a supervising entity.

  • Ask industry pros you know as well as your friends, teachers, relatives, and classmates the following about agents:

    • Whom do they recommend or have heard about with great reputations and who should be avoided?
    • What is the best way to contact them?
    • Is there anyone they know who could help get more information or has an “in”?
  • If you belong to a networking group, check with their members and their records.
  • Go to the websites of those you are considering and read about the company history and the agents.
  • Once you have a short list, check your choices with the Better Business Bureau. Find out if they have had claims filed against them.


The size and status of the office you should realistically approach is determined by where you are in your career. When starting, you will find that the small and medium-sized offices are often more receptive to meeting new talent but if you do have an “in” at a major agency or just want to try to get with one, definitely pursue it. If your timing, talent and type are right, you could get lucky.  Now that you know the reputable agents you wish to pursue, submit a picture, resume’ and cover letter.

Don’t mail to one at a time and wait for them to contact you. It is also a waste of money to do a mass mailing to every agent in town. I suggest mailing to a select fifteen or twenty. Agents are bombarded with actors soliciting them. You might hear from some within a few weeks. If you don’t get any responses, submit to your second choices. Agents and managers will call you for a meeting if they are interested in what they see in your submission. If you have industry contacts, teachers or friends who can recommend you to your desired agent(s) I propose you ask your contact if they would advise the agent to expect your submission.  If you get minimal or no response after the second round of submissions, shoot new photos, redo your resume and cover letter and then, in a few months, submit again to your first then second choices. Client rosters often change, making room for an actor who was of no interest just a few weeks earlier.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/

Donald the Dialect Coach

Donald the Dialect CoachDonald Gipson (www.DonaldTheDialectCoach.com) combines a unique blend of professional acting and teaching expertise to deliver a high quality learning experience that enhances the skills of professional actors and sets them apart from the competition. Donald demystifies dialects.
Whether working locally in Los Angeles or around the world via Skype, Donald shows you the fun and easy way to learn dialects and reduce your accent. Most importantly, he teaches you how to own a dialect, build up your skill set, and add more value to yourself as an actor.

Website: www.DonaldTheDialectCoach.com
Email: Donald@DonaldTheDialectCoach.com

Director Jay Roach

Emmy-winning Austin Powers director Jay Roach on Comedy and Directing

Here are some lessons derived from Gerry Katzman’s (www.standupcomedyclass.com) interview with director Jay Roach (“Meet The Parents”, “Campaign”, “Austin Powers”)

Lesson #1 – Everyone is afraid. Just because someone can successfully direct Zach Galifianakis, Mike Myers and Will Ferrel doesn’t mean he has faith in his own comedic ability.  Says Roach: “I’m not funny… When I walked up at the podium, I just hoped I wouldn’t start gushing sweat and blubbering because I really do have actually horrible stage-fright. it’s not healthy.” 

Lesson #2 – The only person who gets to decide whether you “have what it takes” is YOU. “You do not have to be funny or good at speaking to direct, thank goodness” added Roach.

 Lesson #3- Surround yourself with the best.

Lesson #4- Balance.  According to Roach, comedy direction is about creating a free, uninhibited atmosphere while the camera is rolling- while being analytical, obsessive, and painstaking while you prepare your next shot. 

Lesson #5- Work hard enough to earn your lucky break. Jay didn’t get to direct “Austin Powers” (his first feature film) until after he was 40 and had been working for years at every conceivable job in the entertainment industry.  But when Mike Myers asked him to take on the job of a lifetime, he was ready. 

Lesson #6- Success doesn’t look how you think it will.  Sometimes your dream job comes later in life than you had imagined it would.  Sometimes Emmy-winners have stage-fright. And sometimes, the world’s best comedy directors don’t think they’re funny. 

For more great information visit www.StandupComedyClass.com and join our newsletter. Thanks!

How to be Great in a Meeting

Award-winning comedy coach, actor, and comedian Gerry Katzman gives valuable tools and secrets about how to pitch yourself and be great in an interview or industry meeting…

In any business, your results are usually dependent on how well you perform in a meeting. Getting the job, the raise, the contract or the sale is almost alway contingent on how well you are able to sell yourself or your product.

This video will show you how to talk about yourself in such way that you cannot fail to get people excited, eager, and hungry to work with you. 

After decades of preparing myself and others for high-level industry meetings, I have found three important questions which, if answered, will prepare you to shine like a star in any presentation, meeting, conference or audition. 

Knowing and practicing the answers to these three questions will enable you to talk about yourself masterfully.   They’ll also add focus and drive to your career.

Question #1: Who are you like? 

Name 5 successful artists/people/businesses in your field that you are similar to.  Who do people compare you to?  Whether the resemblance is physical, personality, or just an intangible essence- who are you like? 

People cannot spread the word about something unless they have some reference-points that will help other people understand it.  

What are 5 successful examples of people (bands, artists, businesses) in your field that have something in common with you?

“As a comedic actor I’m like Ben Stiller meets Jason Schwartzman meets Adam Sandler meets Josh Radnor meets Paul Rudd. ”

“Our band sounds like the Beatles meet Daft Punk”

“Her comedy feels like Ellen Degeneres and Woody Allen had a baby.”

“Our restaurant is the McDonald’s of Greek Food.”

Right now, try to write down your 5 examples.  You may need to call friends for help.  

Question #2: What do you want and who are the gatekeepers?

Write the three goals you want to achieve in your career this year and who you need meet with to attain them. Be specific.  For example, actors- is your dream job on TV, Film, Web or Theater?  Comedy or Drama?  Single-Camera or Multi-Camera? Which shows exactly?  Who are the casting people?  Decide.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra

Question #3: Why are you doing this/ What is your inspiration?

Why do you love what you do?  When did you fall in love with your art, craft, or business?  How long have you cared about it?  Why is it important to you?  

People want to work with people who are passionate. 

How can you show your passion? Learn to talk about it.  


Answer these questions at home.  Then, have a friend read you the questions and get comfortable answering them in front of another person.  Knowing how to talk about yourself, how to pitch your business- could be one of the most high impact activities that you can do. Start by knowing the answers to these three questions.  The results (clarity, focus, confidence, and purpose) should be satisfying and immediate. 

Please share your thoughts with me and sign up for my newsletter at http://www.standupcomedyclass.com/

Four Reasons Actors Book Commercials

By: Carolyne Barry

You get a commercial callback. Ten to twenty-five actors up for the same role as you. You do a great job and don’t get booked or you do a “so-so” job and you get the commercial. Rather confusing, right? You have to ask yourself what is going on in the minds of those making the decisions. How are they judging the actors and their auditions? Who gets booked – is it luck?Wonder what are the casting factors that are the determinants?

Based on all my experience as an actress, casting director and teacher, I do believe there is a casting formula utilized when booking actors for commercials. It is only my educated opinion but I REALLY believe that this is basically the formula and value percentages.


30 % – What You Look Like –

Since there is some agreement between the ad execs and the director on the “aspirational” and/or “inspirational” looks of those being called back, the importance of the actor’s physicality is still important but now since it is still subjective, it is about 30%.

What also is relevant in the “looks” area, especially at the callback, is when it is necessary to match actors with spouses, friends, workers or family.- Do they look like they belong together.

40 % – Talent and Creativity

What the actor does in their audition, how they take direction, their creativity and talent now becomes the prominent factor.

20 % – Attitude, Personality and Essence

Those behind the table at callbacks, are watching everything you do from when you walk in the room until you walk out. How you take direction, what questions you might ask and how you relate to the director and others actors you might be auditioning with. Those decision-makers are checking to see if your personality and essence is right for the role and ALSO if there are any reasons why you would be difficult to work with.

10 % – Wildcard Factors

And finishing up the BOOKING equation are wildcard factors: it could be anything from the actor’s wardrobe (which one of the decision-makers really likes for the spot) to any of the execs or director having subjective preferences or dislikes. I’ve heard so many wildcard reasons, i.e. one of the clients, not choosing an actress that everyone else wanted because she reminded him of his ex-wife. Another one is an actor shaking hands with the director and his hands are sweaty which makes the director uncomfortable, There are too many subjective wild card factors to cover here but I am sure you can imagine others.

In review , this is my understanding of the primary considerations when making booking decisions. 30% looks, 40% talent, creativity and how well the actor takes direction, 20% Attitude, personality and essence and 10% Wildcard factors.

These considerations are just parts of the casting equation and are all considered. Know that: if an actor is a great physical type for a particular spot and does a great audition but he/she comes off arrogant or too silly then he/she will probably not get the job. Or if he/she is really has a great personality and essence and is the perfect type but does not do a good job with the material or scenario then again, he/she will probably not get booked.

This information should help you to not take it personal or think you did a bad job when you don’t get a booking. And it should help you have the insights you need to put the odds in your favor for booking commercials. And by the way a lot of this is also applicable for booking smaller roles in film and TV.