I first met Jason La Padura in New York almost 30 years ago. I had my first job as a Casting Director at an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Company called Manhattan Punch Line. Jason’s partner, Gary Murphy, was the PR person for MPL and we had cubicles next to each other. Jason was quickly establishing himself as a theatre Casting Director and with his casting partner, Stanley Soble, transitioned with ease into casting television. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and with Natalie Hart formed La Padura/Hart Casting. Read more
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
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.
THE 4 MAIN FACTORS THAT DETERMINE WHAT GETS ACTORS BOOKED.
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.
By: Holly Powell
There are many theories and opinions out there about whether an actor should walk into the audition room in character or not. Some actors have told me that a coach they worked with had been adamant that they should walk into the room in character, and another coach had advised them against that. Confusion about this seemed to dominate their whole audition process, and they were defeated about their audition before they could even walk into the Casting Directors office fearing they were making the wrong choice.
From my point of view as a Casting Director for 23 years, I can tell you…don’t walk into the audition room in character. Walk in focused and ready to go, say “Hello” or “Nice to see you”, looking the Casting Director, Director or Producers in the eyes. This could be the only moment during your audition where a little bit of your personality comes through. And just that, “Hi, how are you”, can speak volumes about who you are as a person…are you an asshole, arrogant, unprepared, nervous or confident.
When I started teaching my Audition Workshops and coaching actors, a Manager I had worked with for many years called me and said he was going to send me one of his clients for a private session. The Manager was concerned because this actor had been working steadily for several years working on great projects, but for the last year the actor had not booked anything. He wasn’t even getting many callbacks. The Manager asked me to work with him and see if it was something he was doing in the audition room that was causing this booking draught.
At the beginning of our session together, I chatted with the actor asking him how he felt in the audition room and asked him what kinds of parts was he mostly called in for. He told me he was usually called in to play ass-holes, terrorists, jerks or the bad guy. I took a beat and said, “Do you walk into the room in character?” He answered, “Well, I never did until about a year ago when a coach told me I should always walk into the room in character”. “When you chat with the Casting Director and Producers after the audition is over, do you chat with them in character?” I said. He took a beat, “Yes”. “That’s why you haven’t worked in a year”, I told him.
I explained that when the Casting Director, Director or Producers chat with an actor after the audition is over, they are trying to get to know a little more about the actor and get a better ‘feel’ for who they are. This actor was coming across as an asshole, arrogant jerk and these Producers didn’t want him anywhere near their set. The relief the actor felt when he realized he was allowed to be “himself” when chatting with the auditors, was transformational. He was so excited, and I watched his whole body relax as he realized he didn’t have to carry on an “act” the whole time he was in the audition room. That same day the actor went to an audition, and he called me later to tell me he had gotten an immediate callback! He was back to his “old-self”…a working professional actor.
By: Holly Powell
I always say that part of the fear an actor experiences while waiting in the lobby of the audition room before the audition is, “the fear of the unknown”. They become anxious because they don’t know what lies beyond the audition door. What does the room look like? How many people are in the room? Is there a camera in the room? Are the powerful people behind that door in good moods or bad?
A chair is the one familiar object that carries over from your living room, where you were rehearsing the audition, to the actual audition room itself. The auditors usually have a chair in the audition space in case the actor would like to use it during their audition. While rehearsing the scene at home, the actor decides whether to use a chair or not. They’ve visualized the “place” in the scene and it either involves the need to sit in the scene or stand. Either way, the actor knows that most times they will walk into the audition room and there will be that chair…their choice to use or not. This is the “make-it-or-break-it-taking-control-of-the-audition-space-moment” for the actor. There will be two options.
TAKING YOUR POWER OPTION:
The actor walks confidently through the audition door, saying “hi” to the people in the room looking each of them directly in the eye…and then they spy the chair. That’s the grounding moment. Touching base with the chair, the one familiar object from your living room to the audition room, helps the actor claim their power and the audition space. It’s now “your room, not theirs”. If chit-chat happens and then it’s time to “start”, the actor turns to the chair and moves it exactly where they want it. They can move it away out of the audition space, because they are not going to use it. Or they can leave it in the exact location it is in. But, it’s the actor’s choice and decision. The auditors can see that the actor is prepared, having made a choice. On the auditor’s side of the table, we relax a little and look forward to seeing what the actor prepared. And this is all before the first line of the audition scene.
GIVING YOUR POWER AWAY OPTION:
The actor walks tentatively through the audition room door, looking down and occasionaly glancing up shyly at the people in the audition room, apologetically eyeing the audition space for invading the auditor’s territory. “Would you like for me to stand or sit?” they ask, making sure they don’t make a wrong choice or offend. In response, they get an answer back: “Ahhh, just sit.” Instant power give-away. As the actor sits in the chair they are thinking, “Why did I ask that? I had rehearsed it standing when I was in my living room!” The auditors jump to the conclusion that the actor has not prepared properly and needs to be told what to do or that they are green and trying to please too hard. Even before the first line of the scene, they are a bit anxious thinking the actor will give an audition that feels more like winging it than an audition with prepared choices.
Of course there will be times when the actor’s best laid plans and preparation will not always go the way they want. They may have made the decision to sit in the scene and when they walk into the audition room the Casting Director is putting them on tape for Producers and asks them to stand and not move much. Always try to find out ahead of the audition if you are being put on tape. This will often make a difference as to your standing or sitting and the Casting Director may have a strong opinion about how things should go. But, usually, if you are auditioning “live” for the Casting Director, Director or Producers, you have more freedom of choice as to sitting, standing and how much you can move during the audition.
Touching base with the chair in the audition room, whether visually or actually, is the building block that helps ground an actor in the audition room. The actor has now made it “their room”. It’s their 3 minutes. And, “You Can Do Anything For 3 Minutes”.
Jason La Padura has been a Casting Director for almost 30 years. His long list of Television, Film & Theatre credits include High School Musical, Heros and Touch to name a few. Jason started out casting theatre in New York and eventually moved to Los Angeles forming La Padura/Hart Casting. Read more
by: Holly Powell
You made it into the audition room successfully without tripping and are focused and ready to go with your choices. And then…(a) the Casting Director decides to chat a bit; (b) no one looks up at you; (c) they ask, “Do you have any questions?”
So many actors in my classes tell me how focused they are when walking into the audition room, sure of their choices, and then the whole thing unravels because of something the Casting Director, Director or Producer say or do. First, if the Casting Director, Director or Producer starts to chat with you, this is a good thing! But a lot of actors get unfocused while chatting is going on and when the Casting Director decides chat time is over and says, “Are you ready to start?”…looking at their watch… the actor feels rushed with the need to hurry up and begin.
When chat time is deemed over, make sure you take 5 to 10 seconds to get back into your mental focus and remind yourself of your choices. Don’t ASK if you can have a moment to adjust (they could say, “No, let’s go we’re late”)…just take it! The asking gives your power away. YOU take control of the room, it’s YOUR audition time, it’s YOUR 3 minutes.
If you walk into the audition room and no one is making eye contact with you, just make sure you are trying to make eye contact with them. In that moment when they do finally glance up, they want to see an actor who is focused and ready to go. But, the biggest thing that can rattle an actor after walking into the audition room is that age-old habit the Casting Director says automatically… “Do you have any questions?”
My best advice to the asking of this question is: “No, I’m good, thanks!” See, you’ve already made your choices, right? And if you think you SHOULD ask a question and the answer you get back completely contradicts your choices, you will spend the entire audition trying to make the adjustment on the spot. Honestly, Casting Directors would rather see what unique choices you have made and how prepared you are…and THEN give you direction. They would rather see an audition where the choices might be “wrong” in their opinion, than watch an audition where the actor is struggling to adjust.
So, skip the asking of questions unless you really have no idea what the relationship is in the scene or have no idea what is going on in the scene. Those are probably OK questions!