Commercial auditions are challenging for most actors. Audition material or scenarios are at the most 20 seconds, which means you need to be up to speed right away. No time to get into the material. You are only in the audition room, on an average of 5 minutes. Just a few minutes to get comfortable, answer questions, take direction, hopefully get a rehearsal, slate and do one or several takes.
I believe that the following audition pointers that I formulated from personal audition experience, teaching thousands of students and observing actors who have auditioned at my casting sessions, will serve well your auditions for commercials (as well as TV and film):
- As you walk into the audition, don’t think about anything you worked on. Let it all go. Be present to whatever happens.
- Be respectful, positive and professional without losing your personality.
- Give full attention to the person who is directing you: Don’t be distracted by anyone or anything. When you are being given direction, don’t be figuring out how to do what they are saying. Just listen and trust that you got it: otherwise, you might miss input.
- If clarification is needed, ask questions. Questions are only irritating when they are unnecessary. Those running the session won’t think less of you because you request answers. Their input will help you to do a better audition for them.
- While being recorded, if they talk to you or ask questions, don’t second-guess what they want to hear. They probably want to get to know you and see your personality. Just talk to them as opposed to trying to impress.
- If the session director or CD is rude, short-tempered or seems ambivalent, do not take it personally. It may be their nature or they may be dealing with problems or previous actors who tested their patience. Stay pleasant, positive and do your work.
- “Get centered” before starting your audition. Breathe, take one or two seconds before beginning or find your own way to “get centered” but don’t take a self-indulgent period of time to begin. Don’t be influenced by the anxiety or negative energy of those running the session.
- Do not rush your audition. When actors are nervous or “in their head,” many speed up the dialogue or their improvised scenarios. When actors are connected and focused, they don’t rush. On the other hand, don’t speak really slowly or take long pauses between the lines.
- Stay Focused. Whether you are auditioning for one person or a group, reading into a camera or speaking to an actor or a few actors, auditioning with a bad actor or a great one, in a small room or a large theatre, stay focused and don’t allow unexpected incidents to upset you and/ or put you “in your head.” No matter what happens, go with it and adjust quickly.
- Motivate Out.For improvised and scripted on-camera scenes, when possible, find a way to “motivate out” your actions and/or dialogue at least fifty percent of the time to maximize your facial exposure.Most new actors constantly look at their partner(s), which keeps them in profile and they are upstaging themselves. Don’t cheat out. Learn out to “Motivate out.”
- Look into camera. When auditioning with a reader and told to do the dialogue looking into the camera, don’t look back and forth between the two. It makes you look nervous.
- Use the cue cards when needed. Most actors feel they will do better if they memorize the audition dialogue. That is true for many but if for one millisecond you are not sure of it, LOOK AT THE CUE CARD. It is there to help your audition. If you are convinced you know the copy and are stubborn about looking at it then you will go in your head to try to remember and will often loose the flow of your audition.
- During the read, trust and commit to your instincts. Unless given a specific direction, don’t consciously perform anything you rehearsed. Some of the choices that you rehearsed might not feel right in that moment. Don’t interrupt your instinctive interpretation trying to perform them. Allow for your read to flow – you will most likely organically do most of what you rehearsed. When you are connected and “out of your head,” you are open to instinctive moments that are often better than those you planned.
- Ask to do it again. When you feel your solo audition was lacking or if you have another interpretation that you would like to do, politely request, “If you have time, I would like to do it again” or “do another interpretation.” It is not a foul to ask. If they refuse, say “thank you” (mean it) and leave. It’s worth asking.
There is a lot involved in learning to do your best at commercial auditions. And for additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running