So many of the auditions you will get in Boston are for commercials. It’s been amazing to see the steady stream of movies shooting here over the last several years and I certainly hope to see that trend continue. They are great for the local acting and production communities and are a huge boost for our local economy. Nevertheless, commercials will continue to provide the most plentiful opportunities for paid on-camera work.
And commercial auditions are…well, they’re weird. When you audition for a play or a movie, it’s very traditional. Regardless of the size of the role you are reading for there are scenes and you will have lines which you perform with another person. You are telling a story and that story will almost always have a beginning, middle and end.
Commercials on the other hand are typically very short. 15 seconds and it’s done. Or less. And because the point of the commercial is to sell a product, most of that time is spent featuring the product. They rarely tell a story and you are speaking only a couple of words or, as is very often the case, you have no lines at all.
With commercial auditions, you’re not creating characters, or following story arcs, or thinking about conflict, resolution, beats, or the like. You’re most often just drinking coffee on a park bench. And usually you aren’t even given a script. Just a time and place to be (with your headshot of course). How do you prepare for that?
Very simple. Just be yourself! We hope that your career will take you to a place you get to Merryl-Streep it, spend weeks researching a role, breaking down a script, and creating something new and exciting and awesome. But when you are hired for a commercial, you really are just being hired to be you. There’s no time for anything else.
This can seem frustrating at first. Does it mean that you are being judged on how you look? To a certain extent, sure. Most clients come into a casting with a type in mind for the role. You either fit what is in their mind’s eye or you don’t.
But that should also be extremely liberating. It means that so much of whether or not you get the part is out of your hands. Either you are what they want or you’re not. If it’s out of your control, doesn’t that take some of the pressure off when it comes to the audition? There’s not much you can change about you.
And pressure is the number one killer of auditions because it leads to anxiety. You can spot an anxious person a mile away. They sway, they shake (literally), they can’t focus, and they don’t listen. If you can’t focus in an audition, if you cannot take direction because you are lost in your own head, why do we or the producer have any reason to believe that you will be able to do so on set, regardless of how perfect you are for the role?
So, don’t be nervous! And what’s the best way to defeat your anxiety? By remembering that there is very little you actually control. Just be yourself sipping that coffee or riding a stationary bike or chopping vegetables. Show us that you are a friendly, easy going and attentive person who can follow direction. Show us your smile. And relax. You probably won’t book this job. But if you come back enough, and you just be yourself, you might book the next one.