By L. Records
I admire actors. It takes guts to grow roots in Los Angeles and pursue a daunting dream at which so few are successful. Since you are reading this article, I am assuming that you have aspirations of having commercial success. It may not be the only goal you have, and may even be to provide the means to achieve other goals, but right here, right now, you are interested in learning something about being successful commercially.
The commercial process isn't rocket science, but there is a real PROCESS. There is a systematic way in which commercials are cast that is common to all (okay, almost all) casting directors in Los Angeles. It is your job to know this process, to know the system that will keep you from making silly mistakes, to avoid breaches of decorum, and not to waste your precious time and money.
Commercial actors should never shirk their responsibility when it comes to educating themselves about the process of commercial casting. You must keep up with it!
There is a myth that there is really nothing to the commercial process. You get a call, you go in when you feel like it, say your name, show your profiles, smile for the camera and go along your merry way. With any luck you will get a callback and maybe once in a blue moon, you will book a job. If that is how you see commercials, and that is the extent of your knowledge of them, rare luck will be all you have going for you to book that MasterCard commercial. Who doesn't want a little more than luck on their side?
Day in and day out, I witness mistakes being made by commercial actors. It could be anything from hand delivering or mailing hard copy submissions; calling the office directly to change or reschedule an appointment time; or pitching yourself as a strong first call to callback candidate because you missed your appointment previously. There is gum chewing during your slate, and not listening to the session director's instructions. Then there are unnecessary questions to the lobby assistant when instructions are posted on the wall and arguments about not being seen because the session is closed.
The examples cited above are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of mistakes that actors auditioning for commercials make. Actors can be told to a point of nausea the dos and don'ts of commercials, but I don't believe it will stick, and that you won't faithfully follow the rules, if you don't know "why" they exist. If you have a fundamental and detailed knowledge of the process, you will make informed decisions, go through the proper channels and increase your chances of success. You will never burn a bridge, and – hopefully – you will never piss anyone off again. You can establish your reputation as a delightful and dependable actor, and who doesn't want that?
My charge to all of you today, then, is to fully educate yourself about the commercial process. Specifically, attend a seminar sponsored by LA Casting during which a knowledgeable person talks about the inner workings of the process from the casting vantage point. They will show you the online casting process. You will never be temped to drop off a hard copy submission again. Seek out classes that not only teach you to slate and give you some copy with which to practice, but also address the minutia of the styles of commercials, directors, casting offices, etc. Look for them. They are out there.
Keeping up is important too. If you veterans out there are wondering why you used to book jobs and aren't so much anymore, perhaps it is because things are changing in the commercial world and you aren't staying current. Educate yourself! Novices and veterans alike are not powerless in this process and success isn't just stupid luck. The consistent mistakes and breaches of the process are made out of lack of knowing why things are done the way they are done in the casting world. Do your part in gathering knowledge for yourself to ensure you aren't an actor who is unknowingly sabotaging yourself and your commercial career.