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How to audition for TV Commercials. Commercial audition tips

This series is for those of you hoping to find a home in the commercial game because they’re certainly a whole other animal than “regular acting.”  Auditioning for them is another skill set you’ll need to refine.  I’d like to share with you a few going to share the lessons I’ve learned while auditioning for commercials.


1.  Watch commercials. 

I totally get the desire to fast forward through commercial breaks! But if you’re hoping to work in this medium, you need to be a student of the final product.  You’ll want to be up to speed on the current trends.  What kind of humor is being used in the spots?  Is “Deadpan” in? Or broader comedy? What hair styles/lengths seem consistent?  Are there lots of men with scruff?


2.   Listen to commercials.

Commercial spokesperson copy almost ALWAYS sounds the same.  For example in many ads, first we hear the negative then we hear the solution.

“When I have headaches, I use Advil.” 

Another example is that, when saying the name of the product, their inflection goes up and they have “smile” in their voice.  These are subtle nuances that help to make the ads more effective to the viewer.  When you listen to these spots over and over, you’ll start to hear the same rhythm and inflections.  Learn it, know it, live it.  It is THE KEY!


3.  Know and respect the product.

If you’ve never heard of the product, do a quick Google search so you can walk in with a little information.  Know the name of the product and be able to say it easily!  If you have nothing else in the entire script memorized, please memorize the product name.  Can you imagine interviewing for a position at a Fortune 500 company and needing to refer to your notes to reference its name?  Don’t be that person.

Speak about the product positively or don’t speak about it at all.  I remember a few years back when I had a callback for Doritos.  My “husband” in the spot walked into the room, said hello to the director and the clients.  Then, for no reason I can imagine, told all of them that he hated Doritos!  He didn’t book the job.


4.   Listen to the explanation carefully.

More often than not, the casting assistant will call you into the room to give an explanation of what you’ll be doing for the audition.  This is an important moment and deserves its very own list of do’s and don’ts.

DO – Walk to the side of the room that the CAMERA is on.  The casting director/assistant will be demonstrating what you will be doing from the actor’s point of view, facing the camera.  So, you should watch him from the casting’s point of view.

DO – Stop having the conversation you were having in the hallway.  This is where you stay quiet and listen to the very important instructions that casting wants to share with you.  You know why?  They WANT you to get the job.  If you are amazing, everyone gets to go home.  So, please, please, for the love of money, stop talking.

DON’T – Try to be witty or funny when the casting director is explaining the scene.  You’re probably not that original and this isn’t your stand up show.  This poor guy/gal has been explaining this exact same thing all day.  Don’t make him work harder by fake-laughing at your lame joke.

DO – ask any questions now!  You might not be the only one that has them.

DON’T – ask a question just to hear your own voice aloud.


5.  Give a great slate.

Okay, now let’s work on your first impression.  There are four common things you should be aware of.

  • First, they will take your photo.  Look directly into the camera and give a nice, confident smile.  After all, this photo will serve your headshot for this casting session.
  • Slate – State your first and last name confidently and clearly.  This will be the first time the decision makers will hear your voice.  Give them a reason to sit up and listen, even though they’ve seen one hundred people before you.  Say it with volume, and make it a statement.

Instead of “Tristen MacDonald?” which implies: Do you like me?

Make it “Tristen MacDonald.” which implies: Hey! I’m awesome!

Because you are awesome, right?  Well, I think you are.

  • Hands – Hold your hands directly in front of your face for two seconds and then flip them to the other side.  We’re just checking for ten fingers, decently groomed hands and tattoos.  Which reminds me, learn from my mistake, and don’t get tattoos on your wrists.  It has cost me many jobs and it’s a real pain getting them removed. (Update: it took FOUR YEARS to remove them!)
  • Profiles – Turn your head to look over to one side of the room for a second, then turn to look at the other side.  Got both ears?  You’re doing great!  Make sure you move any hair away from your face while doing this.  They wanna see your “money maker”!


Jokes they’ve already heard:

MEN: You may be asked if you’re willing to shave. Answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’. WOMEN: Please don’t say “Also willing to shave!”

For children, they may ask their age. ADULTS: Don’t say your age as if you’re also a child.

That’s it for now.  Join me next time for Part Two, where we’ll talk more about how to handle the actual audition and copy!  YAY!

**** A version of this post originally appeared on ****

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