In Auditioning For Commercials Part One we talked about how to walk into the audition room like a booking machine. Now I’ll share a few tips for the actual read. We’ll discuss memorization, staying positive, and commercial improv. Let’s do this!
Should I memorize the script?
Doesn’t hurt! But it’s not uncommon to see the script for the first time when you arrive at the audition. But fear not, the script is usually written on a board near the camera – like a cheat sheet.
But if the thought of reading off a board and attempting to look natural is giving you “the sweats,” start by memorizing:
- First line. Or, if it’s especially long, the first few words.
- Last line. Or last few words.
- Name of the product.
- The company’s tag line. (i.e. “I’m loving it” “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” or “Are you in good hands?”)
- Any key terms or “benefit statements.”
It may seem like a lot, but sit tight, help is on the way!
Below are examples of actual commercial scripts. I’ve underlined the parts of the script I’d have memorized so I could relax and look into camera on the rest.
Try reading these scripts in the mirror, being off-book for the underlined words and reading the rest from your paper. It’s tricky at first, but you’ll get there.
Nobody expects you to be memorized if you’ve just got the script. But this technique will minimize the distracting back-and-forth eye-darting. By being able to look down the lens on the most important parts, you’ll create connection & trustworthiness – which are booking gold!
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Not so bad, right? Now, let’s try a harder one.
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Do you see how I’ve left the really tough stuff NOT underlined? Because if you’re connecting to the camera on the other stuff, you’ve earned a little space to read the board.
When working with spokesperson copy, smile as if your income depends on it. Smiles are contagious and the ad agency is hoping you’ll make the person at home smile too. Get it? So smile! Especially when you’re saying the name of the product. You’ll feel like a goon, but a working goon!
When working with spokesperson copy, smile as if your income depends on it.
Practice your “not-so-negative face”
Even when you’re saying something negative, like “I used to have terrible migraines,” say it with the “feel” of a smile. The product worked! The pain is gone. Remember the pain, don’t feel the pain.
Put simply, if we muted this commercial, it shouldn’t look like you dislike the product.
EXCEPTION: if the session runner literally tells you to act as if you’re in pain… go nuts.
You’re never “bitchy”!
You may wish your husband listened when you told him to buy the GLAD trash bags, but you’re not PISSED at him. Try a “loving-yet-disapproving-glance” on for size.
A great example would be the “More or Less” Wendy’s spot. Red and her friend tease the guys with a sarcastic exchange, but it’s never actually mean. If there was no sound, you wouldn’t think they hated each other.
Don’t confuse commercials with sitcom training. You’re very rarely playing “bitchy”. Remember that and you’ll be fine.
Improv for commercials
There WILL come a day when you’re asked to “make it your own.” So, I’d recommend taking a basic level improv class. If you can’t afford classes right now, remember these two things:
Work WITH your partner, not against them.
YES…and. Whatever your partner says is true. They are not lying. If I insinuate you’re my boyfriend… you ARE my boyfriend. Don’t try to be hilarious by saying you’re actually dating the other girl in the scene. This isn’t the CW, it’s a national commercial with thousands of dollars on the line. So say YES!
Do not dominate the audition.
Give and take. You don’t have to talk the whole time for casting to notice you’re a good improviser. It’s like a normal conversation; first you say something, then I say something.
You’ve been there, right? You’ve waited for an hour to audition only to get steamrolled when your partner gets nervous. You can’t get a word in edge-wise and both walk away without a job. Don’t be that girl!
Other tips when improvising:
- Most commercials are 15 seconds or 30 seconds. Your improv should not be two minutes.
- How many commercials do you see with an F-bomb in them? No need to swear in your audition.
- Be normal! If you’re “passing the beer to everyone at a party.” Give one to everyone – like you’d do in real life and not leave someone hanging with no beer. (Sorry, I’m still bitter about that happening to me.)
That’s all for Part Two. See you next time for Part Three, where we will discuss all the mental schtuff that goes along with commercial auditioning! in the meantime, check out the bar below to get your own Audition Memo Checklist.