Trying (+ Failing) to Book a Commercial Gig? Let’s Talk

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Photo Source: NBC

Whether you’re setting out to be a categorical commercial actor, or you think commercial gigs would be a great supplementary gig, there are a few things you need to know. Namely, there are a few things that can stand directly between you and booking a job. Here’s what should be top of mind before heading into your next commercial audition.

Your headshot:
“Commercial headshots are designed to appeal to the advertising industry. The purpose of a commercial is to promote a product to a specific demographic. In your commercial headshot, you really want to consider what demographic you fall into. It’s important for the personality types in commercials to be easily identifiable since there are only a few seconds to connect with the viewer. Are you the upscale luxury car driver or the college student compact car driver? What is your authentic age range? Are you the stylish hipster phone commercial type or the nerdy, quirky office type? As always, you want to show unique qualities in your headshot. But keep in mind, commercial headshots are really about that broader appeal.” —Marc Cartwright, L.A.-based headshot photographer and Backstage Expert

Your preparation:
To be believable in a commercial, [actors] should take a product they use every day that they know and love and do a commercial for their product. That’s when you’re being real, because you use it! Then transpose that into the product that you’re doing. We can see whether you’re telling the truth or you’re lying. We don’t want to see [that]. We want to believe you.” —Ellen Jacoby, Miami-based casting director

Your breakdown:
“It’s very important that the actors who come to see me are dressed a certain way. I put a lot of information in my breakdown. I want you to look and be dressed a certain way, because if you’re not dressed that way, it looks like I didn’t tell you that info. My clients are very literal, and they need to see things a certain way in order to do their own presentation, so pay attention to the breakdown. [And] look at the dates: Are you available? If not, please don’t come in. Book out with your agents whenever you’re not going to be available. It’s so wonderful now that there are so many great TV and film opportunities, but often it takes you out of being able to do commercials, so be up front about that with your agent and let them know your availability.” —Kyle Coker, senior casting director at Binder Casting with RWS Entertainment

Your read:
“Work on several interpretations. Having only one interpretation can be problematic and shallow. If the session runner wants something different, it can be hard to change the one you have locked in. And, if asked to do the copy or scenario a second or third way, you probably won’t be flexible enough to do it well.” —Carolyne Barry, casting director, actor, and Backstage Expert

Your reel:
“These days, a demo reel is just as important as a headshot when it comes to securing the next opportunity. Think about getting into a room with someone you have never been in with. A reel isn’t only used to seek out representation, but to show casting directors firsthand exactly what you have done and what you can do. I like to keep my reel short and sweet. I use the editor I have had for years, Ryan J. Thompson, who stores all my clips so we can make a new reel annually that’s fresh and current.” —David Banks, commercial actor and Backstage Expert

Ready? Check out Backstage’s commercial audition listings!