On-camera solo commercial auditions can often be challenging for many actors. With only a little dialogue there is no time to work into the material. You must be connected at the beginning otherwise those viewing your audition may lose interest and fast forward past you. And although actors learn about the “who” and “pre-life” in acting training, they don’t usually apply it when auditioning for commercials.
Who: the person you have chosen to relate to with the copy. The selected “who” is one you believe that you can connect to best with a particular piece.
Pre-life: the thoughts, feelings and/or action that the actor thinks, feels, or does that precede and motivate the scripted dialogue or the physical action.
Both these acting basics are normally employed when preparing and performing most monologue and scenario auditions and acting work—especially when doing speeches and monologues. But with solo commercials (spoken to the camera), motivating the copy on your own is imperative in order to create your connection. That is why I spend a good deal of time teaching and re-enforcing these tools in my classes.
You may be wondering how can you have a “who” when looking at a camera. Well, when you are talking on the phone and performing acting monologues in your class or on stage, there is no one to look at, but you are involved in the conversation. With focus and practice, you can have that same connection with your chosen “who.”
We have different energies, connections, tones, and verbal deliveries when talking to the various people in our life. For example, I have a different relationship and thus a different way I speak to my students from how I speak to my family or a loved one—also different from when I talk to someone I work for as opposed to a funny friend. I would think that if you thought about it, you would see that is probably the same for you. Be aware of this when you are having conversations with the people you connect with. Understanding this can help when you select the most beneficial “who” to speak to when preparing your audition material. Four basic “who’s” that often work: someone you love, a specific fun friend, and a person you are an authority figure to or someone that is an authority figure to you. Allow each piece of commercial copy to suggest a meaningful person for you to relate to.
Have your “pre-life” decide what your “who” said to motivate your first line or action. For commercials, hearing a short question to create your “moment before” is really beneficial. For example, “Why do you like her?” Or any other question that works for you. It is not the only thing you can hear, but it works most of time.
The question and your simple, physical, unrehearsed reaction should take one or two seconds and no longer. The key to an effective pre-life is the simple, physical, unrehearsed reaction during which you might utter a very small sound. If it is an honest, in the moment response and instinctive, it is usually different most every time.
Using the “who” and “pre-life” will be empowering to your commercial auditions and is often helpful in getting you more callbacks and bookings (if you are the right type they are looking to cast). Plus, using these acting tools strengthens your craft, which can only help you make you a better actor.
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