When I was growing up, my father worked at Foote, Cone & Belding, which at the time was one of the largest global advertising agency networks, responsible for many of my favorite commercials, including for the California Raisins, C&H Sugar, and Levi’s.
I’ll never forget my dad’s words after I decided to become a commercial actor and had gone on several auditions with no bookings and very few callbacks. He said, “Aside from making it as a rock star, this is the second most competitive job. Be prepared for the nos, but don’t ever let them affect your next opportunity. It’s like water off a duck’s back—shake it off and move on to the next.”
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.
Starting out as an actor, I was terrified to audition. I’d always be fine in the car, but whenever I’d walk into the casting office and sign in, my legs would start shaking. So I started taking standup and improv classes to help break the nerves. I thought if I could just get up in front of a room full of people and make it out alive, there would be no reason why I couldn’t have fun in a casting room with just a fraction of the people, who were actually on my side and wanted me to get the job.
When a CD asked me to help her by reading with other actors for their audition, it helped me even more in the room; I saw what most people brought in with them and learned what to do—but most important, what not to do. Your audition starts the minute you walk in. Many actors take that desperate, over-the-top, neurotic approach or are there to make friends, or try to be liked, when all that is required is simply to do the work before, during, and especially after an audition.
We’ve all sat in our cars after a reading and second-guessed ourselves. We ask, “Why didn’t I say that?” or “Why didn’t I use this line?” I write these things down so I can make sure to do them at the callback. The more things you have in your arsenal the better because you can almost guarantee that the director will have you do it a few more times at the callback, and it’s always nice to give them a variety of choices.
As an actor, there will always be this roller coaster ride of ups, downs, and the occasional stop. But from the day I started with my very first booking, I’ve written in a book I call my Book of Blessings. Whenever I get a little hard on myself, I just open it with a fresh eye and look back at everything the man above has blessed me with.
David Banks has appeared in over 100 commercials including for Reebok, Coors Light, and Comcast. He studied at the Groundlings in Los Angeles.
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