Do You Have The Look? It’s Complicated!
As a woman of colour who is also plus size and of a certain age, this has been a big question for me! Being a casting director and actor I feel I have a solid understanding of how it all works. Hopefully some of what I share here will resonate with you, and will help!
Truth. How you look is close to being the most important thing about your commercial audition. It isn't everything, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.
A little background.
The client will have determined the types of characters they wish to play the roles in their commercial and who they should visually represent. Many of the looks requested will be dependant on the demographic the client is trying to reach. Which community will the spot be targeted to and where it will be airing. Middle America, Europe, Canada…factors like ethnicity, age, size, physical characteristics and vibe are all considered. The goal is to have viewers relate to the characters in the commercial. It's all about the target audience.
This info gets passed along to casting who then sends out those specs in a breakdown to the talent agencies. (ie: Casting Workbook, Casting Networks, Breakdown Services etc.) Your agent will then decide if you have the look that the client is looking for, and if they feel you are a good fit, they will submit you. The casting director then goes through all the submissions and chooses who to bring in for the audition.
Excellent! So this is where it is important for you to understand that the goal of casting is to find the best talent for the role. Period. Bottom line.
We will have been speaking directly to the director or agency and have a reasonably clear idea of what they are looking for. The scrutiny does intensify at this point, but please don’t let that throw you! (This is where it gets difficult for actors…it isn’t really discussed, but you Are being judged…of Course you are!) That’s a big reason why it can be uncomfortable in the room. But just to put this judging into perspective, aren't Most job interviews uncomfortable? Yes! It's tough to be under the spotlight and know you are being assessed. We all want to be the chosen one, but need to know that the fit has to be right for whoever is hiring. Your audition is a job interview, so judging is just part of the territory.
Not everyone is a fit - there are certain qualities you will need to have for a specific role. That’s the nature of it. How you look – along with your personality and skill level. As you walk into the room, we will be considering if you have the attributes our client is looking for. This may seem harsh or unreasonable, and it is also the truth. The finished spot may only air for 15-30 seconds! In that time, the character has to be established and a story must be quickly revealed. The audience has to become engaged and understand immediately who the character is.
We are not always looking for models or that Superstar quality!
Actually, these days we usually aren’t.
Here is what is encouraging and important to remember. There is a trend for commercials to reflect more accurately the world and the people that surround us. There is still a ways to go, but there is definitely more of a desire to showcase our fellow humans and all our diverse magnificence.
This means that there is now more opportunity than ever for actors and even non-actors to land a role in a commercial. Every ethnicity and ethnic blend. Every age from newborn to centenarians. LGBTQ+ and differently abled. Extreme athletes and couch Potatoes. Plump and tiny. Unusual character looks as well as those that are almost just too gorgeous to look at! ;)
HERE’S THE KICKER.
Please remember this. The creative team already has a certain look in mind and if you don’t look close to what they have envisioned, it is unlikely that you will book the job. Not impossible (because on rare occasions they will adjust the look they are seeking) but honestly, it’s unlikely.
Don’t worry, all is not lost! There are many looks that we search for.
If you aren't quite right for one project, then perhaps you’ll be a good fit for the next. We never know what type of commercial we will be casting next. Whether it will be consisting of a fairly average cast, or a cast that is more unconventional with its characters. From casting’s perspective, it is deeply satisfying to hunt for and find that perfect person for a part!
This is why it is important to carefully choose the photos you submit on Casting Workbook or on Open Casting Calls. Show us how you actually look! Whatever it is that makes you uniquely You should shine through.
Don’t let your photographer photoshop your images too much. Your wrinkles, freckles, ‘imperfections’ may be exactly what we are looking for. We need a clear up-close photo of you that is an honest. This way, when we are looking through submissions and selecting who we would like to see, we can bring you in for something you are actually suited for.
We know that you don’t want to waste your time coming in for something that isn’t a good fit for you. Our time is important to us as well. We may only have a few hours to cast for a character. We do our best to bring in people that we believe are suitable for the role. As casting directors, that’s our job!
Remember too, that if we have asked you to come and audition for us, it is because we believe you are a good contender! If we Haven't asked you in, it may be because we think you Don't have the right look for the part. No biggie...we might catch you on the next one.
The day of the audition, stack the deck in your favour! Use wardrobe choices to make yourself look more like the character.
Ask your agent what you are coming in for. If you are coming in for a Doctor, wear a smock or stethoscope. Construction worker? Wear a tool belt or a hard hat and a plaid shirt. Business woman? Dress like one! I can't express this enough. Dressing the part does 2 things. It helps You mentally get into the role, And it helps the viewer Believe you in that role.
When you walk into the room, present yourself as if this is your only chance! (and it very well may be!) Don't squander your minutes by being shy or cranky or low energy.
Show us in your demeanour that you are pleased to be there! Focused and ready to roll! Leave any problems you may have outside the door and bring your ‘A’ game. You only have a few minutes to shine, and how you conduct yourself is just as much a part of your mojo as your unique look! Everyone wants to work with someone who is enjoyable to be around. This could be that little somethin' somethin' that gives you just that much of an edge choices are really narrowing down! Bring it
Bottom line? Having the right appearance is NOT something you can totally control, and it ain't always all about who is the most gorgeous. The right look is always a bit different from project to project, and that's a good thing! It means the times are becoming more inclusive and there is room for many more types of people than ever before.
What you Can do is be the best You you can be. Trust that we have brought you in because WE think you have the right look, and we Want you there.
Dress the part. Bring your 'A' game.
And...for goodness sake, enjoy your audition!
Do you have any questions? I LOVE questions! Ask away and I will answer as soon as I can! ;)
Do your best and keep rockin' your good stuff!
Deb Barnes Casting/Coach/Mentor Vancouver Casting
*Note: While more and more roles are being created for all kinds of people, not all types will be regularly requested. Audition opportunities may not be as frequent for those that are outside of the mainstream demographic. While the industry is changing and definitely moving towards being more inclusive, it still has a ways to go. So, if you have a more unique look or way about you, your auditioning opportunities may reflect that.
I can’t stress enough. The prospects are improving and have changed dramatically from where we were at 10 years ago…even 5 years ago! Knowing this can help you adjust your expectations so that you feel less stressed. Also, remember that this is a scenario that affects many of your fellow actors…you are definitely not alone or unique in this adventure. Change is happening and it takes time.