by L. Records
A multi part series for the not-so-established actor, hoping to improve their career.
When you step into the casting studio at a commercial audition, several people could be in the room. Occasionally, but rarely, the casting director. Don't be surprised or feel let down if they are not. Rest assured your image is being piped into their office and they ARE paying attention. Actors tend to be on their best behavior when being eyeballed by a casting director who is actually in the room. There is always a camera operator, performing the obvious task of putting you on tape. Sometimes there is a session director who is making sure you know what the scenario is (which you should already have a good idea from reading the boards in the lobby) and giving you helpful hints. Often times you will find that the camera operator is wearing both hats. Which leads me to this month's helpful suggestion:
Commercial actors should never underestimate the camera operator/session director. I am purposefully leaving this statement vague. Don't worry, keep reading.
First of all, (this should be a given in all realms of life) be respectful of the co/sd. I know, duh. And 98% of you are. It is a little easier to remember than with the lobby person mentioned in past installments of this series, and just as important. The co/sd is a big part of getting you a callback. Listen carefully to what they have to say. They have had a conversation either one on one with the director of the job, or are getting that info second hand from the casting director. The point is, they know what the director is looking for. They know if the performance is to be subtle, over the top, the really important points to hit, and even the director's pet peeves. They are in the know, you can be sure. This is not a person to act superior to; no matter how long you have been in the business and how many jobs you have booked. This is not the person to argue with. This is not a person to treat poorly in any way, no matter how long it took you to get there and how bad traffic was. Just like in a restaurant, be nice to the server or your food may be tampered with.... you want to be respectful to the co/sd or you may never know what could happen to your audition. This isn't a threat, and I am not saying anything actually happens, but they sure do have the power over that camera.
Are you in disbelief that any actor would misbehave when dealing with the camera operator/session director? Certainly it is the exception rather than the rule, but pay attention. Let me site some real life examples of what goes on:
Sometimes, actors get defensive when given direction. If you do a run through of the dialogue or action, and the co/sd gives you some suggestions, take them. Don't argue. And, please don't take it personally. They are not implying that you are not a good actor. They just happen to be “in the know” of what the director is looking for. It is their job to get a good performance out of you... the kind the director is looking for... not their idea of what is good, not your idea, THE DIRECTOR'S idea. Please don't be so misguided as to think you know better, even if you have been in the business a long time. Even if you have made millions from commercials. Even if you disagree with the direction. Just do it. Don't throw out phrases in frustration to the tune of, "Do you know how long I have been in this business? Do you know who I am? I have been acting since before you were born!" You get the idea. If you think I am not giving you real life quotes, you are kidding yourself. It has happened.
Try not to give the session director direction. It is totally ok to ask questions, but you don't want to ask things like, "Don't you think it would be funnier if I...?" There is also no need to let the camera operator know that it may be better if you delivered your lines in a different dialect. You get the idea. The session director has been given the info needed to get the right performance out of the actors coming in. They won't hold back on you. Again, remember, it is their job to get a great performance out of you. They have vested interest in you being good.
I know that every individual has a momentary lapse in sanity. At least a few times in your life there is a possibility of snapping. Whatever you do, don't flip the camera operator/session director off... or anything equally as ridiculous. Don't think he or she won't notice if you are doing the ole scratching of your eye, either. Yes, this has happened. Books can be written of the foolish things done in an audition, and all areas of life. But remember, this is your job. It is your JOB to be professional at all times during an audition. You have been told a million times to think of it as an interview. It is. A nerve wracking, sometimes easy, sometimes frustrating interview for a job. Take a deep breath; remember the camera operator/session director is there to help make it the best possible audition you can have at that time. Remember they are in the know. Listen to them and do your best. You may just notice your callback ratio increases if you do.