A Commercial Casting Director’s Perspective
|Elaine Del Valle on the set.|
Photo courtesy of Brownsville Breed.
- Availability to cast - check
- Studio Rental - check
- Casting Assistant - check
Adherence to a strict timeline—finding the right people for a role is imperative to the success of the spot, but there is only so much TIME!
Exploring the storyboard
By now the ad agency, the producer and the director have given me a storyboard and their input on character breakdown.
I post a breakdown on Casting Networks and/or Breakdown Services, and while I await the submissions to start pouring in, I go through my headshots on file and memory bank to determine my “Must See” actors…The ones that will make me look good by bringing the ENERGY and EMOTION of the commercial into the audition room.
This time I am casting four principles.
By the end of the eight hour day, I have received over 1000 submission on a 20s female Caucasian, over 250 submissions on a 20s male bilingual Hispanic, and over 400 submissions on a male and female Hispanic salsa dancer couple.
With just one day of auditions, of the almost 2000 submissions I get to invite approximately 100 people to audition… That means that about 5% of people submitted will be seen.
I have to decide quickly, usually I have a day (or two if I am lucky) to schedule the auditions…If you know this, then you know that just being in the room is a victory for any actor!
The Selection Process…Who Gets In The Room
Most casting directors post on Casting Networks and or Breakdown Services…These are professional outlets that can also be made available to unrepresented talent with a push of one button. Most casting directors don’t make this available to unrepresented talent, but I do.
If you are looking at what I am looking at as a casting director you will see headshots first, and so in my opinion an actors first and most important tool is the photo that will represent the characters you are most likely to book.
The picture is a thumbnail approximately 2" × 4" so an up close inviting shot is usually best.
Yes, you should have multiple pictures that represent various roles and it will be up to the person submitting you as to which picture they think will speak to the role.
Note: Often times, when an actor is represented by various agencies, (as most freelancers are) I will choose the representative that submitted them with the picture that makes the most sense to the role. Unless that representative has done something unprofessional in the past that I have been made painfully aware of, I have to give it to the person that knows best how to represent their client.
Often times the bigger agencies are not submitting in the same way as others. For me this can be annoying, but they undoubtedly have taken the time to sign the people they know will hustle, become a known entity and book. Often times I get a phone call from an agent asking if they can send me a link to their clients…I take the time to view these links and yes they do stand out…but it is often much more TIME consuming and so harder to get to.
Then I reach out to my “must haves”… it is a sad circumstance, but often times these people are not even submitted…Were it not for my knowing the actors personally they wouldn’t have the opportunity!
Making some preliminary decisions I look beyond the norm and go into search engines of Casting Networks, and the niche places like the HOLA Pages….
As such I think it crucial that actors keep their photos, skills and age range up to date and on databases that make the most sense to the industry.
The options are narrowed down, but still not enough. The 2000 have become 500 and then I look to the additional pictures that should resemble the same person. This will narrow it down to about 400…
Next the resumes… For me I look at training…Actors should invest time and money into honing their craft in a long term scene study professional acting environment… We live in the mecca of the theatre world and there are many choices on where and when to train…Training should be a PRIORITY for all actors. I recommend a professional acting group setting, where you work every time and continuing improvisational courses…Both will make you more likely to book!
These actors that have taken that extra step and are the right look get the invitation to audition.
The Audition Times are Sent
A confirmation and not a reschedule is ideal…in as much as I may want to see the actor, time is limited and it is very easy to give the opportunity to the next person in mind from the other 95% who didn’t get the opportunity.
The Day of the Audition
The storyboard is out and the size cards are available.
I Expect that Actors
- Come in on time…so I can stay on time
- Keep their conversation low in the waiting area…considering the actors working inside of the room.
- Have current headshots and resumes available to me…for me to keep on file and as a reference.
- Fill out their size cards legibly and completely…if you book this saves me time and aggravation.
- Give a slate that shows YOU at your best…Your pride, your energy, your smile, and someone I know I want to be around even at the most grueling shoot.
- Be camera ready…light make up and neat hair out of your face
- Wear a color that is right for camera…blue is always a good choice. Layers also work well on camera. Don’t wear white, red or a busy small pattern.
- While many casting directors feel the need to direct first off, I give the actor the credit they have earned in my expectation that they will “get it.”
- Take the time to read the script and imagine what the final cut for the commercial will look like.
- If you are asked to change it up, be ready and open to try new things…free yourself of the last read, listen to the direction and don’t be afraid to take the time you need to absorb it…It is a gift to be able to absorb the new direction and it takes lots of work and openness to be ready to accept it…and infuse even more of you into the next take.
- Remember it’s YOUR show. If it’s a spot where you are the Mom, you need to make the happy home for your family, be proud of them and love them. If you are a dad then you need to decide to listen to your wife, adore your children, love your food–All of those things that we know dads do so well. We need to see the pride of the house you are living in. The pride of the marriage and family you have made work through good times and bad, but remember this is a good time. Lead it and Love it. Advertisers want to create an emotional reaction to their products and you are responsible to lead that.
You are one step closer to the job…And up close and personal with the people who will ultimately make this decision…All of the direction given previously applies, but something I would like to let you in on is this– often times the room is conferencing on the people that just left or their favorites…
As an actor it is URGENT that you give them the time to do so…Wait for your turn…Do not let them see you until you have their FULL attention. Don’t waste your time distracting them from their thoughts. Let them finish them and then direct their attention at you.
BE Natural. Be Available. Be FREE. Be YOU. Ask questions. Laugh at yourself. Take direction…Even if you don’t get the job you may be right for something coming up!
Lastly YOU SHOULD KNOW often times the Director and the Casting Director and the Ad Agency love the same person as their first choice…They still have to give the client final say and so likely three full cast options are presented. All three choices will work, but the final say is always the client's and the client does not often agree with everyone else’s first choice…
So let it go! Know you were great! You could have done it! The rest is beyond your control…but know that YOU HAVE BOOKED THE ROOM…The Director will ask for you, the Casting Director will know you will deliver, and the Ad Agency will love to see you again!
F.Y.I. The final booking went to one self-submission, one person that I saw in an acting school showcase earlier in the year, and two regular commercial bookers (only one of which was submitted by their signed agents). The ad agency added an extra character which also went to an actor whose agent did not think to submit him! So remember regardless of who is representing you…YOU ARE ALWAYS REPRESENTING YOURSELF! Accepting this is being of The Brownsville Breed!
More to come on the second part of this ALL SIDES OF THE COIN conversation and look into the world of booking commercials!
Coming soon– The Actor’s Perspective–Becoming a “MUST SEE” Actor!
About the guest blogger
Best known for her multiple award-winning solo show Brownsville Bred (including a 2012 HOLA Award), Elaine Del Valle enjoys an illustrious commercial career spanning over a decade. She currently has eight commercials running. This year she began a career as an independent casting director and has already cast for such brands as KFC, AARP and McDonald’s. For more information about her, click here, here or here. She is also leading the Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Commercials seminar for HOLA and the HOLAfábrica Workshops and Seminars program. For more information, click here.