The One Thing to Forget About During a TV Commercial Audition
Here’s what I learned myself about one thing to leave out of the audition room. It was an accident! But I was ready for it to happen. And if you find auditions challenging, I think it might help you too.
Just came away from a commercial audition in London (that's a TV advert for my British tribe), and you know what? I don’t even care if I get the job. That’s a lie. But what I am saying is: the audition went so well that it proves what I’ve learned from Al Pacino (no I’ve never met him) and that is: enjoy the audition because an audition is the opportunity to perform.
Here’s what happened: I had to play an American weekend jogger - not a marathon man but an average Joe - who does a comic fall beside our celebrity sports hero who’ll be presenting the commercial. And right there in the brief I smelled the usual rat: Oh, I get it: you want to make the American look like silly, right? Well, I’ll show you silly. Switch to analytical hemisphere: American comedy has a lot to do with surprise.
So here's how it played out. I went in with my jogging partner, whom of course I'd never met before, but I had to imagine that we had a life-long friendship. The casting director asked us to slate, which went like:
Casting Director: "Tell us your name and your agency."
Bryan: "I'm Bryan Bounds, and I'm with Northern Lights" (going all knowingly clever to the camera with the name of my wonderful agency)
Casting Director: "Do you have any adverts running now?"
Bryan: (Passively.) "No."
Casting Director: "Do you have any work coming up?"
Bryan: (Slight mock teenage self-pity.) "No."
Casting Director: "Are you willing to jog?"
Bryan: "Woof! Yes." (I actually said, "Woof" - where did that come from!)
Then, as per the casting director’s instruction, I stood beside my jogging partner, they rolled the camera and we stretched before launching into my stride (I chose the most awkward one-legged stretch). And then I told my partner very assuredly: “It’s the balance. It’s ALL about the balance.” Took a few steps and then I tripped embarrassingly, sneaking a glance back at her. Now I’m very good at tripping (tripping instructions below), and I’m also good at clearing the mind and then tripping spontaneously again.
"Cut! That was great. Did you actually trip?" I shrugged contentedly. Five minutes and it was over.
Will it get me the job? Beats the tires off me.
But this was actually a watershed moment for me - because I CAN’T DO IMPROV! Like a lot of actors I go into an audition trying to please you, trying to be the talented actor, trying to give you what I think you want - and then getting bound up in fear and inadequacy, which kills the ability to share any useful contribution. But this time, I knew the character - he's me - and I gave myself permission to be goofy, awkward, uncontrolled and nerdy - and that’s when the thoughts and the words came.
So what’s the the One Thing to forget about? The need that some of us have during auditions to look like we’re a really together, cool, accomplished, adequate, talented person. I find in both life and career, that the more dumb I am, the easier life goes.
Try it next time. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with a dramatic audition…it’s just a matter of taking that playfulness and playing seriously.
Stay beautiful and break a leg.
Bryan Bounds is the founder and head of education at The American School of Acting, an independent acting conservatory for young actors in Yorkshire. Keep up to date with Bryan's new online acting course: NeuroActing: A Highway to the Soul of the Artist, by giving a Like to the ASA Facebook page.
* Tripping 101: Walk or run as normally and preoccupy yourself with an important thought. Focus intently on that, then, as your back foot comes forward in the stride, scuff your foot against your opposite calf. Let all the power go out of the body. It’s the focus on the thought creates the tripping.