Written by Michael Watson-Gray
Scroll down to watch some of Michael's commercials
Have you seen that comedy sketch, 'Fiery Hawk'? If you haven't please YouTube it and come back to me. Funny, right? But surely not what it's really like - well mostly not, but sometimes...
I have been very fortunate in the few years since graduating from Drama Studio London and have acted in 7 commercials. As they tend to pay quite well I am often asked, "what's the secret"? "How do I get cast in a commercial"? I have to be honest and say I don't really know. Sorry. What I can tell you is some things I have noticed about the auditions where I've been successful and what I've learned from them. It boils down to two main pieces of advice:
1. Make a choice (and stand by it)
At drama school you hear almost every day - 'Make a choice' but sometimes it's very easy to forget to. No more so than in a hurried commercial casting. You're one of 100 people, you get 30 seconds with the script when arriving, you get 2 minutes in the room and then that's it. It's very easy for it all to fly by. The first 5 commercial castings I had were a whirlwind and then one day I had an audition running an hour behind schedule. That hour was dull but it meant that I had nothing to do but read the script a hundred times and practice and refine what I was going to do. By the time I got into the room I had a very clear idea of what I was doing and just delivered it. There were three mini-scenes to act, I did two of them once and the third twice and that was it: I got the job, no recall or anything. Since then I am a militant choice maker and will always have a (subtle) practice in the waiting room so I'm all rehearsed. It really makes such a difference - if you make the wrong choice they'll let you know. I was told about a commercial once that I had got the job because I was the only person to do something different with the role in the audition, to have made a different choice. Now I'm not saying that's because I'm a genius, far from, but I think that's because everyone else was rushed into the room as a blank canvas, were all given identical initial direction and thus created 99 similar performances. I went in with a plan and gave my interpretation a go before getting redirected. Always deliver your interpretation! I recently almost didn't because when in the room I thought I was way off the mark but luckily right at the end they said "do what you want this time" so I gave my plan a go and they loved it (I got the job).
This is so much easier said than done and I have no tips for how to achieve it but I have noticed that if I'm tired, late for work, think I'm way out of my league, don't know if I want to get this job as I'll have to take most of my clothes off etc I tend to get the job and all I can think is that it's because I'm relaxed. I guess if you're desperate to do well you push too hard and it doesn't feel authentic and if nothing else commercials have to create something authentic as you get 30 seconds to tell a story, grab an audience and then convince them to spend money. The proviso to being relaxed though is that you need to have done the 'Making a choice' work first otherwise you'll just be an auditioning pot of jelly.
I hope my two top tips are helpful and that you're convincing me to buy stuff in no time!