Question: I have my first audition for a talent agency coming up in one week. I was told to prepare a monologue, of the "commercial" variety, under one minute. I am not sure what this means - clearly they do not want a monologue from a play... Am I supposed to write this myself, or recite a commercial? What would be the best thing for me to prepare? --Victoria
Have you ever heard a radio ad? I know that TV commercials may be a little harder to envision in monologue format (since there are visual elements to distract from what you're hearing), but if you start with a radio ad, you may be able to grasp what it is that the agent is asking you to do.
The agent wants to know whether you are "commercially viable." Do you know how to use the proper inflection to emphasize the product? Do you know how to color the dialogue so that there are variations from the start of the piece to the end of the piece? Do you leave the consumers of the ad wanting to buy the product you've advertised? Did your voice match the style or flavor of the product?
So, listen to a few radio ads. I suggest, for a first commercial audition, that you stay away from car ads. They tend to be very hyper and contain a lot of "small print" language that is tough to deliver. Pick a local fast food chain or an amusement park that is running regular ads. Don't go for anything too sophisticated with loads of funny voices. That'll be too much work for this first shot. Tape record the commercials and then, when you've narrowed it down to three or four top choices, transcribe those ads word for word.
Now, try to "do" the ads. Which one is your favorite? Which one do you do best? Now, which one actually makes you sound best? Which one, when done in a mirror, gives you the biggest range of facial expressions and animated reactions? Finally, time yourself and make sure that your reading comes in at the same amount of time as the original (down to the second). That's probably one of the most important elements, as you really do need to show the agent that you understand the timing of commercial copy. Going overtime will not impress anyone. If the agent wants to hear you do the ad slower, she will ask you to do so. Be ready for that.
That's it! There's no major character breakdown to do, no plot development, just a sound sense of timing and the ability to know where the key words are in the copy. If you have time, grab a copy of one of the books on acting in commercials. There are quite a few out there by busy commercial casting directors. They'll break it down in more detail than I could ever provide for you here!
Good luck, and keep doing good work!
Bonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.