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A hungry and talented “newer” actor I have gotten to see in class several times sent me a message yesterday referring to an audition and suggesting he needed some help.

“I have a script just 4 lines not sure how to go about it.”

I looked at the script, and within 30 seconds, I knew exactly what to tell him. I have the advantage of having auditioned for hundreds of commercials and shooting dozens of them. I also spent time writing commercial scripts so I understand the process of moving from concept to execution. I fondly recall one commercial script needing 13 rounds of revisions to satisfy the client.

Without going into specifics of this particular script — client name and actual dialogue — let’s use this an opportunity to discover an approach to breaking down commercial scripts quickly so you can spend more time getting ready for the audition in other ways. It’s also especially good to know how to do this in case you get a cold read for a commercial.

Here we go. First, his script has on camera roles for 5 people. They each say one short line at a time. In some cases, they say only two words.

Prep: Be prepared to speak every line as if it’s the same character.

Second, the lines appear to be responses to a single question asked by a character on camera.

Prep: It’s likely you will be delivering your lines either to the casting director if you’re brought in the audition room alone or to other actors if you’re brought in as a group. Rehearse both ways and be ready to adjust in the audition room, when necessary. 

Next, it’s a commercial for a family-friendly restaurant.

Prep: Consider the importance of the right tone. For a commercial about any place you’re at or representing, you’re happy to be there. The delivery shouldn’t come off as irritated or perturbed, even if the dialogue has you making a suggesting about how to improve the service.

The script suggests your character is familiar with the restaurant. It’s a place you have been to many times.

Prep: Ask yourself two things: What’s the nature of each visit and do you know the other people around you?  You might see them every week, same time, same place. You may only see them at this restaurant as a scheduled playdate for your kids. Either way, creating a sense of familiarity with the other people can help, even if they’re not actually in the audition with you.

Near the end of the script there is dialogue for a character on camera and a voice-over to share the payoff of what the commercial sets up, resolving the conflict, and the call to action. This is an aspect of commercials many newer actors miss because it doesn’t involve any lines for you.

Prep: Determine your range of reactions. Remember, you’re hearing good news. This is a solution to the problem and a reason to celebrate. For all the time you spend on practicing your lines, triple the prep time for creating simple yet effective reactions. This is the where the real selling exists. 

The keys to any audition prep are understanding and decisiveness. You want to have a clear sense of what the client is trying to achieve with this commercial and what it will take for the casting director to convey that to the client or production company in your audition. Then, you want to make your decisions quickly and confidently, even if they end up changing in the audition room.

Now go book it!

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