Act Smart!: Killer Callbacks

Killer Callbacks

By Colleen Wainwright

More things you should know about commercial auditioning, from that person on the other side of the deli tray.

So you were a good Do-Bee and followed the rules from last month’s column.

Now you’re at the callback. Or the “all-back,” depending on the level of restraint being exercised by the powers-that-be. Now a different set of rules is in place, right?

Well, yes. And no.

Pretty much everything I talked about last month, doing your job right, being professional, staying relaxed, etc., goes for callbacks, too.

Then again, callbacks are different, even if you’re asked to do exactly the same thing. You’re not just there to look good; you’re there to prove you’re going to make us look good. And that you’re not going to cause us a world of pain in the process. Which brings us to the first rule of callbacks:

1. Leave the attitude at home.

Not at the door. Not even at the car door. Trust me: there are spies everywhere. That Hip Business Attire guy who pulled into the parking space you wanted? He could be the client. That unassuming Casual Mom type fixing her barrette two sinks down as you bitch about Business Attire Guy to your actor buddy? She could be the client. (She has been the client, capiche?)

I’ll get into it more in later points, but I cannot emphasize this enough: no one wants to work with a diva. (This includes boy divas.) So be nice to everyone, from the moment you leave your house.

Actually, being nice to everyone is a pretty good modus operandi for life in general. But definitely, absolutely, be nice at the casting facility. And while we’re at it…

2. Be nice to everyone in the room.

Believe it or not, I have seen people suss out the director (or whom they think is the director…ahem…) and play to him (or her) and him (or her) only.

Huge mistake. The pecking order in the room is not necessarily the pecking order when it comes to selects. A lot of times, it’s the client who has final say, and guess who often has the ear of the client? Ding! Ding! Ding! The agency people he or she has bonded with. Being polite and respectful to everyone is your best move. However…

3. Don’t grovel. Please. For the love of all that’s holy.

This includes laughing too hard at our jokes, trying too hard to make us like you or general, garden-variety sucking-up.

You want us to like you? Do your job really, really well. Make that copy sing. Yes, even if it’s horrible. (Especially if it’s horrible!) Bring your best self to your audition, not your extra-best self.

If nothing else, it’s an excruciating reminder of how far our own noses often live up someone else’s, um…well, you know. Just be cool, baby. Ya dig?

4. On the other hand, don’t showboat.

We’re looking for someone who can (a) do the job; (b) do it really well; and (c) do it with minimal drama. What can I say? The shooting day is long for us, too.

If you are a diva, you’d better either be really good at (a) and (b), or be the only person who looks like s/he could be the hard-to-cast hero kid’s parent.

5. Be prepared for everything, including throwing it all away.

Sometimes, we just don’t know.

Sometimes, the client (that would be the marketer) comes to us (that would be the agency) and changes all the specs at the last minute. Sometimes the lawyers step in and ask us what grade of crack we were smoking when we thought we could say that on the air.

Whatever. Things happen. If you’re the kind of person who needs to memorize everything to get comfortable with it, I don’t know what to tell you. Wait, yes, I do: take an improv class. But do what you must in order to roll with it, whatever ‘it’ turns out to be.

And no matter what happens…

6. Have fun with it.

I know, I know, hard to have fun when a difficult (or downright bad) script gets changed on you at the last minute or the director/casting people/agency are acting like jerks or you’re having a lousy morning, period. Tough. The brutal truth is we’re allowed to have a bad day at the callback; you’re not.

Of course, if it’s any consolation, on their bad days, that agency producer or copywriter or art director might be looking longingly at you, the carefree and happy actor in front of the camera, pursuing your dream, wishing they had a tenth of your freedom or a hundredth of your guts.

Trust me. I’ve been on that side of the deli tray, too…

Colleen Wainwright is an L.A.-based writer-performer-etc. who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. As part of her pledge to use her powers for good and not evil, she now helps actors and other cool entrepreneurial types brand themselves via her design business, communicatrix | designs.