The Business of Show Biz: Real People Auditions
Monday, December 16, 2013
By Velina Brown
Q: When I get a call for a commercial audition and I’m
told they are looking for "real people,” what does that mean? Naturally
they wouldn’t be bringing in people who are super skinny with giant fake
boobs, poofy collagen-injected lips, Botox frozen foreheads, etc.
They’ll just bring in regular-looking people. What do casting directors
want to see that is different when they say they want to see a mom
shopping for cereal vs. a "real person” who is a mom shopping for
cereal. Can you help me out here?
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: Yes, I can help. I’ve shown your question to Nancy
Hayes of Nancy Hayes Casting, Theresa Benavidez of Beau Bonneau Casting
and Cal Grant of JE Talent Agency. Here’s the scoop about "real people”
Grant says it just means, "They (the casting directors) don’t want you
to say you’re an actor [during the audition] because they don’t want to
deal with having to explain to a client why someone said they were an
actor when the client wanted to see real people. That’s all.” Hayes
concurs: "If they ask you what you did over the weekend, don’t tell them
you were performing in a play. Say something else. Otherwise just be
Sounds pretty simple. However, Benavidez cautions that some actors
(women in particular) don’t pay careful enough attention to the
description of the role for which they are auditioning. She breaks it
down this way: "When I hear ‘real people’ from clients, I think ‘not so
slick,’ not glammed up. You mentioned ‘real mom.’ Real mom to me means,
client is looking for a stay-at-home mom, cooking for her kids, taking
care of the home, shuttling kids back and forth from school, ballet,
soccer games, etc. She doesn't walk in to a casting with four-inch
heels, sexy dress, face full of makeup and lipstick and hair looking
glammed. She has no time (at least during the day) to do this. I can
tell you from experience that some women actors do come in glammed up no
matter what the role is. There’s even posing going on in the audition
room when taking still photos. This is not what clients are looking for.
Just remember what you are coming in for and think about how that
person would dress and groom themselves.” Note: Dressing appropriately
for the role is basic for any audition, not just the "real people” ones.
Benavidez continues, "As far as ‘real’ men go, I think there is a bit of
a slick factor with actors that the client is not looking to see. The
confident factor should come down a bit even when walking into the
casting room where clients are present.” In other words, think of the
audition as a dance and let the client lead.
For example, a nonactor in an audition situation would be a fish out of
water. Therefore, the nonactor would be less likely to stride into the
room and boom out, "Hi! My name is Ron Real Guy. How are you all doing
today?!” and sort of take over the room. The advice, then, is to let the
client ask you how you are doing. Don’t behave as if you’ve auditioned
hundreds of times, even though you probably have. Let the client take
the lead. However, this is where the "just be yourself” advice can
create a bit of a conflict. If you are naturally a highly confident,
outgoing person, then to tone that down means you’re not really being
yourself. You are acting like a less confident version of yourself.
Why is all this necessary? Hayes explains, "They (the clients) want to
feel like they’ve found "their” talent. They don’t want to see people
who have already done a lot of commercials. They want to find someone
new and fresh.” Unfortunately, many clients believe that in order to
find someone fresh who looks like a regular person, they must only look
at nonactors. However, casting directors know that most of the time the
best choice will be a natural looking actor who isn’t going to take all
day to get one usable take.
Six "Real People” Audition Tips:
1. If you have been invited to a "real people” audition, it’s because you look fresh and natural.
2. Don’t mess up what you naturally have going for you by overglamorizing yourself.
3. Dress and groom yourself appropriately for the part.
4. When they say, "Tell me about yourself,” the only wrong answer is that you are an actor.
5. Be confident inside, but let the client lead the dance.
6. And Hayes adds, "Have fun because it’s a party. The people who make the most money are the ones who are having the most fun.”
Hope that helps.
Bewitched, bothered and/or bewildered? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.