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TBA Online: News & Features: December 2013

The Business of Show Biz: Real People Auditions

Monday, December 16, 2013  
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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” auditions.

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 yourself.”

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.

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