If it feels like the industry has come to a screeching halt over the COVID-19 situation, it has. We are collectively hunkering down and pushing pause for the greater good of our communities because it’s the right thing to do. Classes are on hold, commercial shoots are being pushed, self tapes are being requested to some extent, but live auditions are a no go, certainly in Los Angeles. I hear, however, that voiceover actors are in business. Go VO! Your agents are definitely negotiating renewals. YES! We know this pause won’t last forever, and it may be worth thinking ahead to your next commercial audition — what may be different, and what you can do to keep yourself and others around you safe, with anxiety in check.
Commercial actors should never be unprepared for safety in their next audition.
It is my hope and belief casting directors and studios will take action to increase our safety and sanitation needs for upcoming commercial auditions. However, we are all in this together, and it will take 100% participation to keep our environment safe. It takes a village, right? So, let’s think ahead to be sure you are ready to do your part.
When you walk into the sometimes-packed commercial casting studio, don’t be surprised if it isn’t flooded with actors. There’s already talk of giving more space between audition appointments, which would be a change for the commercial industry. Don’t let this throw you; instead, find comfort in it! If there are plenty of actors, keep your space. Put hugs and handshakes between friends and fellow actors on hold for now. It’s never been cool to shake hands with the casting staff, and it’s even more true now.
First thing: Head straight to the bathroom and wash your hands. Have hand sanitizer and have disinfectant wipes. You get it, make sure your hands are clean.
Next: Sign in using your own pen. Yes, the pen/pencil provided with the sign-in sheet has possibly been handled by countless people. Want to be a good citizen? Sanitize the pen with the disinfectant wipe you have in your hand. Give the table a swipe while you are at it.
Have a seat and wait to be called in. Remember the door handles have likely had a bunch of hands on them as well. In the last several casting sessions I held, my session director got the door for everyone entering and leaving the room. That way his (clean) hands were the only ones touching the door on a regular basis. If that isn’t happening at your audition, don’t sweat it; use the wipe you have in your hand. And no, I don’t have stock in Lysol or Handi-Wipes. But they are nice things to have on hand at the studio.
When you head into the room for your audition, feel free to wipe down your chair or any props you may be handling. If you are handling the prop, you can be sure your hands aren’t the first hands. Give it another wipe-down for the actor coming in after you. Remember, we are all in this together.
Issues with social distancing my come up in your commercial audition if you have a group audition or even just a partner. My typical phrase in group commercial auditions is, “Stand uncomfortably close to each other, and pretend like you like each other.” Huh. We may need to rethink how we set up our commercial auditions for a while, and make some adjustments. Use common sense and speak up if you are uncomfortable. You might even want to talk to your agent about your comfort level with group auditions, if you know this is anxiety-inducing. I don’t have an answer here, but it’s something to consider.
Last: After leaving the room, wash your hands again! It’s not overdoing it, it’s just smart. Wave and send your best to the casting staff and fellow actors in the lobby. Your good example will encourage and enlighten others.
Also, if you aren’t feeling well, cancel your audition. Obviously, the sooner the better, but if you wake up the day of your audition feeling ill, for the good of your community, give your agent a call. They will let us know so we can make the appropriate adjustments to our schedule. This leaves a possibility of seeing you as a first call to callback, if the throat tickle was just that, a tickle. When you simply don’t show, we lose the opportunity to fill the slot and the communication lines are down.
I don’t know exactly how COVID-19 will impact the commercial casting community, nor for how long. But there may be some changes as we get back to it. Let’s communicate with each other, and be vigilant in protecting our own health as well as the health of the actors and casting professionals around you. Again, we are all in this together. Let’s look out for each other.
Laurie Records (Casting Director, CCDA) has been working in the commercial realm since 2004. In 2009, Laurie launched her own company. While she casts all types of commercials, she has broadened her horizons to include casting web content for network television, television hosts, industrials, and she dabbles in film from time to time. Recent commercial jobs include: Clorox, Toyota, Frito-Lay, DIRECTV, Smithfield and Google. She also cast the new mini Movie Surfers for seasons 16-18, as well as online content for The Muppets. Laurie teaches a 4-week commercial class almost every month and attends Los Angeles theatre regularly.