If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: “Commercial casting is just a look.” The notion is affirmed so regularly, it’s become a panacea for the commercial world. Well, “It’s just a look” may be a comforting aphorism for insecure hobbyists or neophyte thespians, but the truth is most commercials are won or lost on the performance. A well-established and experienced session operator puts it this way, “I’ve seen clients, at various times, change the gender, age, and ethnicity of a lead role based on an actor’s performance.” Make no mistake, you need to commit to a worthwhile, adept, and fresh performance every time you step into the audition room to be seriously considered by producers, directors, and ad agency executives. This is true even if there’s no dialogue, and even if the spot does seem to require just a look. Professionals want to work with someone who has bona fide acting chops, first off, because it’s more fun; and secondly, because things can change in a moment, and a spot that was just a look can turn into a dramatic performance in an instant! After all, this is a field for creative spirits where nothing is written in stone until a commercial is completed.

As a professional, you can take responsibility for your career by avoiding the I-did-pretty-well-but-it-was-based-on-a-look trap that some actors fall into. ‘Cause that just ain’t cuttin’ it. Remember, for any particular category, there’s an inherent similarity. We’re all unique and special in our own way, but “Asian-American women 21-25” or “elderly Caucasian men” are going to have a similar look to begin with. It’s the performance that sets each actor apart. Take your career seriously, and deliver solid auditions on the regular; you’ll most certainly convince the execs you’re more than a look.

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