In a series from Keep It Real Acting‘s Callback Class videos, Casting Session Director Jeric Wilhelmsen shares a number of helpful insights with aspiring actors. Experienced session directors like Wilhelmsen operate the camera and give direction to potentially hundreds of actors on any given day. In other words, they have a tremendous vantage point in the casting process. For instance, they often assist various casting directors, and support the work of commercial executives, directors, and producers. Moreover, they work with a vast quantity of auditioning actors. And specifically, they see the energy actors bring into the room, observe the creative choices they make as well as how well actors receive direction. Session runners also see which individuals ultimately land roles.

With all of this casting knowledge, Jeric asserts just how important an actor’s state of mind is when he or she enters the audition room. “I think the number one key in auditioning in callbacks is feeling comfortable and confident in the room,” he says. While it can be a challenge to feel at ease in a room with casting professionals inspecting every move you make, Wilhelmsen insists:

“[The casting professionals] are not monsters. They’re just people like us. And they’re doing their job. And their job is to look at you, and see is this the right person…You’ve got to walk into that room like you are offering them a solution. Because they’re searching, they need somebody that can be themselves, who can read this dialogue, and make it look natural, and really sell it.”

Believing you are the answer to their talent search stands in stark contrast with trying hard to please casting.“They’re not looking for someone who’s scared they’re doing something wrong,” Jeric says. And he aims to empower each actor that comes his way as he asserts, “My job is really to allow you to be yourself and show what you’ve got. And then we’ll give a direction whichever way we think it should go…and we’ll see if you follow that direction.” 

According to Jeric, if an actor’s take after direction seems stronger than the initial read, sometimes he will edit the audition tape so that the director sees that stronger read first. But he admits he never assumes he knows exactly what casting is looking for in any particular role. Sometimes his convictions don’t match those of the director; and sometimes in the fluid world of casting, the qualities that seem so important in the beginning end up not being so important after all.

“There’s been so many times where I’ve had an impression of what they’re looking for, and I’ve directed actors like that for the first call. And then we come to the callback, and the director is doing something entirely different…So I don’t fine tune people; I just allow them to be themselves,” Jeric says.

Ultimately, fitting the physical characteristics of the role at hand, feeling comfortable in your own skin, and being confident in your ability to make creative decisions are all key aspects of auditioning well in commercials.

And if Jeric looks familiar to you, it might be because he lands commercial acting roles himself!