My name is David Banks and I’ve booked over 100 national commercials. Recently, I was a featured guest at Film Con LA and was asked how it’s seemed so easy for me to book spot after spot and what’s my magic touch.
How it’s easy? That’s quite funny.
Although it may appear like I have some kind of “magic touch,” my current method never fell into my lap. It was derived from MANY years of hearing no after no after no and having no clue how to remedy the situation. Rather, it came from studying the situation and learning from mistake after mistake, until I finally started to realize the key to success and booking these spots.
I spent many years, in fact, with no bookings, wondering what I was doing wrong. If I can shave off some of those years from your journey, I have done my job here with this blog.
We have all heard the expression "book-a-look," which means they will only book the one with the look in which they are seeking. I was determined to find out the truth. But the truth is, they don't really know what they want until they see it. Why not make that YOU?
We have all driven home from the audition wishing we would have done it differently, made other choices or thought of a funnier line we could have used.
Growing up with a father in the advertising industry telling me that the competition is beyond brutal, you would have thought I would have learned, but that just made my drive for success even more determined.
Henry Rollins once said…
I don't necessarily have a lot of talent, but I have tenacity, discipline and focus.
We all have something unique to offer, why not hone in on this and put it to work? There is only one you and nobody else will bring what YOU will bring into those rooms.
STANDING OUT AND MAKING IT YOUR OWN
With literally thousands of competing actors out there…
It sounds complicated, but, in fact, the answer is quite simple. All of these things occur when you do what only YOU can do. I’d like to repeat this because it is the primary factor to really being successful in this business. The above-mentioned things occur when you do what only YOU can do.
So, what does this actually mean?
It means that you MUST make what you do your own with complete confidence! This is what will set you aside from all the others. Every person is unique and when you are able to let that shine, positive things will start to happen.
My close friend, feature film director David Rountree played three sports in college and two professionally. He used to get called in as an actor to audition for specific “sports-related” commercials all the time. He’d go in and would almost always book. I remember one summer, he booked six national spots in three weeks.
I said to him. "Every time you go in for a sports commercial, it seems you book it, what’s your secret?" He replied. "No secret. It’s just me. This is my niche. I don’t have to try and go in to impress anybody, I just go in bring 'me' to the audition and I’m fortunate enough to have found my own uniqueness in this business."
It all started to make sense.
The actors who come in and read like everybody else, because they are trying to just play a stereotyped standard, will get lumped into the same group as everyone else. You have to be unique to get ahead.
I worked to find my own uniqueness and now bring that into every audition. Once I decided that I was okay with who I was and understood that no one else was like me, I just started bringing me into the audition room. Then I started booking.
Actors who come in and read with no emotions, forget their lines, try to be funny, try to be liked, rush through the scene or are so nervous that basic human functions are compromised, any chance of a fun and authentic read will be completely shattered and the chance of booking the job will be destroyed. These actors come across as fake, with contrived behavior of someone trying to get something, as opposed to someone bringing their own uniqueness to create a relationship with the brand in which they are auditioning.
Now we have all been there with a botched audition because of trying too hard. Think about it (ironically speaking), you don’t have to think about how to be you. Actors get in trouble when trying to “fake” being something they are not.
There is nothing worse than walking out of an audition knowing that is what just happened, but on the flip side, there is also no greater feeling than walking out knowing that you killed it in the room.
That's what keeps us going - that high you feel when you are 100 percent certain your agent is going to call with some great news. When the casting director thanks you on the way out with a big smile, or when everyone in the room looks away from their laptop and laughs out loud at your read, or when you shock even yourself on the way home from the improv choices you made, or when you trust yourself and know that no matter what choice you make, it will be the right one.
Nobody is capable of bringing your personal uniqueness into the room, because you are one of a kind. When you are able to fully embrace that fact, it will ultimately set you apart from the assembly line of standard actors, who are constantly seeking approval by pretending to be someone they are not. These needy actors plague audition rooms day in and day out and casting sees right through them.
There will be so many things that will get in your way: the traffic en-route to the audition, the lack of parking when you get there, waiting over an hour because they are running behind, noticing everyone around you in the waiting area that looks like a better fit for the role, the clients, writer, director and ad agency who aren't paying attention.
All of these things must be pushed aside. You can't worry about any of these and you certainly can't take it personally, because they are truly out of your hands. If the job is meant to be yours, nobody can take it away from you and if it's not, then you won't get it. It's that simple. There is no point in beating yourself up, especially for things that are out of your control.
The minute I realized that I should not sweat the stuff beyond my control, my bookings went through the roof.
When heading into the audition room…
We are human and it's bound to happen again and again, but the more you do this, the more you will have those amazing auditions right there in the room where they need to be.
There is something I heard years ago and I will never forget. 'Don't worry about the booking, because that will only last a day or so, concentrate on making a new fan in that room, because that will last a lifetime'. How do you make a fan?
Confidence is seriously the key.
Let me preface that by saying there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Never trespass into cockiness, but sheer confidence. You have to know that when you walk into that audition room, you will win it over, regardless of the outcome.
You may not book this commercial, but you can bet that they will remember you and will call you in for something else. I can tell you from experience, because it's happened numerous times. There will be directors who will ask for you by name from an audition you did months ago because, although you may not have been right for that particular job, you stuck with them.
You never know why you do or do not book a job, so once you leave the audition room, put it behind you and move on. It’s out of your hands at that point. So before you beat yourself up for not booking the job, I can assure you there will be another one right around the corner and chances are it will be even better.
They say this business is 33 percent Luck 33 percent timing and 33 percent who you know, but I think it's more like 75 percent who you know.
When they know they can count on you to show up, deliver with confidence and make them look good, you can bet they will continue to call you in again and again. Despite popular perception, this is actually quite a small business and casting directors all talk and you can't keep talent a secret in this town.
I have always said if you can get in with seven to ten casting directors, you will be going out every week. It’s like making seven to ten real friends. Your real friends know who you really are as a person and they like you either for those characteristics. When a casting director really knows who you are, they will call you in to see you.
Here is something that has always worked for me and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you. Always prepare two to three tags at the end of your read.
TAG: A little button that makes it unique and your own.
This is something to make you stand out. Yes, you are adding improvised lines to their scripted material, but only after their copy is complete. You are not actually altering their words.
The director will most likely ask you to do the scene a couple of times. Why not give him something fun and fresh each time?
By having MULTIPLE tags ready to go, it makes you look like you can think on your feet.
On more than one occasion I have had the director say during a shoot "Can you do that thing you did in the callback?" Or in some cases, I have even seen the writers add a line I made up. Keep in mind, you don't want to butcher the writing, or change what they have scripted, but a little of your own flair at the end usually helps and aids in making your work more unique.
Another thing I like to do is write down some of the things I may have forgotten to say at the initial audition, so I can use them for the call back.
Yes, I write them down right next to the notes of what I wore on the first audition, so I can make sure to wear the same thing. When you start having multiple auditions each week, it's very hard to keep track of what you wore unless you write it down.
If you get a callback, remember, it’s because they felt that what you did and how you looked at the original read may be what the client is looking to see, so don’t change it. Wear the same outfit, keep you hair the same and perform the same way you did for the original read. Why take a chance and alter anything that got you the callback?
Another thing I can't stress enough is, having just the right wardrobe in your closet.
You can almost guarantee you will need certain outfits…
Also, there are some specialty outfits, which are also good to have access to. If you do not own these type of outfits, know where to get them if you do get that call.
Surprisingly, these specialty auditions happen more than you can imagine. These are all things you can pick up with a little creativity and a few trips to the Goodwill.
There will also be moments of discouragement, but keep in mind:
This game is a marathon and not a sprint.
Those looking for the instant success are seeking something that is exceptionally rare. You don’t become a professional athlete your first year ever playing the game. It takes time to hone your craft and build relationships. Those who succeed understand that becoming successful takes time.
For a bit, I became discouraged, because I was getting older and my category as an actor was changing. This was a personal demon that was really starting to bring me down.
Then one day, I had a casting director tell me:
"David. I'm glad you're still in the game. So many guys your age (which I won't tell you) quit because their significant other tells them to get a 'real job'.”
I had never looked at it from that perspective, but hearing that really gave me some words of encouragement when I needed it most. You will see the competition literally disappear every year, making the pool smaller and smaller. Sure I see a lot of the same guys every day, but I see a lot less each year.
Don't ever get discouraged about anything. If this is truly what you want to do, perseverance and determination will allow doors to open.
So now that you have the basics covered, go create you own magic touch and break a leg, but only break it in a way that is unique to you!
David Banks is an American actor and author of How To Make a Living as a Commercial Actor. He is well known for his performance in several funny commercials. He has appeared in over 100 commercials.
David was born in Petaluma, California, the son of Tom Banks and Alyne Banks. His father was the Exec. at Foote Cone & Belding San Francisco, and later moved on to Grey Advertising. He was responsible for California Raisins, Bank Of America, C&H Sugar, and many more commercials.
In 2004, David made his film debut in the drama 'Doing Hard Time', he played opposite Steven Bauer, Boris Kodjoe, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Giancarlo Esposito
David studied at the Groundlings, which claims some of the funniest comedians such as John Lovitz, Will Farrell, Chris Katan, and Lisa Kudrow.
Since David's move to Southern California he has appeared in commercials with companies like Coors Light, Samsung, Eastwood, Reebok, Motorola, Best Buy, Hoover, Elephant Insurance,Little Caesars, Comcast, Red Robin, Mitsubishi, EA Games, Ditech, Milk, and Citibank to name a few. After wrapping up Coffin with Bruce Davison, Banks joined Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo, and Fred Willard in the new hit cartoon Lovesick Fool. Directed by Dominic Polcino (The Simpsons, Family Guy, and King of the Hill).
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