Is your ‘small & real’ coming across as angry? How big is too big–for you? Maybe you need to watch yourself!
I got an interesting head’s up at a commercial callback the other day. It was a spot for an auto company—husband and wife, packing and loading the car. Pretty straightforward. After the first time through, the director looked at me and said, “You seem angry. Are you thinking angry thoughts?” Well, I cracked a joke and everybody laughed. Then we did it again and the director said, “Great! Not angry anymore.” Whew! What this experience tells me is: I need to watch myself. You see, I had not been thinking angry thoughts at all. I had been keeping it ‘real’ and ‘small’—as directed—and that came across as pissed off. Oops. Obviously I haven’t been watching myself enough lately. I need to get back in an on-camera commercial class or in some kind of commercial work-out group and watch myself!
A few years ago a gifted actress told me a similar story. She said that a commercial CD had pulled her aside and told her that, while she was listening to the director give instructions during the call back, her face got so serious that she looked mean. The casting director knew she was just paying attention but he wanted her to know how it came across in the audition. “Smile and nod when they are directing you,” he told her. “It makes you seem friendlier.” This advice was golden and she started booking more often. But the same advice wouldn’t work for everyone–because we are all different. Your behaviour “in the room” during an audition can be as important (or more!) as your acting performance. So I would suggest a class/workout in which the entire audition is filmed —slate, taking direction, etc. That way you can see what you look like “in the room” as well as during your performance.
As an actor, it is important to watch yourself and have others watch you and give you feedback on how you come across. It is an aspect of typing yourself—knowing what you convey naturally just by breathing and what requires a little more from you. I was lucky that director said something so specific to me. It was like turning on a lightbulb. Watch yourself, know how you come across, and know how best to present yourself in the audition.