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Audition Technique

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How to Conquer the dreaded MOS Audition

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THE HARDEST AUDITIONS for most actors are those in which you do not speak, commonly called MOS spots.  These are the spots where there is no dialogue, but a specific situation is occurring.  The session director gives you a group explanation and puts everyone through the paces. Many times they are very, very specific about what they want and don’t want.  Then the session director sends the actors back to the lobby and that seems to be where the actors work and preparation ends.

In my classes I always instruct actors to go deeper, to make everything personal and specific, To ask yourself the questions, who, what, where, and why.

Who are you and who are you talking to or looking at? Do you have a history? Do you have a feeling about them right now?

Where are you?  Make it somewhere you know and a re familiar with. What do you see there? Be particularly specific in this regards as it will help you the most with MOS spots in grounding you. Make a quick list on a piece of paper about what is in the environment to look at. I find this the most helpful thing to making my audition feel more realistic and ground myself in the non verbal action.

What do you want?  This is Acting 101. Do you need anything from the other person?  Are you getting it? How do you feel about it?

Ask yourself these questions in the lobby before going in rather than talking to other actors about how many auditions they have or have not gone on.

 Over the years I have found the only way to feel good about the MOS audition is to throw myself 100% into the imaginary circumstances, putting myself in the environment and making it as full and real as possible WITHOUT TALKING. 

HOT TIP:  Sounds are okay. Sounds are free words. An occasional Oh!  Or Wow! Or a well placed AHH! Seem to really fill up the awkward space of not talking.

Try it next time and see how you feel. And let us know how it goes.

 

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Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

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1 Thing that Teen Actors Need in order to Succeed

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Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

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Exclusive Interviews with Backstage's 2015 Reader's Choice Award Winners

We did it!   

Keep It Real Acting is officially the 2015 BACKSTAGE READERS' CHOICE Winner for FAVORITE AUDITION TEACHER, FAVORITE IMPROV TRAINING CENTER, and FAVORITE KIDS ACTING CLASS!  Below are our exclusive interviews with our Award Winning Teachers this year, Judy Kain, Paul Hungerford, Donna Rusch, Doug Traer & Nancy Linari!  We hope these brief clips can give you a little insight as to what make these teachers so special.

Judy Kain is the owner of Keep it Real Acting and teaches the Commercial A to Z Class and the Advanced Callback Class.  Judy has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Paul Hungerford teaches the Commercial A to Z Class and Improv-a-thon at KIRA. For over 25 years, Paul has been performing on stage and in film and television productions, as well as working with The Groundlings, Acme Comedy Theater, Impro Theater, and Comedy Sportz LA.  He is currently the Director of TheatreSports at the Impro Theatre in LA, and has been seen on your TV set in over 40 commercials and a number of shows.

Doug Traer teaches the Kids Class & Commercial Wednesday Workouts at KIRA.  Doug has been working in film, television, theatre, and commercials for the past 26 years.  When he is not acting, he works as a commercial casting director and session director for many Casting Directors around town. 

Donna Rusch teaches the Next Step class at KIRA. Donna has more than 20 years experience as a professional actress and broadcaster.  She is a former TV News Anchor and Television Show Host and has been seen in more than 100 commercials and films, including last year's hit, Gone Girl.

Nancy Linari teaches the Teens Class at KIRA. Nancy has been a professional actress for over 30 years. Her work can be seen and heard in both commercials and animation, on television and radio; from Bones to Modern Family, from ABC’s animated The Addams Family (the sexy Morticia Addams) to the Academy Award nominated The Social Network (the cranky secretary to the president of Harvard.)

Again, We are overflowing with gratitude, humility, and love.  Thank you so much for making KIRA a 2015, 3 Category Winner and a leading, competitive, loved acting studio in LA!

Sincerely,
Your KIRA Family

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How to Approach A Callback - with Jack McGee

The brilliant actor Jack McGee spoke at length to my Advanced Callback Class this past month. Here's just a snippet of what he had to say.

Judy Kain

Judy Kain

Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show

and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

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What makes some Actors so Hireable

Once, while attending a holiday party , I was cornered by an actor who had auditioned for me earlier that year. He was relatively new to the business and wanted to know the secret to booking commercials.

At first, I told him that if he figured it out, please let me know. No one knows of one thing or combination of things that will always get you booked.

But, he said, there are actors who consistently book commercials and work more than others. What do they do that makes them so hireable?

I had to think about that one.

It’s true, I know a handful of actors of different descriptions who book a lot of commercials and they have some traits in common.

1. They are a “type.” Americans relate to people they can recognize and categorize in their minds. We call them “types.” By their looks and what we see on TV, we expect a certain behavior from them. For instance, blue collar types are usually lovable, not that smart, hardworking and honest. You’ll see them in family restaurant and truck commercials. Slacker types are unshaven, often college students or stoners, have messy hair and clothes, and are generally irresponsible. They populate nearly every beer commercial and some computer as well as fast food spots. Because commercials are only 30 seconds long, types must be instantly recognizable. These actors have that quality.

2. They are good actors. Yes, commercials generally aren’t as demanding of acting skills as theatrical productions. But good acting is good acting, and just as if I were going to have minor surgery somewhere, I would want an overqualified surgeon to perform it, directors want an actor who is capable of much more than just the role you’ve hired them for.

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3. They are professional and prepared. They’ve done their homework. They know all about the spot, the copy, look and wardrobe and they’re ready to work as soon as they arrive for the audition.

4. They are not thrown by change. They can roll with whatever changes are made, and shift gears without batting an eye. Often in callbacks, I see directors ask for a different interpretation of a script. Not because they think it will be shot that way, but just to see if the actor can do it. Usually these actors have a background in improv.

5. They are confident. They know they can do they job and they project that confidence to the agency and production company. They are not intimidated by the process. Think about it. If I were going to have the above mentioned surgery, do I want a surgeon who behaves as if they’re not really sure this is a good idea or can be done? Or do I want someone who is on board with the diagnosis and makes me believe that it’s a piece of cake?

6. They get it. Oftentimes I see actors come in and give an audition without understanding the spot. If it’s comedy, they don’t know why it’s funny. Actors who book get it. They watch commercials and know the tone of the advertiser and commercials in general. And if they don’t understand, they ask to have it explained.

7. They are consistent. If you call them in, they will consistently give a good, believable performance. And they tend to be level headed, neither blinded by success nor defeated by failure. They know the game and they know how to play it.

Most of the things I’ve described come from training and experience. Okay, that’s not true of your looks, sex or ethnicity, but training and experience should dictate the audition choices you make. You can learn a lot taking classes and just watching commercials. Watch the performances. Note the economy of words and images. Watch how they’re edited. See how different companies have their own style or message regardless of the spot. Then remember that when you audition for their ads.

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Doug Traer Commercial Wednesday Workout, Kids Commercial Class
Doug has been working in film, television, theatre, and commercials for the past 26 years.  His film credits include Robert Miller’s Brenda Starr, the critically acclaimed Speak of the Devil and the black comedy Dead Giveaway.  He has had multiple roles on General Hospital, appeared in America’s Most Wanted and Saved by the Bell, among others.

He has made a number of national TV commercials for products such as Mercedes-Benz, Sony Playstation, Sprint, Blue Cross Insurance, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and Hardee’s Restaurants.

In addition to his acting gigs, he works as a commercial casting director and session director as well as teaching and providing career guidance to young actors or those just getting into the business.  He also directs theatrical and industrial video productions through his own independent production company.

Doug studied acting with master teacher Cliff Osmond for 15 years and improv with the LA Connection. He began teaching commercial classes 12 years ago and theatrical classes in 2003.  He has also taught in San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Phoenix and Santa Barbara and recently returned from Tokyo where he taught American acting to Japanese students.

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Casting Director Ross Lacy: How some actors shoot themselves in the foot

Some actors can shoot themselves in the foot before they even read for the part. They come in and talk way too much. Or the kiss of death is to talk about how great the real product is, like, “oh Man I really do drink Budweiser.”

Some of it comes down to the fact that the agency and the director are  all going to be hanging out with you for 12 hours a day when your shooting and if there are 2 people and one of them is friendly and nice and the one of them  is annoying - and they both can do the job-then definitely the friendly nice one is going to get the job. Because it comes down to "who do I want to spend my day with?"

So personality does come into play. You don’t want to overstep your bounds, you don't know these people that well, and they are not your friends in that moment. Remember you're in the audition room to do a good job. That doesn't mean you can't be personal and get a laugh out of them or something but read the room and act accordingly. Keep it professional.  

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Ross Lacy is a Casting Director who, over the course of almost 20 years, has worked with every major advertising agency & production company worldwide. He's been responsible for casting seminal spots and launching unforgettable campaigns. He has cast over 3,000 commercials, many of which have won Clios, Cannes Lions, and have been featured in the pages and on the cover of Adweek.

Ross sees the final takes for a number of Keep it Real Acting's classes including Advanced Callback Class and the Kids & Teens Classes.

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3 Ways to Better your Commercial Audition

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Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

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The Best way to help your Child Actor

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Inevitably you will get a commercial audition at the most inconvenient time, in the farthest location from where you live, during heavy Los Angeles traffic. But because over 2500 actors are submitted for each role, and you were lucky enough to get your children picked, you should happily make the audition, even if that means changing your child's dentist appointment, rescheduling your own hair appointment, or even skipping the karate class they are enrolled in.

Give yourself a leg up and always have an extra set of clothes in the car. Shoes, tights, shirts, sweatshirts.. whatever is a good standard outfit for your child. Also hair ties, brushes,  anything you need to make the necessary quick adjustments and not drive home.  Also have snacks in the car... ALWAYS! Bars, Nuts, Juice boxes, fruit snacks.. so your child isn’t hungry when they arrive.

It is important to help your child understand the spot, and their function in it. Help them with any words they do not know how to pronounce or understand. But that is where your assistance should end.

IT IS CRITICAL YOU NEVER TELL OR SHOW THEM HOW TO SAY THE WORDS, OR GIVE THEM ANY GESTURES TO DO WHILE SAYING IT! DO NOT COACH YOUR KIDS!  Let them sound natural like a kid.. DO NOT TELL THEM TO SMILE ON CERTAIN WORDS.

You are hurting them more than you will know.  Casting directors can tell instantly that a kid has been coached poorly and then it is very difficult to direct them to read naturally.  

Your job is to get them to the audition on time,  keep them in a good mood, feed them, support them and drive them home safely.  That is very, very helpful and appreciated.

If your kids are over a certain age, that’s where techniques can help them without locking them into a rigid recital for the casting director. Here are a few technique suggestions for your kids over 8 years old.

Paraphrase: Put the scene in your own words. Make it your own and know exactly what it is you're doing in this place. This is an excellent way to memorize the lines as they will make much more sense to you if you make this a regular practice.  In addition you will refrain from being selly. The tone of commercials nowadays is very filmic and often times the product is not even uttered by you or anyone in the scene. It may be voiced over at the end. SO NEVER NEVER NEVER SELL.  That is not your job. That is the advertisers job. You are to play the scene and work to get what you want from the person you're talking to.

Personalize:  This is where you can add your own experience as it fits in with the confines of the scene. You always want to work within the framework of the scene you are given and  Put your own spin on it or infuse a  little hint of your personality in the scene. This is very important because it is your audition and your job is to lift  the copy from the page and make it come alive. The way to do this is make personal everything you are talking about. Pick someone from your life to talk to. I have a list of 5-7 people who I talk to on a regular basis and I use them and put them in the camera. I actually cast the person I am talking to or about so I have a clear picture of who is in the scene with me. They should be real people in your life, not made up people. For kids most of the time they are talking to their mom, dad or siblings. If they do not have siblings they can use a cousin or good friend Talk to them and see how the scene becomes more real for you.  In addition to this work, know how you feel about everything you talking about.

Practice: Get the words out of your mouth prior to going in the room. You do not want the first time these words come out of your mouth to be on your first take… DISASTER! Find a corner, or go outside or in the bathroom and say them in full volume. The words sound different vocalized than they do up in your head..

And once you get in the room ASK FOR A REHEARSAL or look at the cue card and do a quick take out loud while the session director is finding your name on the call sheet. It is like a free take and you might even get some notes from the session director too!

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When you are done, say thanks and leave upbeat.

Parents should ask only one question when your kid comes out of the audition room...

Are you all done? or  Did you have fun?

That is it.... gather their things and sign out and go on to your next appointment.

Or treat them with a visit to the local eatery.

DO NOT ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS as they put undo pressure on your young actor and they are unable to answer it and will sense they did something wrong.. and will carry that into the next auditions.

  1. How did you do?
  2. How did it go?
  3. What did they ask you do?
  4. Did they like you?
  5. Refrain from saying.. lets hope you get this one.. or hope you get a callback.. etc... Keep your kids pressure free.

As parents of a young actor you have to accept that you will never be privy to what happens in the audition room. That is why they should be in class where they can get proper training from a professional.

The only time you will see your child work is on the set. That is your only opportunity to see them in action. And then again there you are the parent. They have a director, a teacher and a studio rep to make sure they are not being worked improperly under the child labor laws.

For more info on Child actors, classes or coaching call Keep it Real Acting (818)901-8606 or email keepitreal@keepitrealacting.com


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Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award.  Her other favorite recurring credits include Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett.  She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.   Her teaching career has also lead to immense success, being voted BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL TEACHER IN LA in 2010 and 2011.  Her other acting classes have won BACKSTAGE WEST'S FAVORITE IN LA as well, and continue to produce amazing results for her students. She teaches Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.

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The Difference Between Commercial & Theatrical Auditions

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A few years ago, a friend of mine I will call Ted approached me about getting into commercials. I was somewhat surprised, since he had previously told me that he was a “serious” actor, and would not even consider doing commercials. Which was too bad because he had a great look.

I referred him to a commercial agency that signed him, and soon he was on the audition trail. He was in on several sessions I directed, so I was able to see his work.

After a few months, he came to see me, asking why I thought he wasn’t booking spots. “I don’t get it,” he said, “I’m not even getting callbacks.” “What do you do to prepare for your auditions?” I asked. “Prepare?” Ted said, incredulously, “For a commercial audition?” “What kind of training have you gotten?” I asked. “Training? For commercials?” he responded.

I knew what his problem was from watching his auditions. He still believed himself too good to act in commercials, and so didn’t take the audition process seriously. He did not treat his commercial auditions with the same respect he had for theatrical auditions. Consequently, he was always “on top of the material,” not creating a reality around the audition situation. So his auditions came off as arrogant and aloof.

A student asked me recently what was the difference between auditioning for commercials and theatrical productions. I said “Usually, the length of your sides.”

True, there is more technique involved in commercial auditions, eg: cheating to the camera, inventing a button, etc. But both come down to good acting—creating a credible character that an audience can relate to.

Of course, commercial actors should always be aware of the style of the product’s advertising. For instance, you don’t audition the same way for McDonald’s as for Bud Light. But the same is true in theatrical. You wouldn’t audition for “Sons of Anarchy” the same way as for “Modern Family.” The biggest difference is that with commercials, the hardest part is actually the audition. Once you’ve booked the spot, everything else is easy. Whereas for theatrical, once you’ve booked the role, your work has just begun.

Another thing to consider when thinking about commercial auditions is that there are a lot of very good actors out there booking commercials. They know what they’re doing and how to audition well. They are your competition. Every time you audition you are going up against them and they take it seriously.

Remember, you’re an actor and auditions are precious. Honor your craft by giving them the attention necessary to make them credible.


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Doug Traer Commercial Wednesday Workout, Kids Commercial Class Doug has been working in film, television, theatre, and commercials for the past 26 years.  His film credits include Robert Miller’s Brenda Starr, the critically acclaimed Speak of the Devil and the black comedy Dead Giveaway.  He has had multiple roles on General Hospital, appeared in America’s Most Wanted and Saved by the Bell, among others.He has made a number of national TV commercials for products such as Mercedes-Benz, Sony Playstation, Sprint, Blue Cross Insurance, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and Hardee’s Restaurants.

In addition to his acting gigs, he works as a commercial casting director and session director as well as teaching and providing career guidance to young actors or those just getting into the business.  He also directs theatrical and industrial video productions through his own independent production company.

Doug studied acting with master teacher Cliff Osmond for 15 years and improv with the LA Connection. He began teaching commercial classes 12 years ago and theatrical classes in 2003.  He has also taught in San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Phoenix and Santa Barbara and recently returned from Tokyo where he taught American acting to Japanese students.


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