Do you ever sit and watch those TV commercials and say to yourself 'I can do that, or I can sell that'? Well, the answer is you probably can, but how and where do you begin?
Television commercials are big business. You have celebrity endorsements, and then you have the regular person. Remember...Tom Cruise can not sell everything! And many sponsors look for the so-called "Average Joe" to make their product believable to the public.
"It could be you. You can be the next star of TV commercial," according to Don Underwood, talent agent in Hinsdale, Il., a suburb of Chicago. Don is the proprietor along with his wife, Joanna, of Babes'n Beaus, a full-line talent agency. His days are long and are spent trying to find the right face and talent that a client is looking for to sell or advertise their product.
Babes'n Beaus was founded in January of 2003, after Underwood's daughter wanted to be a model. She booked a job after hearing an ad on the radio. It was for a modeling convention in Rosemont, Il. She attended and landed a contract with a modeling agency in Japan.
Joanna went with her daughter and met a lady in Japan, who asked if Joanna would like to help her with her business. The lady owned a casting office (picks the talent) in Miami. Joanna agreed to help, but after a while the lady retired and sold the business.
"I guess this is how the idea was born for Don and I to go in to business for ourselves," Joanna said. "I thought, I learned enough and we would give this a try. It also was a different venue to try." Don Underwood previously worked as a Stockbroker.
"I really enjoy what I do. I think what makes us successful is that Joanna and I are parents. I know this is a hard, competitive business, but we believe in giving people a try," Underwood explained. "Our daughter was given a chance, and if I see something in someone and the passion and dedication is there, I will sign them up. And you never know where it can take you. Perhaps the individual may be the next star on the horizon. You also need to be good at taking direction and this needs to be pursued as a business."
Babes'n Beaus looks for people that have potential. Adults will be told to do a monologue, basically showing them ( the agent) your potential. Now as a performer, you are allowed to multiple list with agents (meaning a few), however some prefer to sign exclusive deals. You need to check with the policy of the agent.
For someone unfamiliar with the business, Babes'n Beaus is a theatrical agency, also known as a talent agent. They supply the talent needed to fill various roles. That is what an agent does. If a client calls and asks for a football player type, then you know it will be a big muscular guy, or whatever the client needs. In other words, someone weighing 100 pounds will not get submitted.
Underwood will call the talent and direct them where they need to go. This means you will go on an audition, usually at a casting office. This office is hired to look over and test the talent. "That's right! You can do a cold reading, or whatever the casting people ask you to do," Underwood said. "I use various casting offices throughout the city, and each city has their own."
Wherever you live most cities have talent agencies and casting offices. The larger cities of course have more, but for Tiffany Calson, of Grand Rapids Michigan, she makes the drive. "I'm not far from Chicago, so my agent is out there, "she explained. "I love to go on auditions and I'm waiting for my big break."
Can the break be like a role on a soap opera? "Absolutely! I have a breakdown right now from Days of our Llves," Underwood said. "The casting office is looking for a particular look. I will be going through my clients to see what I have to send."
After looking at a variety of talent, the casting director makes their decision who should be picked for the part. If the casting director likes or wants you, your agent will receive a call with further details if you are booked for the job. Your agent is the person that communicates for you in the industry. He does the so-called "leg work."
TOOLS OF THE TRADE:
To get started in the business, you need a professional head-shot (not a selfie). The picture should usually be a big smile. A resume is also needed. The resume should tell of your work (agents have samples). If you haven't done anything in the business, you must tell the truth. You still can do commercials and be very talented, or have the right look. Your agent may also set you up to be on their Website, or Actors Access and Casting Network, two sites very popular in the business that people within the industry look at.
FINDING AN AGENT:
Babes 'n Beaus operates like many of the other agents. You look them up online under 'Theatrical Agents' and see what is their policy for submission. Follow their guidelines, and if they are interested in seeing you, they will set up an audition. Most agents operate the same, but there may be some differences, so do a little homerwork to find out which clients they may represent. TV commercials is a great way to make money. If successful, you can even make it a career by being the official spokesperson for a product, like the Verizon guy, or the Progressive Insurance lady.
Tina Almodover, a client of Babes'nBeaus started her kids and grandkids in commercials. "I had my daughter start out. She had quite brown eyes. I met agents and just decided to pursue. In one year, we made a few thousand dollars," Almodover said. "I also believe that for children the business helps them overcome shyness and they learn stamina."
Joanna Underwood agrees, "Without a doubt it is very helpful to a child. This work brings out the best in a child."
Don Underwood pointed out that what people need to be aware is that there is a lot of rejection in this business. "I want everyone to know, you may do fifty auditions and only get one call back," he explained. "However, you may just knock the socks of the casting director and may win the part immediately."
Underwood points out the fact that when you are starting in the business, you need to take what comes your way. Many beginners start with print work, which is an ad that can run in the paper or magazine, or you may model clothes for a catalog for a store.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL:
If you are successful and want to pursue this as a career, then you must join the union (SAG, Screen Actors Guild). This allows you to work further in the business, or even be submitted for work in Los Angeles.
TYPES OF COMMERCIALS:
There are three types of television commercials. Class A- Class B- Class C. A is a National commercial. Most money is made in this category. B is regional, meaning it will play in a few states, and C is local, meaning in one or two states.
Every time a Class A commercial airs, in addition to what you were paid, you will receive a fee for playback and that can be lucrative.
When looking for an agent...look for someone that never takes money. An agent gets a percentage of the job they get for you. Pick an agent that you feel you can contact, and one that seems interested in your future and career.
Some people are not professional actors and some are. Both Underwoods' agree that it never hurts to practice the craft, or take lessons or attend knowledgeable workshops. Babes 'n Beaus offers workshops to teach individuals about the business on how to succeed, and make a person's dream come true. "I believe this business does begin with pursuing a dream," Don Underwood stated.
Photos by Travis Ziegler
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