The era of Betamax tapes may be long gone, but these days we still use the acronym VTR (video tape recording) to refer to auditions and casting calls for TV commercials, films, and other entertainment projects. I remember my first VTR in 2004. I was a young and clueless newbie with no idea what to do when I entered the venue. Through months of trial and error, I learned the ropes of the modeling industry. I did a few small projects before landing my first lead TV commercial role in 2007 (Watch it below!). That paved the way for many memorable projects. If you’ve recently been discovered as a model, here are tips to help you ease through your first VTR.
XO Candy, 2007 (First lead role)
Before the VTR
Your agent will text the details—time, venue, basic info about the project (e.g. TV commercial for a soda brand), name of person to look for, and what to wear (e.g. casual or dressy). As soon as you arrive at the venue, look for the sign-up sheet and fill it up with your name and other details required. VTRs have a first-come, first served policy. Sometimes the agent accompanies the talent; sometimes you go on your own. If there is an acting dialogue talents need to prepare for, the casting team will brief everyone in the waiting room. Take this time to memorize your lines or skit. If not, just be prepared for whatever the caster will make you do during your turn.
PS Bank, 2010 (Playing the newly engaged friend)
During the VTR
When your name is called, enter the room and stand on the designated space in front of the camera. While filming you, the caster will ask you to state your name, age, and height. He or she may ask for other details such as your occupation, hobbies, TV commercials done, and acting background. He will ask you to smile from different angles—front, right, and left. He will take close-up and full body photos and videos. He will ask you to say a few lines or do specific types of acting (e.g. Pretend you’re thirsty and drink an imaginary bottle of soda). He may ask you to do the skit a few more times if you didn’t get it right the first time. When you’re done, say thank you and leave the venue.
Modess, 2011 (Playing the "best friend")
In a few days or weeks, the casting team, directors, and clients will narrow down their choices to a few talents per role. Those talents will be called back for the final casting. You will be asked to come dressed for the specific role and do a more intensive acting session with the director and your potential costars. After the final casting, it takes a few days to weeks before they make their final decision. If your agent calls you back again, congratulations! You landed the role.
Mister Donut, 2011
1. Practice smiling and acting. Having a PhD in Instagram selfies won’t guarantee that you’ll do well in front of a caster, so practice doing different facial expressions in front of a mirror. Learn to hold a natural smile for 10 seconds or more. It helps to have a background in acting, whether in school plays or theater workshops.
2. Don’t overdo your makeup. You need to look like a blank canvas that the agency can work on. Keep it natural and not cake-y.
3. Come in the preferred attire your agent specified. If they said corporate, don’t arrive in denim shorts that show off your butt cheeks. If casual, keep it simple. You can dress down in a plain white top with skinny jeans and still look chic. The casters prefer talents that look versatile enough to pull off different looks. Avoid loud prints and layers of accessories unless they tell you to come looking like a specific character, like a rockstar, athlete, or fashionista.
4. Come early. If your agent told you to come any time between 1 and 6 p.m., it’s best to arrive a few minutes before 1 to avoid long lines that make you look haggard before your turn in front of the camera. Come early when everyone at the venue is still in a fresh mood, as compared to arriving during the last 30 minutes of a long, toxic day.
5. Be versatile, patient, and open-minded. A common misconception people have about modeling and acting is that it’s all about glamour. VTR lines are often long and uncomfortable. It’s not always about cutesy and elegant roles. Sometimes you will be cast as the nerdy best friend, saleslady, or background talent. Portraying various roles and adapting to different situations are all part of the craft.
6. Be professional. Whether you’re doing your first VTR or nth TV commercial, keep your etiquette in check. Never let it get to your head by acting like a diva with extreme demands or habitual tardiness. You can get blacklisted for having an attitude problem.
7. Don’t take it personally. Rejection is normal, and not landing a role doesn’t mean you’re a lesser human being. Casters pick talents based on a multitude of traits aside from the obvious physical attributes. They also look at the person’s acting ability, chemistry with the costars, and working attitude. For every project, there’s a specific look they need and it’s not always about who’s the prettiest.