It’s no secret that I love the spotlight. If you’ve seen me in the hallways, it’s quite likely that I’m laughing, talking to my friends or just generally being loud. Naturally, it makes sense that I have a passion for performing, whether it be in a school production, being interviewed at a local festival or appearing in front of a camera.
When I moved to California when I was 8 years old, I immediately fell into the world of acting. Every little kid at one point wonders what it would be like to be on TV and I jumped at the opportunity to experience just that. I had head shots taken, took acting classes and soon started going on auditions. I even had my uncle create a website so that I could be one of those “cool kids” and feel all professional.
Getting head shots taken is essentially a four- to five-hour long photo shoot. I sat in a chair, got my hair and makeup done, and then about 600 photos were taken. In the end, I (my parents) picked only seven to send to my agents, who then will send them out to casting directors.
So far, I have had head shots taken three different times. Once when I was 8, another when I was 11 and most recently a few weeks ago.
Once head shots are taken, I just have to sit back and wait.
Auditions are usually in Santa Monica or Hollywood, a long drive for what is often a five-minute wait, a simple photo, and a “Hi, my name is Cailynn Knabenshue and I’m 16 years old.” But, sometimes it’s an hour wait and delivering a prepared scene or improv sketch. You almost never know what you’re doing until you get there.
The first round of auditions is based on the head shots. It’s pretty nerve-wracking when you know you are getting judged based on the way you look.
Next comes the callback. It could be the next day or the next week, or not at all. Sometimes you have to do the same thing that you did in your initial audition, or you might get interrogated about your extra-curriculars or your favorite (insert just about anything).
Then you wait. If you booked the job, you’ll get a call from your agent, who will happily tell you all of the information you need to know. If don’t get the job, you don’t get a call.
When a commercial needs only one actor, everyone’s attention is on you — perfect for anyone like me who loves being in the spotlight. For example, once I had to jump in a lake for a scene and the moment I got out of the water, there was a crew of around 10 running towards me, drying me off, blow drying my hair and wrapping towels and portable heaters around me.
As a kid, I was in a Reese’s Puffs and a Safeco Insurance commercial, as well as a Nickelodeon promo. For a few years I fell out of sync with the whole thing, but recently decided that I wanted to try my hand at acting again. I still had pictures from when I was 11, but being 16 is a pretty big difference from what I looked like then.
One Friday afternoon about a month ago, I had my head shots retaken, began the process of reformatting my website and started going out on auditions.
I got called to audition for a Dave & Buster’s commercial in late April. I did my usual thing, walked inside the room, gave my name and my age, pretended like I was playing one of those basketball arcade games and left. Two days later, I received an email from my agent, who informed me that I had a callback the very next day. Even though I didn’t get the job, I feel like it’s the beginning of something good.
Even though these are only commercials, acting is acting and I’m still doing what I love.
To make your acting believable, you have to pour yourself into the mold of who you’re portraying, attempt to understand what your character is going through and connect to the character on an emotional level. As Johnny Depp once said, “With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying.”