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Photo courtesy of Tim Swain.

Success Story: How Tim Swain’s Military Experience Took Him From the Midwest to the West Coast for a NewDay USA Commercial

If one were asked to describe Tim Swain in a single word, “grateful” comes to mind.

The Ohio National Guard veteran took a lifelong dream of print modeling and added acting to his repertoire at the request of his agent. That led Swain to book a national commercial spot for NewDay USA, a company that assists veterans with obtaining mortgage loans.

The trip took him to San Francisco, where he achieved another goal: seeing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Swain loves life, is thankful for every opportunity and doesn’t take anything for granted. Swain shared the story about how he became an actor and his experience on the NewDay USA commercial shoot, along with his audition tips and advice for fellow actors.

How did you get started as an actor?

That was my agent’s idea. All I wanted to do initially was photo/print modeling.

When you drive down the highway, you’ll see billboards or you go to a store [and] you see pamphlets and all that. I always wanted to [know what it’s like to] have somebody flip through and say, “Hey, I’m looking at this pamphlet and you’re in it. How’d you get in it?”

I did my first audition and I didn’t think it would go anywhere. The next day after work, I get a call from the agency and they said, “We’ve seen your submission and… it’s your age. You’d be perfect for photo/print work. You could do a wide range at your age as opposed to [when] you’re like 20 or something like that, [when] you’re kind of limited.”

Then the agent goes, “We’re very interested in you. We don’t have a modeling workshop coming up, but we have an acting workshop.” I was laughing and joking with her and she goes, “With your sense of humor, did you ever think of doing acting?” I [told her] it never even crossed my mind. She goes, “You might want to look into that.”

I took the acting workshop and I loved it. It was full of information, right up my alley—the improv and all that stuff. And I’m like, “I think I like this more than I do the modeling.” So I was doing that for a while and I took a few self tape workshops. This agency just offered everything. They train you. They want you to succeed.

Tim Swain holding a photo outside for a commercial. Photo courtesy of Tim Swain.

How did you first discover Casting Networks?

I’m taking these workshops and the agent said, “We have this platform called Casting Networks and you’ll get an alert if we see something that’s in your profile or in your range, or something that [we think] you would do. We’ll send you an audition for it or the alert, and all the information.”

The first one I got was like reading War and Peace. It had this big breakdown of everything and I’m going, “Whoa, there’s a lot to this.” So the more auditions I had, the better I got at understanding them. I can fly through them now and comprehend what they’re actually asking.

You mentioned getting booked on a commercial shoot in San Francisco from Casting Networks. What was that job and how did you book it?

It was with NewDay USA. They provide home loans for veterans. When banks turn soldiers down, [NewDay USA is] always there to make sure they get financed for a home. I’m a veteran, so it spoke to me.

I received the alert to do an audition through Casting Networks for a military commercial. They wanted a slate and then they wanted me to tell them a little bit about my military career. After I submitted my self tape, I received word from my agent that the client was interested and [wanted to know] if I would be available on these dates. I confirmed, was officially booked and off to California I went.

About six months later, the client sent me a direct email to see if I was interested in coming back out for a second commercial, and I [made] my way back to the West Coast.

Two men embracing while filming a TV commercial outside. Photo courtesy of Tim Swain.

What happened when you got to set? Walk me through your experience.

At first, I didn’t know much about NewDay USA, but I did a lot of research on them. They’re such a strong company and a great client. They wanted to bring me out to California to do the commercial. They paid for everything.

They set us up at a hotel and then the next day they sent somebody with a shuttle van to take us to set. They rented somebody’s house and it was on this cul-de-sac. It was a huge house.

That was my first time seeing a huge commercial being shot. When I got there, I was just in awe.

A few days before [the commercial shoot], I said, “I’m going up to San Francisco. I’d really love to see the Golden Gate Bridge.” I’d never seen it before.

I’m from the Midwest, so to me, that’s something monumental, just to get the opportunity to do that. They said, “We can give you an early flight and you can have most of the day to yourself to go do it. And then we’re going to shoot the next day.”

When they picked us up from the airport, we had to drive over the Golden Gate to get to the hotel. And when I saw the Bay Area and Alcatraz and Pier 39 and all that, I was in awe and I’m going, “God, I can’t believe it. If this is what it’s like [to be in the entertainment industry], this is great.”

When we did the shoot, I was talking with production because we were there all day long. We got there at like nine in the morning. My part didn’t happen until five in the evening. All day long, we’re sitting there with wardrobe and makeup and the other veterans, exchanging stories and stuff like that, and meeting people—the client.

The CEO from NewDay came over and introduced himself to all of us, and the admiral was the spokesperson for NewDay. Great people. It was just a phenomenal experience, and it was all done through Casting Networks.

What would you say helps someone succeed on Casting Networks?

Definitely do your training, like your self taping workshops. You can’t get enough training. It really helps with the casting calls whenever they give them to you and [helps you understand] all the instructions and all the details. You definitely have to pay attention.

What audition tips or advice do you have that you could share with your peers, whether it’s how to be the best at an audition, how to get better at self tapes or what not to do in a self tape?

Don’t be afraid to take a risk. You never know when you might surprise somebody. Don’t be afraid to make a bold choice.

I appreciate everything Casting Networks has done for me. It’s just been a dream come true to get a booking like that. I look forward to the next one.

Every time I get an audition, it’s like Christmas morning. I’m like, “I got it. I got to nail this one.” And then when you don’t get it, yeah, you get depressed, but you’re like, “There’s always going to be another one coming in. I’ll do it again.”

I always hold my head up and I just keep pushing forward. The fact that [casting directors] are even asking you to submit a self tape [to me means that] they’re going to remember you and you’re on their radar. And that’s a very, very good plus.

The thing I’ve learned about this industry is it is extremely competitive. [Once] you really get into the auditions and you get exposed to Casting Networks and everything you guys offer, you realize how competitive the industry is.

You’re competing against hundreds, sometimes even thousands of actors. Casting directors have a monumental job of having to filter through everything that’s submitted to them. I don’t know how they do it.

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Chris Butera is a voice actor specializing in commercial, eLearning and corporate narration voiceovers. When he’s not helping clients achieve their goals, he’s playing guitar and bass.