Do you feel moments of connection?
If I can sum up or bottom line what good acting is, I would say the feeling of connection. When we watch good acting we feel you as the character. We don’t see or feel you acting. I recently was wowed by Bradley Cooper’s performance in American Sniper. His performance was so honest, you saw layers deep into his soul. There was no “noise.” Every moment was, I’ll call it, “honest”.
Every actor wants a meaty role to dig into, research, understand, and transcend into that character. That’s the fun of it all. However, as an actor you are working in other mediums of performance besides film, some of which will include television, commercials, and voice over. These venues can be further broken down into other opportunities. Some of which are:
Television: sitcom and drama. Then there are two kinds of sitcoms; bigger, more over-the-top and more subtle humor and performance.
Commercials: funny, such as sitcoms (which are variable energies of their own) and more real and subtle styles closer to the feel of film.
Voice-over: Funny, over-the-top, funny/subtle, personality-driven, announcer, non-announcer/announcer, promo, gaming voices, animation, and narrating books (just to name a few).
As an actor you have to know each technique in all of these venues. Each technique has its similarities and differences. However, the one similarity of a good performance is that you have to truly connect.
Let’s talk about moments of connection in a commercial audition. Commercials of course has its own quirky personality traits different than film and television. But no matter what, the challenge for you as the actor is to know how to connect. Recently, I was auditioning talent for four commercials that made up a story. I’ll call it a commercial mini-series. Girl meets boy, conflict throughout, and relationship develops. Of course since this was a commercial, the story centered around what was being sold, which was French wine.
I was actually in the audition reading with the actors playing the French guy opposite the women. I have fun bringing in talent who know voice-over technique plus good actors who have never done a VO before. Why not, my client was looking for a good female actor with particular character traits. As soon as most actors got in front of the mic, they lost the connection they would have had if they were auditioning for a television or film role. It was my job to warm the talent up and guide them out of reading “in front of a mic,” into a full connected performance. There’s that word connected again.
Let’s look at all the moments one can connect in addition to the performance. Let’s have fun with the extremely popular word “mindfulness” for a moment. Without giving you the “how to,” let’s breakdown and be mindful of all the opportunities you have to connect in your work as an actor.
Session Runner/signing in: when you arrive at the casting office and sign in for your audition. The first person you have contact with is the session runner who is organizing the flow of the audition and signing you in. Do you have a moment of connection with that person?
Session Director/person directing you: throughout your auditioning life you will see this person many, many times.
Casting Director: over time a familiar positive feeling develops towards you the actor. This familiarity comes from many moments of connection.
Slating your name: connecting with the eye of the camera.
Your performance: connecting with your character. In addition to connecting with the other performers/characters in the scene.
The clients at callbacks: knowing your boundaries regarding chit-chat and quick niceties. Knowing how to be open, friendly, present in the room and yet not take over or “cross the line” into the client space.
Connecting to all these moments will make you better in the acting “business.”
Wow, you have a lot on your plate to be the best that you can be! It is my intention as a casting director and the organization of Berland Casting to share what I know with you and contribute to being the best that you can be. It is a privilege and so much fun to work in a city with the best of the best. Here’s to continuing opportunities every day.
Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.
Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”