by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Gathering opinions and deciding what’s right!
The fact is there is not a manual with one exact answer for each of your questions. In addition to being a casting director, I’ve been an educator for years in the commercial acting business. Starting many years ago before social media, emails, and the internet, I traveled the country with my commercial acting workshop. At that time, I was fascinated by the fact that there were actors in every part of our country who found ways to act, no matter where they lived. Answers to questions were limited to guest speakers such as myself, and reading a couple of industry books. There were many scams feeding off of talent who were starving for information and opportunities to work as an actor.
Life is amazing now. The way we are all so connected has opened up more audition opportunities as well as being able to have access to more information and opinions instantaneously. You can google and do research on the internet and get answers to anything and everything. In addition, when you are in large markets such as New York and LA you can take lots of workshops and attend many panel discussions.
On all subjects you’ll hear variations of answers. How do you know what’s right? I listen to the questions. I know them all. There is not a new one that you can invent. I also listen to many people’s answers. Many people are saying the same valuable things, each with a personal spin to it.
Knowing the reputation of who is giving you the answer is your first consideration. Second, listen to all, and come to your own conclusions. Whenever I am giving a seminar, most people are taking notes. That’s smart. You are obviously gathering your information to be able to conclude how you will incorporate the information into your own career.
I’ll list some subjects that often come up, and give you my answers. Make note to yourself whether my answers are the same or different than what you’ve heard from others. Of course I feel I’m right, and I know others who answer feel they are right.
Photos – Commercial.
Q. What makes a good commercial photo?
A: Show subtle personality. Have your eyes look straight ahead and not come from the side. The first thing I do is look into your eyes. It is much more powerful to me to have your eyes look straight ahead at me and not come from the side (some people are not bothered with your head slanted slightly away and your eyes not looking straight ahead back at the person looking at them).
Here comes one question that has many differences of opinion. The answers below, are my answers.
Q: Do I list theatre, film, or television first?
Do I list commercials on my commercial resume?
A: Theatre should be listed first. It’s the foundation of your acting work. (Now that’s one that has a big difference of opinion. Many people in Hollywood tell you to list film and television first.)
Don’t list your commercials. Write “list upon request.” You don’t want to seem overexposed and you don’t want to indicate possible conflicts. (many agents are advising their clients to list their spots to impress the CD or producer. I totally disagree. The thing that will impress us on your resume is good training, good theatrical credits if you are fortunate enough to have any and your good acting. )
Q. Should I slate in character?
A. Do not slate in character. In fact, it’s more impressive for the creatives to see the difference in your slate and performance and how easily you can switch. Your slate should be open, friendly, and approachable.
Q. Should I add a button?
A: I don’t like a lot of buttons. Don’t force a button. If you use a button, it better sound very, very real, natural, and should flow easily. If you keep buttoning, you will feel forced and fake. Most times, the last look/beat is very powerful.
Q. Can you give some hints about commercial technique?
A: Learn how to get on your mark and immediately reveal who you are and how you feel. Don’t be neutral. Neutral will get you no place.
Keeping in touch–
Q. What is the best way to keep in touch?
A. Postcards with your photo on them are very memorable. However, if there is something that you are going to appear in, send an email. (Whenever you go to a seminar, ask how CDs likes to be contacted regarding your marketing and keep in touch according to their likes.)
Perfume and Cologne–
Q. Why is it always mentioned not to wear perfume and cologne.?
A: Don’t wear it. I don’t know anyone who wants your odor or fragrance lingering in the room while you are there and certainly not after you leave. Many of us, including myself, are allergic.
Some other popular questions about the business are:
Q. What is the worst thing an actor can do in the audition room?
A. Not listen. Not be able to take direction. (I’m not quite sure why an actor is so interested in the “worst” thing one can do. It seems the talent is focusing in the wrong direction.)
Q. What do you look for in an actor?
A. Personality, good acting, and good technique.
A special thank you, actors! I go to the theatre a lot and one of my favorite things is to stay after the show and meet and greet the actors in the show. Not only do I talk to the actors in the show, but I talk to the actors who have come to watch the show. We all start talking. During these times, many of you have communicated to me that you read my column and that you really enjoy it. Thank you!
Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.
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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.”