Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

The Pathway Of The Creative Concept To You

Happy Holidays.  In keeping with my concept that understanding the commercial industry will help you feel more a part of the process and therefore do a better job auditioning, I would like to reveal more behind the scenes information to you.  Before I go any further, let me preface; it’s a given that you need to know your technique to give a good audition.  In my October 2010 Networker article, I describe the elements that go into a good commercial audition.

That being said, I will talk about the route the concept takes, ending up as your prized audition.  Many of you know a lot more than you knew before watching the TV show “Mad Men”.  Those who watch it get a glimpse of the early “Madison Avenue” days. I, myself come from a Madison Avenue agency background, although, many years after “Mad Men”.  Compared to “Mad Men”, the way of doing business and the industry on the whole is like night and day. However you can still find certain elements that are the same. There is still someone who brings in accounts, account executives, writers, art directors, etc.  And just like you see on “Mad Men”, keeping an account takes good relationships, and losing an account can be devastating, possibly affecting many people’s lives.

Today, in addition to traditional ad agencies (as in “Mad Men”), agencies have evolved leaning towards branding, marketing, and other types of creative mediums that service client companies for their advertising.  Traditionally, the means of advertising were radio, television or print ads. Now it has expanded to internet and interactive ways of reaching the masses in highly personalized communications through digital social media.

In this article, my definition of a client is the product’s company (some examples being Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Nikon, Apple).  For the sake of simplifying my communication to you, I’m going to refer to advertising agencies inclusive of aforementioned kinds of companies who create ads for clients.

The client looks for an ad agency that can meet their strategic and creative needs, as well as other appropriate services such as ad buying power.

Ad agencies are vying for accounts which could mean as much as $100MM in billings a year contracted to them.  They usually go into contract for a number of years.  There are Agency Search Consultants who are hired to find the right ad agency that is a good fit to a particular client.  The ad agency secures the account and goes to work creating and enhancing the client’s image and revenues.  The segment of the work that will eventually apply to you the actor is the creative team writer and art director.  They are assigned to an account and it is their job to create several concepts, which are eventually pitched to the client.

The concept consists of a story line motivating the client to buy something which results in feeling better, more secure, happier, prettier, more handsome, successful, etc.

Clients sign-off on the concept and then the ad agency circulates the boards (story boards) to production companies. These companies then bid on the boards.  Relationships between ad agency producers, director reps and production company executives all play a role in who gets a chance to bid the boards. An elaborate story concept has been written by the director as part of the bid. The director who is represented by a particular production company is hired to enhance the spot.

When the production company “wins” a bid, it proceeds to put all of the elements together to shoot within a budget.  The production company then hires a crew who will understand and support the director’s needs.  There is lighting, sound, an assistant producer, gaffers, script supervisors, location scouts, wardrobe stylists, etc.  Casting is also hired, although not technically part of the crew.

Why is casting so last minute?  The shoot is planned when the client says it’s the right time to have certain ads on the air.  When all this happens, we all go into action.  As many of you are experiencing, it is often times very last minute.  As the concept keeps refining, there are even more last minute changes.

Casting receives the story boards and director’s treatment, then speaks to the producer and director about the cast of characters.  As commercials are quick shoots as opposed to film, casting is done very close to the shoot date to expedite many elements, including everyone’s availability, locations and clients all getting together for the short amount of time that the shoot takes.  When the shoot is finished, there is an editing process and air dates to meet.

As always, I hope this helps you feel more informed, which will translate into feeling more comfortable walking into the casting reception area, reading the instructions giving to you and sitting down and waiting for your turn to take your mark and do a good job for yourself and us.  I wish you a healthy, happy 2011.


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.”

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