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Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

 Keep It Real

Twitter’s CEO says “Keep it real. Everyone can see when you are not authentic”. Well, well, well, actors…sound familiar?

Twitter maximum is 140 characters. Imagine that. Even on Twitter it is a fact that authenticity can easily be detected. Why is it such a surprise that good acting in commercials is crying out for authenticity? Maybe not years ago, but now that’s all you hear. “Keep it real, real gives you a chance to book, do not come across as if you are selling”.

You have to be able to reveal who you are. Question: How do you do that?

Answer: You will never be able to do that by using the commercial words. As any of my commercial technique students have heard me say, “Don’t let the words drive you. They will suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out”. In other words, using the words won’t work. You have to approach it from an entirely different position.

You have to decide who you are and how you feel and authentically play those emotions, just like in any short scene. The similarity to theatrical acting is that you have to be authentic and not let anyone see you acting. The difference is there are certain commercial rules to play by to make this extremely short form work. I do compare it to a short scene in a film where your short scene of maybe only six to ten words can be an intrinsic part of the arch of the story line. With as little as six words you have to appear authentic. You can’t just stand there and say words. You have to have made decisions and show up as a specific person.

Just as you can learn how to act well in those short scenes, you can learn how to do that regarding acting in commercials. Get to that point and you will be a top contender for callbacks and bookings.

Start the new year out right. Be sure that you are being authentic in 30 seconds to a minute. Be sure you can act the uncomfortable commercials words and situations with an authentic performance.

My clients (the writer, producer, art director and director), just as all clients, are looking for someone who seems real, and makes their character come alive. When that happens, their concept for the sell works. The concept and the short story is doing the selling—NOT you. It’s tricky and it’s harder than digging into a character in a longer format where you have time for character development. It’s a game you have to learn. Learn to play it well and have a blast this year.


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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.”