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Carolyne Barry Commercials

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Teacher

By: Carolyne Barry

There are numerous acting techniques and methods. The more popular ones in the United Stares are Meisner, Strasberg, Adler and Hagen techniques. Most teachers have their own version of the established approaches. Some combine styles and others create their own technique. Investigate to see which one feels like a fit for you – the way you process and create. Then audit the teachers who specialize in that approach until you find the one with whom you connect.

AUDIT: As it relates to acting classes: to be a non-participating observer. Auditors watch and are not allowed to work, ask question or give comments.

When you audit, do you know what to look for and the factors to evaluate?

I suggest you ask about and contemplate the following:

  • * it the teacher your auditing (YOUR Teacher)
  • * compatibility
  • * number of students in the class
  • * how often you will work in each class
  • * class policies
  • * cost / payment policies
  • * class level(s)

VERY important is the teacher’s approach and atyle. To determine that: Ask yourself these questions in order to determine if the teacher(s) you are considering is a fit for you:

  • * Does their style or approach make sense and appeal to you?
  • * Is there a technique that the students understand and can apply or is he/she just teaching tricks or giving direction that produces flashy, instant performances?
  • * After he/she works with actors, do you see an improvement in their work?
  • * Does the teacher utilize the class time well: starting punctually, allotting time and giving attention equally to all the students, dealing directly with what is needed and not going off on ego trips or telling too many stories of their accomplishments or bad
    experiences?
  • * Is the teacher constructive and supportive as he/she critiques and directs students?

Audit several teachers and then compare the answers and then you can make an informed decision on who will be the best acting teacher for you and who you will want to stay with for a year or two or more.

Who Books Commercials and Why?

Once you have done your callback and leave that is when the director, agency execs, producer and maybe someone representing the client start the process of selecting who will book the job – whether they are in the room or via a video feed. I am sure you have wondered how the final selection is made: what is considered, the politics, who has the decision making power and what happens during those few days you are waiting to see if you booked the job. Read more

Commercial Improv

Improvisation Training: Vital to an Actor’s Career

When actors interview with me before taking my commercial class, I always suggest that they the take a workshop either before, during or immediately after they take a commercial class. Improvisation, or improv, will help actors to get more Commercial auditions and is a major factor in doing better auditions and, I believe, is crucial to a commercial actor’s career.


As a commercial actress, I have booked over 400 national commercials and I truly believe that I got many of those jobs because of my Improvisation training. When I first started doing commercials there were no actual commercial audition training workshops so I studied acting and then started doing Improvisation classes – which I loved. I quickly saw that the freedom and confidence I was getting from the Improv work was helping me do better at my auditions and thus I started booking even more jobs.

Granted that era was not anywhere as competitive as it is now but I do know that Improvisation training is even more beneficial and vital today then it ever was then for several reasons:

First of all, so many auditions today do not have dialogue and require Improv skills therefore commercial agents are more interested in actors (especially new actors) who have professionally studied improvisation because agents know that it will be easier to them auditions.

There are more non-scripted commercials being cast then ever before so casting directors usually want actors who are good with improv. Legally SAG/AFTRA does not allow actors to Improvise dialogue at their auditions so actors will probably never be technically asked to “improvise” but in actuality that is what they will be doing – verbally creating their own dialogue and/or scenarios. AND those who study Improv usually do so much better at those auditions.

There are more non-scripted commercials being cast then ever before so casting directors usually want actors who are good with improv. Legally SAG/AFTRA does not allow actors to Improvise dialogue at their auditions so actors will probably never be technically asked to “improvise” but in actuality that is what they will be doing – verbally creating their own dialogue and/or scenarios. AND those who study Improv usually do so much better at those auditions.

Find a teacher or institution that specializes in Improvisation. A lot of studios mix in the Improv training with acting, commercial and cold reading. This is not really offering the maximum value of studying Improvisation. Then, some teachers offer it as an on-going class. There are several problems with this format.

I strongly believe that Improvisation should be a second training workshop along with your acting class. Your acting training is focused on the techniques specific to whatever discipline of training you choose – motivation, emotional connection, subtext, character life, pre-life and after-life, etc. Whereas good improvisation training focuses on creativity, commitment, listening, trusting instincts, supporting the other actor and building confidence. When both acting and Improv are studied at the same time, you will get more out of your acting class and you will be ready to start auditioning sooner.

At the start of the Improv classes that I offer in my program, actors talk about how nervous they are about taking an Improv class. Most are concerned that they are not funny, or creative or instinctive. A good improv class does not push you to be funny and when you are “in the moment”, not thinking or planning and being instinctive , most actors find that they are creative and often funny. Improv is about freedom and it is a process that is achieved in a safe space with a really good teacher who creates a supportive NOT a competitive environment. Don’t we all want that feeling of freedom in our acting as well as our life.

COMMERCIAL BOOKING SECRETS

Ever wonder how they choose the actors they book on television commercials? Is there some secret determining factors that influence the casting decisions? There is -and I think it is important to for you to know what it is. From years of being a working commercial actress and booking over 400 commercials, having done the casting for over a thousand TV commercials and being a commercial audition teacher since 1983, I strongly believe that there is a formula for why actors get commercial callbacks and bookings. I know it isn’t carved in stone or even the exact way the director, ad execs and clients would verbalize but I REALLY believe that this is basically the formula.

60 percent of why actors get callbacks is their physicality – what they look like. Since those chosen must represent the client’s target market and must be a strong physical representation of the character they are portraying.

20 percent of why actors get callbacks is their talent and creativity – what they actually do on the audition whether it is an improvisation or a scripted monologue or a scene. The decision-makers look for actors who are believable, unique and/or their work

The remaining 20% factor, is the actor’s confidence, personality and essence which usually needs to match up to the actor’s look. This is the factor that most actors don’t consider and often don’t understand.

Now, let’s say the actor is a great physical type for a particular commercial and does a great audition but he/she comes off arrogant or too silly then he/she will probably not get a callback.

Or if he/she is really approachable and likeable (which is important for most commercials) and is the perfect type but overacts on their auditions (which happens way too often) then again, he/she will not get a callback.

Now when it comes to getting the booking, the numbers change a little, since there is some agreement between the ad execs and the director on the looks of those being called back, the importance of the actor’s physicality is still important but now since it is still subjective, it is about 30%.

What also is relevant in the “looks” area is when it is necessary to match actors with spouses, friends, workers or family.- the consideration becomes, Do they look like they belong together. What the actor does in their audition, how they take direction, their creativity and talent now becomes the prominent factor at 40%..

The actor’s attitude, personality and essence factors comes in at 20%..

And finishing up the BOOKING equation are wildcard factors: it could be anything from the actor’s wardrobe (which one of the decision-makers really likes for the spot) to any of the execs or director having subjective preferences or dislikes. There are too many subjective wild card factors to cover here but I am sure you can imagine some.

This information should help you to not take it personal or think you did a bad job when you don’t get a callback or booking. And it should help you have the insights you need to put the odds in your favor for booking commercials. And by the way a lot of this is also applicable for booking smaller roles in film and TV.

Commercials: solo dialogue

Audition Tips for TV Commercials – Solo Dialogue to the Camera

A challenge with monologue or solo dialogue commercials auditions is how to truthfully start speaking. With 10, 20 or 25-second copy, there is no time to work into it. You must be connected at the beginning otherwise those viewing your audition may lose interest and fast forward to the next actor. I believe that when you use a “who” and a short pre- life you will get an immediate connection to the dialogue. Read more

Look Before You Leap into Commercial Auditions

Look Before You Leap Into Commercial Auditions

Commercial Audition Training – Lots to Learn

When I interview people before taking my classes, so many tell me that they have been told to start their acting careers by training for commercials. I would like to silence all those who are perpetuating this disempowering misconception. They are destroying acting careers before they even start. But I do understand that when most people look at actors in commercials, it looks so easy. It is no wonder that many think that it is a way to break into acting, be seen and make lots of money. Yes, it is fun, creative and can be lucrative. Most working commercial actors can make it look easy because most are pros. As you will discover, there is a lot to do, learn and know before starting to audition well and book commercials.

WHEN TO START: I strongly believe that you should study acting for a year or so and Improvisation for a good six months (at the least) before doing a commercial class. Then you will be more prepared to go get a commercial agent and start auditioning – hopefully, while you continue to professionally train consistently. I believe that when people start auditioning too early, it often creates major problems with craft and confidence. And when those actors do less than stellar auditions, there is a good chance the casting directors they audition for will choose not to see them again, even in the future after they train and improve.

Although, I do have lots of students with little or no training take my beginning commercial workshop. And, I also have agents send me total beginners (who are great commercial types) to learn enough basics to be competent at their auditions. AND after the class, many of these rooky actors who are good commercial types and/or have strong performance talents or skills, do book some work. On the other hand, from years of experience, I am convinced that those who want to book lots more work, plan to have an acting career and want to feel secure about their craft need to prepare and train first before jumping into the commercial arena.

MISCONCEPTIONS and CHALLENGES: Many feel they don’t need to study acting first or that after they book a few commercials, they will use that money to study – I truly believe that thinking is ass backwards. Don’t be fooled, this is a commitment and requires more than you know. Before pursuing any venture, you really need to understand what is involved, Here are just a few of the issues rookies as well as trained actors should know about before auditioning for commercials:

  • GETTING AN AGENT: Getting a good agent can be challenging. Agents are inundated daily with dozens of pictures and resumes of actors who want commercial representation.
  • COSTS: Between training, commercial wardrobe, photos, a website, reproductions, casting sites and mailings, it can get expensive. Plus, by working a job that gives you the flexibility you need to audition, your income usually will not be as good as if you had a full time job.
  • TIME CONSUMING: Depending on the location of the casting facility, each audition will normally take on the average of 2 ½ to 4 hours, to travel back and forth, park, prepare, wait and do your five minute audition. And often but not always, actors go out on dozens of audition before booking one.
  • HIGHLY COMPETITIVE: Getting auditions is very competitive. There are hundreds to thousands of actors submitted for every role. Only 80 to100 are seen each day per role. So you have normally a 10 -15% chance of getting an audition when submitted.
  • MONEY EARNED: The money that most new actors think they will earn form booking a commercial is not always the case. It depends on many factors whether the commercial is: union, non-union, local, regional, national, international, one spot or multiple spots, the number of actors, on-camera or voice-over, buy-out and/or residuals. Actors can earn anywhere from a few hundred to (in rare cases) a few hundred thousand dollars doing a commercial.

My main intention in laying out these misconceptions and challenges is not to discourage you from pursuing commercial work but to help you avoid the pitfalls that can make it difficult to make a good start. There are many more misconceptions and challenges you should be acquainted with before jumping into beginning your commercial acting endeavor, do watch my Look Before You Leap Into Commercial video.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com

Commercial Agent Representation – Submissions

In major markets, there are hundreds of agents. Attaining legitimate representation for commercials is usually rather involved so it important to choose the agents you wish to target and research them:

  • In major markets buy updated books that list and describe agents and managers (In Los Angeles, these books are sold at Samuel French and New York at the Drama Book
  • Obtain a list of franchised agents from SAG.
  • There are agents who are not SAG-franchised. That does not mean they are not reputable. Those who are members are just easier to check out and are accountable to a supervising entity.

  • Ask industry pros you know as well as your friends, teachers, relatives, and classmates the following about agents:

    • Whom do they recommend or have heard about with great reputations and who should be avoided?
    • What is the best way to contact them?
    • Is there anyone they know who could help get more information or has an “in”?
  • If you belong to a networking group, check with their members and their records.
  • Go to the websites of those you are considering and read about the company history and the agents.
  • Once you have a short list, check your choices with the Better Business Bureau. Find out if they have had claims filed against them.

SUBMIT TO COMMERCIAL AGENTS

The size and status of the office you should realistically approach is determined by where you are in your career. When starting, you will find that the small and medium-sized offices are often more receptive to meeting new talent but if you do have an “in” at a major agency or just want to try to get with one, definitely pursue it. If your timing, talent and type are right, you could get lucky.  Now that you know the reputable agents you wish to pursue, submit a picture, resume’ and cover letter.

Don’t mail to one at a time and wait for them to contact you. It is also a waste of money to do a mass mailing to every agent in town. I suggest mailing to a select fifteen or twenty. Agents are bombarded with actors soliciting them. You might hear from some within a few weeks. If you don’t get any responses, submit to your second choices. Agents and managers will call you for a meeting if they are interested in what they see in your submission. If you have industry contacts, teachers or friends who can recommend you to your desired agent(s) I propose you ask your contact if they would advise the agent to expect your submission.  If you get minimal or no response after the second round of submissions, shoot new photos, redo your resume and cover letter and then, in a few months, submit again to your first then second choices. Client rosters often change, making room for an actor who was of no interest just a few weeks earlier.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/

Four Reasons Actors Book Commercials

By: Carolyne Barry

You get a commercial callback. Ten to twenty-five actors up for the same role as you. You do a great job and don’t get booked or you do a “so-so” job and you get the commercial. Rather confusing, right? You have to ask yourself what is going on in the minds of those making the decisions. How are they judging the actors and their auditions? Who gets booked – is it luck?Wonder what are the casting factors that are the determinants?

Based on all my experience as an actress, casting director and teacher, I do believe there is a casting formula utilized when booking actors for commercials. It is only my educated opinion but I REALLY believe that this is basically the formula and value percentages.

THE 4 MAIN FACTORS THAT DETERMINE WHAT GETS ACTORS BOOKED.

30 % – What You Look Like –

Since there is some agreement between the ad execs and the director on the “aspirational” and/or “inspirational” looks of those being called back, the importance of the actor’s physicality is still important but now since it is still subjective, it is about 30%.

What also is relevant in the “looks” area, especially at the callback, is when it is necessary to match actors with spouses, friends, workers or family.- Do they look like they belong together.

40 % – Talent and Creativity

What the actor does in their audition, how they take direction, their creativity and talent now becomes the prominent factor.

20 % – Attitude, Personality and Essence

Those behind the table at callbacks, are watching everything you do from when you walk in the room until you walk out. How you take direction, what questions you might ask and how you relate to the director and others actors you might be auditioning with. Those decision-makers are checking to see if your personality and essence is right for the role and ALSO if there are any reasons why you would be difficult to work with.

10 % – Wildcard Factors

And finishing up the BOOKING equation are wildcard factors: it could be anything from the actor’s wardrobe (which one of the decision-makers really likes for the spot) to any of the execs or director having subjective preferences or dislikes. I’ve heard so many wildcard reasons, i.e. one of the clients, not choosing an actress that everyone else wanted because she reminded him of his ex-wife. Another one is an actor shaking hands with the director and his hands are sweaty which makes the director uncomfortable, There are too many subjective wild card factors to cover here but I am sure you can imagine others.

In review , this is my understanding of the primary considerations when making booking decisions. 30% looks, 40% talent, creativity and how well the actor takes direction, 20% Attitude, personality and essence and 10% Wildcard factors.

These considerations are just parts of the casting equation and are all considered. Know that: if an actor is a great physical type for a particular spot and does a great audition but he/she comes off arrogant or too silly then he/she will probably not get the job. Or if he/she is really has a great personality and essence and is the perfect type but does not do a good job with the material or scenario then again, he/she will probably not get booked.

This information should help you to not take it personal or think you did a bad job when you don’t get a booking. And it should help you have the insights you need to put the odds in your favor for booking commercials. And by the way a lot of this is also applicable for booking smaller roles in film and TV.