Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting.

Everything about commercials is fast. After all, an entire story is told in a minute or less. The shoots are quick, usually one day if it takes place at one location. Production also takes place quickly, which affects you, the actor and your schedule. To understand why commercial auditions are often fast-paced, last–minute affairs decided close to the shoot date is to understand the pathway from the start of the creative concept to the audition. 

The Creative Start of a Spot

The concept starts at the ad agency, whether that’s a traditional agency or a branding or marketing agency. Your spot could be advertised through traditional channels like radio, television, print ads or through the internet and social media. 

At the ad agency, there‘s a creative team comprising a writer and an art director who’s assigned to the account. It is their job to create several concepts which are eventually pitched to the client. Another important person on this team is a producer who keeps everything on a timeline and within budget from start to finish.

The concept consists of a storyline designed to motivate the consumer to buy a product. The client signs off on the concept they like most at which point the ad agency circulates the storyboards to production companies.

Using the boards as their budgeting guide, these companies bid on the boards vying to be awarded the job. Relationships between ad agency producers, director reps and production company execs all play a role in who gets a chance to bid on the project.

The Commercial Spot is Created

After a production company “wins” a bid, it proceeds to put all of the elements together to shoot within a certain timeframe and budget. The production company then hires a crew that can support the director’s concept. The production team is made up of a producer, lighting tech, sound recordist, gaffers, script supervisors, location scouts, wardrobe stylists, etc. 

Why the Casting is Last Minute

The shoot is the last and final piece of the puzzle. Once the shoot date is set, a casting director is selected and casting gets underway.

Casting receives the storyboards along with the director’s treatment then consults with the producer and director to further define the characters. 

As casting is the last piece of the puzzle, the job is awarded close to the shoot date. This means the prep has to start quickly with the first audition date being set only a couple of days later. The audition times get sent out to talent typically the night before the audition.

When you receive the audition notice on the day of the casting session, the reasons usually have to do with changes made to a character or with other talent canceling appointments, making new time slots available.

The shoot will most likely take place several days after your callback, during which time locations are secured and the entire creative team—as well as the client’s team—is confirmed for the shoot.

If you want to sharpen up on your commercial acting technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Commercial Acting workshop.