Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting.
Photo credit:
Grusho Anna / Shutterstock.com

“How do I make a commercial performance stand out?”

This question makes me cringe. It seems to infer you may be looking for some quick-fix tricky technique. There aren’t any that would lend to showcasing an authentic performance.

The better question would be “How can I be a better commercial actor?”

Let’s get into that.

Commercials Tell a Story

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of authenticity and control over dialogue. The essence of good commercial acting is to be able to utilize basic acting tools effectively. Those of you who study theatrically will find what I am saying familiar as it takes the same basic acting approach.

First, understand how the client is selling the product. There are three basic ways they sell. These would be satisfaction or relief of finding the product that makes your life better, putting down other products, and/or humor.

Next, Create a Short Scene

Add the basic acting elements that would include:

  • Where am I? Establishing where you are will enable you to feel comfortable and grounded.
  • What are my relationships/Who am I saying these words to? This will enable you to create a specific attitude.
  • What are my motivations? What do I want to get out of my words and actions?

There is also commercial space created by camera framing that you typically have to deal with that is smaller than the theatrical space. There are ways to use both sides of the camera to create the illusion of a more expansive space, the use of different angles including looking off three-quarters from the camera to create dimension and using sharp angles that lend to comedy.

Creating a short scene and being a specific person will enable you to play a specific attitude. You will now have control over the words, just like in any theatrical scene.

You will want to step into the shoes of your character and embody their unique personality traits, beliefs and emotions. By adopting a particular attitude, you’re not just reciting lines but inhabiting a role and bringing it to life. After doing all this, even reading commercial words will feel authentic and relatable.

When I am teaching the greatest thrill for each participant is when all of the above elements are understood and executed and I can throw a participant different characters and they can quickly say the same words in whatever character attitude they chose. That is truly an “ah ha” moment of having control.

Approaching commercial copy as a short scene is a seismic shift that will bring you great success. Are you ready?

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