Clio Awards – www.clioawards.com – don’t come easily.They honor the best work in the field of commercials, similar to Emmys and Oscars, and we’d bet dollars to doughnuts that most of you reading this never heard of them.Well, now you have.
Terry Berland, longtime commercial casting director and owner of Terry Berland Casting in Los Angeles, is a Clio Award winner and rightly so.She possesses a great eye for talent and the attention to detail that has assured her a top spot on producers’ wish lists of “casting directors I’d love to hire”.
Terry began her casting career in New York, working her way up the ladder in casting offices at Madison Avenue advertising agencies, ultimately becoming Head of Casting at BBDO (at the time, the third largest ad agency in the world).She then decided to start her own independent casting company and opened an office in L.A. in 1991.
In addition to her hectic casting schedule, Terry has taught commercial acting techniques to literally hundreds of actors in cities throughout the United States.Her interest in actors inspired her to co-author the “how to” industry book, “Breaking Into Commercials”, now in its second printing.Over the years, Terry has observed many actors at various acting and modeling conventions and workshops, as they grow and develop their skills to the point where they are able to make the move successfully from regional areas to New York and Hollywood. She has also seen plenty of actors who decide that the larger markets really weren’t for them after all.
Terry shares some of her hard-earned wisdom:
“Actors need to know that casting directors are always on the look-out for good, solid, well-trained actors.An actor also needs to understand how he or she fits into the process of casting.In the commercial industry, there are eight people who decide which actor is going to be booked – the ad agency producer, art director, writer, account supervisor, creative supervisor, account executive, production company director, plus final client approval – and the casting director is not one of those people.The casting director is the first person to bring the actor in to audition, because he believes that the actor is right for the part and will do a good job auditioning.Once she presents the various actors to the producers and director, it’s up to them to make the final casting decision.”
When asked what mistakes she sees actors making in her casting office, she offered this:
“The competition in Hollywood and New York is much fiercer than in the regional areas or in the college classroom environment.Acting is a growth process, so naturally, the more you train, the longer you’re in it, the better you’re going to be.
“You want to get to the point that as soon as you step on the mark you are given to work on, you know how to create an environment where you reveal your personality and appear very connected to whatever you’re doing.
“Always have your 8X10 (with the resume attached) with you (there is no excuse for not having one in-hand when you enter a casting office).
“Never wear perfume or cologne.
“Always be on time.If you see that you’re going to be unavoidably delayed, have your agent call the casting person and warn them.And if you cannot make it at all, let your agent know that, too.Another actor will then have the opportunity to fill that coveted audition slot.
“The most impressive actors are the ones who are well-trained, really feel happy to be at the audition, and are open and ready to take direction and do their best work.Most actors have very good dispositions.They are patient, used to waiting, do their job (their audition) and then leave, happy campers, on to their next thing.There is no feeling (from the actor) of wanting, or worse yet, needing the booking.”
In Terry’s opinion, actors need to choose their teachers and classes carefully.“Actors need to make decisions that don’t waste a lot of their time and money.In Hollywood, there is a lot of good, but also a lot of bad.Gather advice from well-respected people.Since good acting is your strong foundation, I would certainly say get into a good acting class.Find a coach whose technique and manner you are comfortable with and along with that, take a commercial workshop.That is a technique unto itself – TV, film and commercials each have their own different techniques, by the way.
“Commercial acting classes are not on-going like other acting classes.You can learn the commercial technique in a workshop (such as mine) in five or six weeks.A good commercial class can even trigger major breakthroughs in your regular acting class.I’ve been told that I give the same notes or adjustments to talent that they are getting in the acting class – we simply push through faster, due to the nature of everything about commercials being quicker.
“That brings me to another important class everyone should take and that is improv.In improv, you learn how to think and create quickly, on your feet.That is the foundation for commercials and anything with comedy or humor.
“It gives a real sense of community to know that the actors we audition are well-trained and waiting for their auditions, so they can get to us (sometimes) at a moment’s notice.These actors make our jobs successful.
“The breakdowns for commercials come quickly and the actors we bring in for auditions are part of our team.They might not always get booked for that particular job, but a knowledgeable actor understands that casting directors, producers and directors remember good people for future jobs.
“An actor who lives in a regional market who asks a commercial casting director in L.A. to call him and have him fly in for an audition, obviously cannot understand how fast the process is – or he wouldn’t ask.It isn’t cost-effective or time-efficient for an actor to fly to an audition, be in the room for five minutes and then fly home again.Under those circumstances, the audition itself becomes far too important.Then factor in the callbacks, which may not happen for a couple of days.Is he going to hop on another plane for that?!
“I believe an actor should work and take advantage of everything available in his or her own region before moving to a larger market.They should only move if it makes them happy and they can afford it.Success is different things to different people.Acting should nurture the soul, wherever that may be.”
To gain more insight and knowledge about how to be successful in commercials, as well as how you fit into the commercial process, you can read Terry’ book, “Breaking Into Commercials”.It can be found online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Samuel French Bookstore, as well as most major bookstores.
Further information about Terry Berland can be found on her website, www.berlandcasting.com.And here’s some fun for you:Join Terry’s MySpace for actors only under Myspace.com/berlandcasting.