Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Esteemed veteran teacher, authoress, on-camera commercial and voiceover casting director Terry Berland was our speaker at our Industry Guest Seminar July 26. The room was packed with savvy, talented actors! By the end, 15 such actors also got up on their feet doing improv and scripted copy. It was like an interactive, mini-commercial on-camera acting class with Terry’s wonderful redirects!
Terry comes from a strong New York advertising agency background including casting for J. Walter Thompson, Young and Rubicon and served as Head of Casting for BBDO/NY Worldwide. That background only gives us that much more of an edge in our auditions with her. As Terry stated, “I know the psychy of those people and basic needs of the ad agency.”
Terry went on to explain how “it’s a dance” between the agency and client personnel when casting an actor for a spot. “Their needs are always changing.” Stated best on Terry’s website, www.berlandcasting.com, “At least eight people have to agree on who will be booked. The creative team (ad agency Producer, Writer, Art Director, Creative Supervisor, Creative Director, Account Supervisor, The Production Company Director and finally the Client) collectively decides who would be best for the job, and the client makes the final decision. The Casting Director has very little to do with the actual selection process after the auditions are completed. Keep in mind that the decision-making process is very subjective. The writer, for instance, might think that your type of face is not the type that would be cleaning floors in the kitchen- that you look too upscale. The producer, however, might feel that your face doesn't look upscale. All you can do as an actor is give a good audition. Once you've done that, it comes down to a "look" and an "essence". The one thing you have control over is your ability to audition well, and this is the factor that will give you the competitive edge in the long run. Many times, the way you are asked to audition has very little to do with how the final spot is shot. You may be asked to do a broader range of emotions at the audition than when the spot is actually shot. The team needs to know that you are capable of handling whatever direction they throw at you. The shoot can be a long repetitive day. They need someone who can stay strong and act fresh each and every take.”
Terry added, “When you get a call at the last minute for a commercial, it’s because the casting director has gotten the call at the last minute or a change at the last minute and that’s just the way they work. There are a lot of layers so all the years I’ve been doing this, I never get frustrated. I never feel that I’m being taken advantage of. I understand them. I must say when the actors come in, when things do happen at the last minute, it’s really a great feeling the network we have between casting directors, agents and you guys because you’re ready and waiting to jump and be there when we need you. Sometimes I’ll have a client say, ‘Well, is it possible?’ and I say that it is as possible as how long it physically takes someone to get someplace because the actors here are here to work. The actors are here to audition, so if it’s physically possible, the actors are going to jump to be here. But then there is the reality involved.”
When asked how to have an outstanding commercial audition- “Show layers and layers and layers of yourself.”
When doing improv - “Be a very opinionated person. Show who you are and how you feel.”
Submitting multiple headshots to her? “No. Make your decision” Then Terry told us that her biggest pet peeve is when actors don’t bring pictures and resumes to auditions, especially to callbacks.
Terry mentioned, “Now I am doing something theatrical and the phones never stop ringing! It’s a different beast [than doing commercials].
Terry said, “A casting director is nothing without good talent. We are as good as the talent that we bring in, so we do need you. It’s like a puzzle. Everything is scattered all over the place and we’re formatting and we bring in the pieces. Then it clicks. Something clicks in. That’s very nonsensical. You know you could be the best actor and you don’t get the part. Obviously you’ve got to love it to stay in this [industry]."
I have personally taken classes from Terry and have learned a lot from her. Her book BREAKING INTO COMMERCIALS-The Complete Guide to Marketing Yourself, Auditioning To Win and Getting The Job can be found at Samuel French Book Stores, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com
Thank you, Terry!