Category Archives: Casting Director

The Importance of Body Language in a Commercial Audition

Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting

Body language can make or break a commercial audition. If you think that body language isn’t important in a commercial audition because of space constraints or because you’re only being filmed from the waist up or because the audition is quick, you’re making a big mistake.

As you focus on familiarizing yourself with the lines, following instructions, hitting your marks and making character choices, you might be missing one very important element of a callback-worthy audition: your body language.

Even though the camera is only capturing you from the waist up, who you are as a whole person is just as important in a commercial audition as in a film audition.

To ensure that your body language doesn’t get left out of the equation, here are some elements to keep in mind.

How you’re holding your shoulders. If you’re the victim, your shoulders might be slouched or held weakly. If you’re sassy, confident or confrontational, your shoulders might be pushed back, conveying strong intention.

What you’re doing with your arms. Who you are relative to whom you are talking to and in what environment determines what to do with your arms. To keep your performance real, be aware that part of how you express yourself is through hand and arm gestures. If you’re talking to a friend, casual conversational gestures would be in order. If you’re in a board meeting or portraying a lawyer making an argument, your gestures would be firm and resolute.

How you’re holding your knees. Be sure not to lock your knees. Locking your knees will cut off any energy you need to fulfill your character choices.

How you’re walking. If you’re in a casual setting, say, leisurely going to meet a friend for coffee, your walk would be carefree, with little sense of intention. If you’re late or going to an important meeting, your walk might project briskness and urgency.

How quickly you move your head. How fast you move your head is part of body language, too. If you’re very surprised by something, you’d turn your head faster than if you were contemplating something or dreading whatever or whoever it was you were turning toward.

Change of facial expressions. Using the eyes as an example, if the situation was comical, your eyes might flit, bat or dart, adding to the energy of the scene. If the shot was close and the scene was not broadly comical, your choice of eye movement and facial expression would be more subdued. You’d either be instructed or the script would give you hints as to how to modulate the scene’s comic energy, whether broad or subtle.

How you’re relating to someone else in the scene. How closely your stand next to the person you’re sharing the scene with suggests a relationship. Looking toward the person you’re sharing the scene with creates a relationship. Averting your look from the other person creates a different dynamic, i.e., an isolated energy that excludes the other person. Once you decide what your relationship is, you can decide what sort of body language to use.

Expressing fear. Leaning slight away from someone or something can be used to express fear.

Expressing curiosity. You can lean towards something to express curiosity.

Understanding that body language is a major component of who you are and the message you’re seeking to convey will make all the difference between a serviceable audition and a successful one worthy of a callback.

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

How To Impress A Casting Director

Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting

The casting director is hired to bring in a select number of actors to audition for specific roles so that an agency or production company’s creative team can later decide which actor or actors will be booked. Impressing the casting director, therefore, becomes every actor’s number one focus going into an audition.

Besides being a talented performer, there are qualities that will really set you apart. The following checklist will ensure that you leave a favorable impression with your casting director:

Be consistently acting. One of the ways an actor can keep acting between bookings is to keep honing their skills and continue with acting classes on an ongoing basis. Working out in acting class should feel fulfilling, a way to keep feeding the creative beast in you.

Be sure your package is well put-together and your submission process is honest and well-organized. Your photos should look like you and your resume should be clean, organized and up-to-date. Your resume should be honest with regard to your special skills, including which languages you speak fluently, which accents you can do flawlessly and which sports or other unique abilities you excel in.

There are many breakdowns out for actors that have actual knowledge or ability in this or that skill. When you sign with your agent or manager, or you have a meeting to go over how to gain more auditions, be sure to review your special skills with your reps to make sure you have everything covered.

Don’t take your skill and knowledge base for granted. There might be items on a breakdown list that you’re proficient at, though it may not occur to you. For instance, if you have culinary skills, have training as a photographer or you really were a paramedic in the past, keep these valuable abilities in your toolkit of special skills.

Keep your photos up-to-date. Don’t confuse a casting director. Don’t have old photos in your package in which you’re sporting hair of a different length or color. Only have current looks for viewing. Also, don’t portray a character you can’t play. For instance, your photographer might have taken a great photo of you as a tough guy or an edgy girl, but if you can’t truthfully play that type, it won’t do you any good to promote that look.

Keep in touch with the casting director. Get to know how a casting director likes you to keep in touch and follow through every couple of months. Personally, I like postcards with your professional updates on it. It’s a quick read for me and seeing a postcard every three or four months helps me get to know you and keep you in mind in the long run.

Have active social media accounts. Keep in touch through social media. Find out which social media platforms the casting director uses. Use your social media platforms to post scenes that you’re shooting if your production can release anything for the public. Don’t take photos on a shoot on your own. Your focus should remain on your job as an actor. Use social media to talk about jobs you’ve booked (if you’re allowed to) and theater productions you’ve been in. Even if you’re under an NDA and not allowed to mention a product, there are ways you can communicate that you’ve just booked.

Post all things acting. Every once in a while, post something personal. Be aware, though, that we won’t be impressed if all we see are photos of your dog. In fact, you can expect to be deleted.

Have a great reel. If you don’t have actual scenes from film or television that you’ve booked, go to a reel-production service and have a few scenes produced. Do the kind of scene that you love and are right for. Caution: The final outcome must look highly professional.

Leave a good impression at auditions. Try to make the audition time we give you. If you can’t make it for a very important reason, ask to change or cancel your appointment in as promptly as possible to give us enough time to give your slot to another actor.

Be in a good mood when you show up. Be happy to be at the audition and friendly to everyone. Be prepared at the audition. Know your technique and give a great audition.

Be busy with acting outside of your auditions and classes. One way is to create your own film and web series projects. Another way is to do theater. LA is packed with theater companies, and the local theater scene is thriving. Take advantage of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which features short plays performed on theater row. I went to several shows during this year’s festival, and the place was buzzing with theatergoers. All these shows had to be cast with hundreds of actors. So, wherever you live in LA, find your local theater and get involved.

Be aware of breakdowns. An agent is crucial for the lion’s share of better projects and for your own protection and professional career. Nevertheless, go after your own work in addition to what your agents submit you for. Iron out a system and an understanding with your agent for a smooth working relationship between you. It is important to have an honest relationship with your agent.

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

Why Are Commercial Auditions so Last Minute?

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.

Commercial and Theatrical Auditions: Similarities and Differences and How to Master Both

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland @berlandcasting

It is the goal of working actors to be invited to multiple auditions for both commercial and theatrical (film and television) projects on the same day, every week, year-round. To reach that goal, you have to be able to quickly switch gears, and be familiar and comfortable with each type of project. 

To be successful in the long run, both commercial and theatrical auditioning require a solid acting background, professionalism and dedication. On first glance, you’d think there were huge differences between these two types of auditions, differences that can seem overwhelming.  But it’s actually surprising how many similarities exist between the two. Demystifying these similarities and differences can help you take the correct steps toward your long-term goals.

Receiving Copy and Preparing for Your Audition

For a theatrical audition, you receive your sides a day or two in advance. Your sides are scenes selected out of the entire script. In commercials, you don’t receive your copy in advance; you receive it at the audition. Therefore, with commercial auditions, you need to learn how to be very good at the cold read. 

In the Audition Room

In commercial auditions—and frequently in theatrical auditions—there is always a camera present. The big difference, though, is that in a commercial audition, where you may be one character speaking to another, you have to relate to the camera as if it were the other character (unless you’re told differently). In a theatrical audition, you don’t look at the camera. The camera is simply in the room to capture your audition for later review.

Script/Sides: to Hold or Not to Hold

In commercial auditions, you do not hold your script. There will be a cue card in the room with all your lines on it. Ideally, the card is placed close to the camera lens for easy reference. The camera should be your main focus, with your eyes going back and forth between the camera and the cue card. Your eyes should be truthful and honest, giving the feeling that you’re addressing whomever you’re supposedly talking to. 

Casting directors aren’t allowed to ask you to memorize commercial copy. If we do, according to the SAG-AFTRA commercial union contract, you would be due a payment for the audition. With the proper training, you can become good at cold reads. A good cold-read audition never feels stale or over-rehearsed. 

In a theatrical audition, the sides are sent to you ahead of time and even if you memorized them, you should hold them to glance at if needed. This gives the (correct) impression that your audition is not your finished piece of work. This also gives the casting director the feeling that you’re not stuck on only one way of performing your scene and that there is room for you to be directed.

Analyzing Copy

Commercial copy can be broken down the same way as theatrical copy. I look at preparing for a commercial audition the same way you would a short scene—and I teach this technique as well. In engaging with every read, I tell actors to ask themselves who they are, where they are, to identify the emotions needed for the scene, and to break the script down into beats. In a short amount of time, you need to give the feeling of connecting to whomever you are speaking to and creating the feeling that you are in a specific place. A good way to add substance to your read is through the use of backstories. 

The Decision-making Process

There is definitely a big difference in who the decision-makers are between the commercial and theatrical worlds (link to blog “Who Are the Commercial Decision-Makers?”). The commercial decision-makers usually come from an ad agency and can be made up of as many as eight layers of people: The writer, art director, producer, creative supervisor, creative director, account executive, client and director (hired by the production company to shoot the spot). If it’s a small ad agency, there may be fewer layers of decision-makers. Networks, cable television and film have a different pecking order. Research the layers of decision-makers typical to the format you’re working in to gain an understanding and comfort level with it.


When the breakdown is first put out, the talent will be told the shoot dates. Then, when it comes down to final choices, the actors will be contacted to make sure they’re still available for the specified shoot dates. The actor is also agreeing to notify casting of any changes during the final selection-booking process. In commercials, casting will put the talent on “avail.” For theatrical, the typical lingo is “pinned.” 


In both commercial and theatrical auditions, there are similarities in the final stage of booking. At this time, the talent should again be given the terms of agreement that appeared on the breakdown, that is, the shoot dates and all other details that will make up the final contractual agreement. If you’re pinned or on avail, this is your chance to make sure that there haven’t been any changes that would be to your disadvantage and that you agree with the terms before you accept your booking.

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

Where to Find Inspiration for a Fulfilling Acting Career

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland @berlandcasting
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Acting is a fickle business with no job security or guarantees. The desire to pursue it is in your blood; it’s a calling. To stay in it, you have to believe and keep on believing, and at times you need to find ways to get inspired.

The first source of inspiration can come from peers in your own community, i.e., celebrities. While watching the SAG awards, I was taken aback by how inspirational the actors’ acceptance speeches were.

Let’s start with Chadwick Boseman, on hand to represent “Black Panther’s” win for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. He spoke about sticking to what you believe in, even when you’re told over and over that there is no place for you. He said, We know what it’s like to be told there’s not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. We know what it’s like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it’s like to be beneath and not above.” But he added that, in spite of those roadblocks, “we knew that we had something special that we wanted to give.”

Then there was Sam Elliott, who mentioned the “highs and lows of an acting career.” I’m sure everyone reading this article feels career highs and lows, but it’s a great reminder to hear what a star of Elliott’s caliber has gone through—and will continue to go through. Struggling and working actors alike could relate to his feelings because they’re the very same feelings all actors experience.

Jason Bateman, who won for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for “Ozark,” also moved me with his words. They were exceptionally inspiring for actors trying to keep going: “I hope I’m a little bit better each year.” Wow! Someone just won a top award from his peers and is humble and real enough to want to grow as an actor. Another beautiful thing Bateman said was, “I’m just one job away from all the actors that I am accepting this award on behalf of.”

Something else he said that I’m sure all actors can relate to was: “I know there are a lot of fellow union members who are not working as frequently as they might want to, and that was frequently the case for me for a long time. You wonder if you got it.”

Rachel Brosnahan, who won for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series, thanked the unsung background actors. Hearing someone who’d just won this award acknowledge actors working their way up in the business had the power to validate one’s struggles, to feel included in the larger family of actors.

Here’s another way you can feel inspired: Know always that we casting directors need you and are depending on you. We appreciate and respect that you are refining your craft and that you show up to auditions being the best that you can be. And here I mean all levels of projects.

Know that your agents are also depending on you and are grateful that you show up prepared for your auditions.

Feel supported knowing that your managers are eagerly putting themselves on the line for you.

And there’s no shortage of inspiration to be found in a great acting class led by experienced and encouraging teachers.

Lastly, know that those of us who love to watch performances on stage and screen—whether it’s the movie screen or our smartphone screens—appreciate everything you do to make stories come alive.

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

Who Are the Commercial Booking Decision-Makers?

Written by Terry Berland | for Casting Networks News

As an actor, the casting director is the one obvious person on the front line whose attention you’re striving to get. The casting director is regarded as the gatekeeper, responsible for selecting the right people out of perhaps thousands who auditioned for the role. But in the commercial acting industry, the person who scouts and selects the talent isn’t actually part of the decision-making process when it comes to booking.

Understanding how the system works can give you the confidence to help you book your next job.

So . . . Who Are the Decision Makers
There can be as many as eight people making the booking decisions. This team is made up of the ad agency writer, art director, producer, creative supervisor, creative director and account executive. And on the production company side, there is the director hired to direct the commercial spot. After all their input, the final OK comes from the client.

The First Call
The casting director speaks to the producer and/or director to gain an understanding of each character. Then it’s on them to direct the actors accordingly, ensuring an accurate evaluation of which actors bring the right skill set for a given role.

The auditions are uploaded and emailed at the end of the day to the ad agency and the director at the production company. The people most concerned with your look and performance are the art director, writer and producer. After all, the writer and art director came up with the concept and have a definite vision for the spot in mind. The producer is on hand to facilitate the fulfillment of their vision, working out the budget, scheduling, and the coordination of every production element involved.

The director, whose job is to realize and enhance the artistry and messaging of the spot, is viewing the auditions too. The director has to understand keenly what the ad agency wants and not stray too far from the concept. Hence, it becomes a delicate dance between the director and ad agency writer and art director, balancing creativity and concept.

Next, the above parties make a list of which actors they’d like to see called back and send that list over to the casting director.

The Callback Audition
The director, art director, and writer will likely be present in the callback room. The producer from both the production company and ad agency is usually present as well.

The callback isn’t generally the time for in-depth communication or forming a rapport with the decision-makers. You’re here simply say your hellos, take your direction, give your performance, and probably be given several adjustments. After you leave, there’ll be a brief discussion among team members about whether they want to move ahead with you or not.

The Decision Process
At the end of the callbacks, each audition is reviewed and discussed. If you’re part of an ensemble, an additional element of the decision lies in how well you’ll fit into and add to the chemistry of the group.

The first choices are made in addition to backups. The choices are then sent back to the ad agency where the creative supervisor (the person overseeing the art director and writer), creative director (the person overseeing the ad agency’s creative branding), and the account supervisor (the liason between the ad agency and the client) consider the casting choices. This is when the final choices are made about which talent will be presented to the client.

The next and final step is for the selected talent to be presented to the client at a production meeting for their final approval.

Understanding the many variables that go on behind the scenes of your booking a commercial should help assure you of the value of that tried-and-true bit of advice: The best you can do is give a good performance then let go and let the process takes its course.

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

Six Tips for Nailing Your Audition in Under a Minute

Written by Terry Berland | for Casting Networks News

It’s quite a feat to deliver an unforgettable audition in under a minute, but that’s exactly what you have to do in a commercial audition as well as in any short dramatic scene for a film or TV show where you may have only one to five lines.

Your main goal in such instances is to come off as authentic as possible in these clutch circumstances. In a commercial, you’re being used as a vehicle for the sell. In a dramatic scene, you may be needed as a lynchpin to convey story information or to serve a transitional beat in the story.

Here are six essential tips for delivering the authenticity you’ll need to crush your audition and significantly raise your odds for a callback and booking.

1. Know how to dissect the script. Understand the script. Understand if the spot is selling via humor, frustration or putdown.

2. Understand your character. Are you the winner (the hero), the looser (the one whose life is not working because you don’t use the product), the leader or the follower (the side kick or friend)?

3. Be someplace specific. Create a specific place where you are standing. In your imagination, create every detail of the location. Include tangible/concrete sensory details like colors, lighting, smells and sounds.

4. Reveal your authentic self instantly. In my teaching of how to find your authentic self, I’ve discovered the answer lies in finding what empowers you. Through the exploration of your empowerment, there is a “sweet spot” where you’re guided by feelings of confidence, honesty, awareness and relaxation. Hooking into that sweet spot is truly an “a-ha” moment.

5. Come from the standpoint of the person saying the words.Remember that it’s WHO is saying the words that’s going to be booked. The client is looking for a personality to make the character in their spot come alive. Your personality needs to drive your performance. The words will take care of themselves.

6. Be confident in your choices. Commit 100% to your choices. Choices are to be respected, not to be afraid of. Being neutral will get you nowhere.

Now go out there and crush it. You’ve only got a minute!

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

Understanding Commercial Regulations Is Good For Your Long-Term Career

Written by Terry Berland | for Casting Networks News
Photo Credit: Shutterbug

The actor union SAG-AFTRA was started, and exists, to protect actors from being taken advantage of.  Actors who have been in the union long term end up with a pension, are eligible for health insurance along the way, and can proudly call acting their career.

The union gives commercial casting directors an update periodically on the meaning of the terms for us to communicate properly with talent.  It dawned on me that it is important for you, the talent, to also know the latest reminder we have been given by the union regarding terms.

Below are a few reminder terms.  It is a good time to remind you that it’s better to have representation as opposed to going through the auditioning and booking process yourself.  Let your talent representative be the stickler for the rules.  After all, you want to come off as the congenial, easy-to-work-with actor who shows up for the booking eager and ready to work.*

Availability (Avail) Verses Hold:  

Casting has a system in place during the selection process, which involves putting talent on avail.  An avail is when the producer is inquiring about the performer’s availability for a particular day or days. You give a handshake agreement that you would be available if you were booked, and the selection process proceeds.  You are not yet booked.

If a casting director or a producer puts you on “hold”, technically they are actually booking you.  Hence, the performer is due a cancellation fee if they do not use you. *Probably less awkward for your agent to bring this to the attention of the casting director who is getting their information from the producer.


Conflicts exist so a talent does not have another similar product spot running at the same time, i.e. two toothpastes, shampoos, detergents, cell phone companies, banks, etc.

So what is a competitive product? If the product you are being cast for is a detergent, the direct conflict is other detergents. If the producer asks for conflicts of detergents and whiteners, the whitener is a second separate (non-competitive) product conflict because this particular detergent is not also a whitener; there is nothing on the package that claims it is a whitener. However, there are certain detergents that are actually whiteners. In that case asking for a whitener would fall under one conflict.

In a union commercial, holding a talent exclusive for the first direct conflict is free, but for any additional non-competitive product areas the talent is paid additional. Two (2) to three (3) non-competitive products the actor will receive 150% of session and usage. Four (4) or more non-competitive services the talent is paid 200% of session and usage.

Rehearsal days:

Talent gets paid for the time they work. Rehearsals are considered workdays, as you are not free that day to go out on other auditions or take any other kind of work.

Cancellation vs. Postponement:

Your time is valuable and you should get paid for it.  When a performer is cancelled, they are due a session fee for each day they are booked.  If the production is postponed, the performer is entitled to ½ of the session fee for each day they were booked.  If the production does not occur within fifteen (15) working days, the performer is due another ½ session fee.

These are just a few of your rights as an actor under the union and there are many more.  Stay up to date by going to the SAG-AFTRA website to stay informed.  Even if you are non-union at the moment, keep alert and stay in communication with your fellow actors.  Brainstorm about how you can keep your union alive for you to have a long-term thriving acting career.

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


What is a Casting Director Looking For?

Written by Terry Berland | for Casting Networks

I like reading blogs about the industry. I wish I had time to read them all. A blog that comes up on occasion, not written by a casting director, tries to solve the big mystery of “What Is A Casting Director Looking For?” The question always revolves in and around the performance. So since I’m a casting director, I thought it would be a great idea for me to answer that question

I think my answer might disappoint you. I don’t believe anyone can answer that question. Why?  Because for both theatrical and commercial, the casting director is looking for you to bring us a performance with creative choices that makes the character come alive. I can’t spell out what creative choices are.

Having said that, I can answer the question in a different way and I can give you a list of what casting directors are looking for.

Good actors. Casting directors are only as good as the actors they bring in to audition. Bring creative choices to your performance that make the character come alive.

Do not give a neutral performance. Any good actor knows that and would never deliver a neutral performance. Working out in acting classes will bring you discoveries every week that you can deliver with confidence.

Reliability. This business is built on trust. We need actors that show up for their appointments and bookings well prepared. In other words if we have sent you scripts or sides along with the audition, be familiar with your lines. If we have referenced a subject, TV show, or anything else, do your research.

Easy To Work With Actors. We are impressed with actors who are in a good mood, happy with what they are doing and happy to be given the moments to perform in the audition.

Up To Date Photos and Resume. You must look like your photo. Maintain your resume every time there is a change.

Honesty. It’s a waste of your time and the casting director’s time if you are not telling the truth or exaggerating. If you say you do an accent well, you most do it well. Confer with fellow actors or coaches for a reality check.

Good reels. You need a demo of your on camera and voice over acting (if you do voice overs). If you are reading this and don’t have a reel yet, this should be a goal that you are working towards.

In conclusion, work on your acting in your classes and get the best that you can be.  Blow us away with your choices and performance. Make us laugh, cry, feel compassion, feel something….. and give us goose bumps. Those who study commercial acting technique with me know I have a goose-bump-read body meter. When someone “gets it” the better the read, my goose bumps travel up and down my arms for quite a while. In an audition, make the goose bump scale go way high and leave the room feeling great.

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

Veteran L.A. Casting Director Terry Berland On Helping Actors Make The Connection

Written by Kurtis Bright for NYCastings website

Most of the time, casting directors have very specific areas they focus on: commercial, film, or television, for instance. Especially when it comes to voiceover versus on-camera work, most CDs do one or other — rarely both.

But Terry Berland of Berland Casting in Los Angeles isn’t your typical casting director.  A New Yorker born and bred, Berland got her start working in advertising on Madison Avenue, cutting her teeth casting both the actors to be used on camera in agency-produced spots, as well as those who would do the voiceover. By the time that kind of in-house commercial casting had started to decline, Berland had climbed to the top of the profession, heading up casting at Madison Avenue ad powerhouse BBDO Worldwide.

So it made perfect sense that she would continue casting commercials, opting to head out West to open up and partner in running the commercial division of Liberman Hirschfeld Casting for a time before opening her own shop. It also made sense that she would continue casting both voice and on-camera talent, as she has done for the past 25 years, and continues to do out of her Wilshire Boulevard offices.

When she’s not casting projects like “Invader Zim,” or “Whining Low,” Berland enjoys helping out actors by teaching high-quality classes and dispensing her accumulated wisdom from sitting behind the table in thousands of casting sessions through her book, “Breaking Into Commercials.”

She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to chat and offer some thoughts for actors.

On The Relationship Between Casting Directors And Actors:

Casting directors are only as good as the actors they bring in. So an actor needs to feel very much a part of the process, equal to the casting director. They should come in with the attitude: ‘I’m here to solve your problem. [I] have a creative choice, and it’s my way of solving your problem. Your problem is that you want to find the right person to make this character come alive.’ So maybe a big mistake is for an actor to walk into a casting and not feel like a part of the process. A big part of the process.

On The Similarities And Differences Between Voice And On-Camera Acting:

A similarity for the actors is you have to connect. And obviously there’s different techniques. There’s techniques for connecting on camera: for on-camera it’s like a short scene. For voiceover, you have to connect also, so that’s similar. The difference with voice acting is, because you’re only hearing the voice, the actor has to know how to subtly change things, and convey their message with a lot of nuances in their read. In on-camera you have the visual to help the message along, but with voiceover you only have your voice. There’s transitions in copy: maybe you start out bright, then there’s a discovery, then there’s an invitation to do something, and then a result. And that all has to come from nuances in your voice.

On Teaching:

I’ve been teaching for years. I love educating. I teach on-camera based on short scene study.  Voice-over is based on fundamental acting techniques too. The method I use is proven; people book more, get more callbacks, get agents. So it’s very satisfying. We just have to be very, very clear, when we’re a casting director that they’re coming to learn from us, and they’re not coming to audition. It’s teaching.  The rules that we follow to teach are very strict in Los Angeles.

On Giving A Good Audition:

Auditioning well is based on acting. The biggest mistake is not realizing they need to be an actor. Even when it comes to, ‘Slate your name and tell me something about yourself,’ it takes a certain way. In commercials, you need to look at that camera and be open and friendly and decide what you’re going to say with a personality. If its an improv they have to know how to do a commercial improv.

On Being Needy As An Actor: 

There’s just so many different things that can go wrong when talent is in the room. I would say one big thing is they should know what they’re doing – they should be confident, yet friendly, not above it all, they should know what empowers them, and they should not come off as needy. Because when there are clients in the room, you’re with the very people that can book you. And some people behave in a very needy way. We can feel it, and it’s not attractive.

On Dealing With Mistakes In An Audition:

If you’re doing a commercial read, and you make a mistake, improv around your mistake and try to get back on track. One of the worst things to do is to apologize and be down on yourself and make it a big tragedy that you made a mistake. Someone that’s really trained, in a fun way will try to improv around their mistake, and then either they get back on track or they don’t. A mistake can actually be a little gift. Knowing how to improv around that mistake can be a real gift.

On Crossing Lines:

When it’s a callback don’t cross a line figuratively or literally. You wanna stay on the mark that you’re given, and don’t walk over to [the clients] and start shaking their hands and saying ‘It’s so nice to meet you!’

On Connecting With The Casting Team Without Being Needy:

The best way to make a connection is to be good at what you do. Be friendly, open, say hello. But you don’t want anything from them. Don’t be attached to getting the job. The best actors go in, they do the best work they can, they’re well-trained, they know they did a good job, they leave, and forget about it, and go to the next one. And it’s an interesting dance, because of course you want the job. Let’s not pretend you don’t want the job. But you can’t have so much invested in that one particular job. Your job is to go in and give a good audition, and then the next one, and the next one.

On Being Neutral:

So I’d say another bad mistake actors make is they’re afraid to make strong choices, and they neutralize their audition choices. If you’re neutral you’re no place. You have to be distinct. We love when everybody’s good. I could have 25 actors come in and read for the same role and they’re all really good, they’re all just a little different. And then it’s subjective from the people who are choosing them, because the casting director doesn’t book them, it goes to the selection process.

On Choosing Where To Plant Your Flag As An Actor:

I would say go where you feel more comfortable, where you like the lifestyle. Good things are going to happen in [New York or L.A.], but the main thing is that you like the lifestyle initially. You should be happy with how you’re living, and where you’re living and then the right things will come to you. I know a lot of actors who do this: once they get started in one place, they then see thing more clearly and they reassess things and realize they want to live on the other coast because of their needs, their career needs, so they just make the switch. And say you start out in New York – there’s great training that’s really respected. Make sure you take full advantage of where you are. If you decide at a later time that you got everything you’re going to get out of that market, then you can always switch. But enrich your resume wherever you are.

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