Tag Archives: casting directors

Ad-Libbing in Commercial Auditions

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland

I’m not sure if actors really know of the “treading on thin ice” conditions casting used to have to work under to stay within the union’s improvising rules, in order to avoid fines every time we needed comedic actors to show a degree of creativity.


The Union contracts had always forbid casting to ask actors to improvise in auditions. Improvisation was considered a creative contribution to the spot, which it was thought should come with additional compensation. Unfortunately, this limited the actor from giving a full comedic performance and casting from finding truly unique individuals. To comply with this rule, casting directors and actors were forced to eliminate a certain degree of creativity by avoiding asking actors to improvise around scripted commercials. Casting would have to use certain language (wink, wink) that became a well known invitation to improvise, without actually using the word “improv.” On occasion, casting directors were reported to the union, which resulted in clients and casting being fined for entering the forbidden area of creativity set by the union.

New SAG-AFTRA Contract

New contract allows ad-libbing to occur at commercial auditions and sessions


With styles changing through the years to be more real, looser, and less tightly stylized, the creativity needed in comedy spots and performances became harder and harder to finesse around the archaic contractual improvisation rules. The union has acknowledged that fact and the new contract does allow ad-libbing at commercial auditions and sessions. Payment is, however, still required for a creative session call – for devising dialogue or action not suggested by a script, storyboard, or by specific direction.


We are thrilled to be able to be more creative with you in regard to comedic performance and give you the chance to comically show your stuff. After all, the creative team already has the dialogue that is amusing, now they need to find a comedic personality. Comedic personalities live in distinctive expressions and ways of saying things that is unique to each individual. That means adding some of the talent’s own words, changing rhythms, making side comments and/or riffing.

We are looking forward to more creatively working with talent. Free at last.

There Is More To Being A Successful Actor Than Knowing Technique.

(Blog written By Terry Berland for Casting Networks/The Networker)

As talent of course you are focused on your audition technique; how you get the call back and the booking. This blog is not about that. However, knowing and understanding the process will enable you to be a wiser actor which will help you be a more confident actor. Confidence can only add up to feeling more relaxed, resulting in a better audition.

There is a life to a commercial project before you receive your audition time. Understanding this path will be very helpful to you feeling an important part of the casting process.

It starts with the ad agency being hired by the product company (such as Pepsi, Apple, Tide) to produce their spots. This is not on a one-to-one basis. There is a very large agreement with the agency to produce a certain amount of spots per year. The agency is responsible for media strategy as well as their buying power. Products usually stay with the ad agency for years.

At the ad agency, there are tiers of creatives. The writer and art director create and pitch their ideas to a supervisor who agrees on which spots will be produced.

The Production Company
When the spot is ready to be produced, there is a system between the ad agencies and production companies whereby production companies are invited to bid for projects based on the interest of the ad agency in a particular director. The director is hired to enhance the concept of the spot.

The Casting Director
The production company will then contact the casting director to first figure out the budget that they feel will “win” the bid or figure out how to produce the job within budget after they are awarded the job . At that point I as a casting director spend time helping to figure out this budget regarding the number of prep and casting days and studio costs. This can be a quick process or sometimes that take hours and hours doing and re-doing budgets to meet the production companies needs.

The Prep Of The Breakdown
The Casting Director (moi) is then awarded the job and it is time to put the breakdown out. We first have to figure out mathematically how we will fit the number of characters into the number of days we have been alloted to cast.

Then casting has to put in place the staff to prep the job. This team consists of the session runner who runs the outside of the casting room, the inside-office staff to set up the schedules, maintain drops outs and re-scheduling requests and put in place the audition director who is inside the room actually directing you.

After the breakdown goes out to you there are hours and hours, usually well into the night and weekends, of prep that I and all other casting directors do. As I am prepping, many of you receive calls from me at night or over the weekend asking you something about your skill or your demo.

Casting Studio Involvement
At the same time we are availing and booking the casting studio rooms, the casting studios are juggling the availability of these rooms. Studies are constantly being put on avails, released and then booked. When you come to our facility, Castaway Studios, or any other, you always see a studio manager. It is the job of that studio manager to juggle the facilitation of the studios and keep the place running smoothly. This of course includes maintaining equipment and internet service to handle the large volume of usage.

The Talent Seals The Deal
The next time you receive your audition and walk into the casting for your audition, stop a moment and remember all the elements that went into the important moment of you being there. Now we are counting on you when you sign in and enter the casting room to give us a great audition. You are part of the process!! https://www.berlandcasting.com/oc/

Being Aware Of The Positive Energy Behind You Can Improve Your Audtions. Written by Terry Berland

Happy Holidays. As the end of the year is usually time for reflecting on goals you have reached and creating new goals, I am giving you a holiday gift reminder of positive energy and positive thoughts. Here are a number of thoughts to keep in mind to send yourself into the reception area with a force of positive energy and comfort.

Remember when you leave your house to audition, you are surrounded by a team of people who are rooting for you. Feel the force of that team.

The Casting Director you are auditioning for is rooting for you. They want and need you to be good. They believe in you and only want the best for you and want you to bring them the best you can.

Your Agent is rooting for you. They are repping and submitting you. Their reputation depends on you and they want you to do a great job. Your agent is keeping up good relationships with casting for communications to be open for you to receive appointments.

Your Manager is rooting for you. Their reputation also depends on you doing a good job. They believe in you. They are not being paid to work for you until you book a job and receive their commission.

The Producer and Director want you to do a good job, as they want lots of good choices.

The competition is not as overwhelming as it appears. When you arrive at the casting towards the end of a day and you see all the sign in sheets, you can see there are about 175 other actors who have been at this audition. Don’t freak out and feel defeated. Stop and do some math. Figure out how many characters we are casting for. Then figure out how many ethnicities the client is considering for each character. If you do the math, you can figure out that in one day we can only see about 20 actors in each category. Not so bad after all.

Didn’t book it? Don’t worry. Another positive thought is that you gave a great audition and if you didn’t book it, casting directors look forward to having you in again.

Accessible communication services and opportunities. We have great breakdown services where we can communicate instantly both through your agents and directly to you. You have a vast array of opportunities ranging from commercials, films, documentaries, television, voice-overs, video games and theatre.

To top it all off, you are in wonderful city rich with anything you want at your fingertips. You can get great headshots at varying costs, acting classes http://www.berlandcasting.com/oc/ support jobs and networking opportunities.

You are part of a team. Actors, Casting Directors, Producers, Directors. The formula would not be complete without you.