Tag Archives: casting

Beware the Spokesperson Read

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland

For every part you audition for, you have to make choices to give personality to the character. It is a known fact that you can’t be “neutral” and give a good audition.

There are all kinds of conundrums associated with what choice to make. “Am I being too big, too small, too this or too that?” Bottom line is you have to make an intelligent choice in the venue you are working on, based on all your education and training.

In commercials, there are many hints you can find in the copy regarding each character. In my Acting in Commercials workshops, I particularly teach how to apply backstories to your discoveries. Some information comes from the copy itself revealing the attitude of the character and relationships, some of which are obvious and some are not.

The big trap is the spokesperson copy.
Definition of spokesperson: a person who speaks for another or for a group. Many times the character is labeled a spokesperson, but they would not really want you to deliver this copy according to the definition of a spokesperson. Once you speak as a spokesperson, and speak for someone else or for a group, you will strip yourself of any possibility of a personality.

How do you make a choice regarding spokesperson copy?
The answer is, you have to know how this spot is branding the company. Here are some examples of products and typical branding.

Bank. They will want their image to be knowledgeable, trustworthy, friendly and approachable.
READ: That would mean you should have a personality that is real, knowledgeable, sincere, and genuine.

Car. You’re most likely smart, “with it,” and knowing, if you own this car.
READ: A particular person who is a winner, and knowing, who feels satisfied and comfortable with themselves.

Medication. They want someone who is well and healthy speaking about the medication, not someone who is sick.
READ: Healthy, positive, understanding, and compassionate. Definitely a inspiration to the person who is having the problem.

Cell phone company. Someone in the know.
READ: Be someone in the know, “with-it,” who makes smart choices.

So instead of choosing to be a presenter, even if the copy says “Spokesperson,” understand the end result of the branding of the spot and add the particular elements to the personality of your read.

Be Brave On Stage

Embracing Surprises Will Make You A Better Actor.
Have You Earned Your Badge of Courage?

Written by Terry Berland for the Networker

You can certainly apply the old adage, “The only constant is change,” to your everyday acting career. Change can cause surprise, upset, and agitation, or it can stimulate you and give you good “war stories.”

If you are more comfortable with predictability, then acting is probably not for you. You can’t take a class, course, or workshop in how to deal with surprise. Recently, I was giving direction to a bunch of actors who were waiting to go into my casting call back session. Since the direction had changed from when the job first started, I gave my apologies. The seasoned actors I was speaking to had a good laugh and they said, “we love surprises.” It brought up an interesting conversation about actors loving the element of surprise.

These seasoned actors, well into their sixties, found the element of surprise a positive and not a negative. With glee, they were telling me many stories of surprises. They wore these stories as badges of courage. If you like surprises it will certainly make your acting life easier.


One actor, Vaughn Green, said “Roll with the surprise. It’s grown-ups playing kid’s games.” Take a look and notice if acting is a heavy experience and not fun, and if it fills you with angst or if the unpredictability is exciting.


Dennis Leski said surprises keep the adrenalin rolling. He worked for many years before as an attorney, which also stimulated the adrenalin. Learn to use the adrenalin. Look forward to the serge of adrenaline.


Rather than thinking of something going wrong, think of it as not going as planned. It’s life-improv. Take what comes at you and keep the ball rolling until you get the situation back on track.
Vaughn was in his first play years ago where he was holding a stack of pages and all the pages went flying all over the stage.

Peter Trencher was in a play where every night the director changed the script and the blocking, and he found himself blocking to the script of the previous night. Actors tell me about how entire scenes in a play have revolved around a prop, and when they went for the prop, it was missing.


On any given day, our casting office may get change in times, days, characters, and direction. We take the changes in stride and so should you.


Take a look at many changes that have happened to you and access if you hate these changes or have you embraced them as part of the acting business? I invite you to let me know of surprises that gave you your badge of courage.

How to Get Your Submissions Noticed

By Terry Berland – Written for The Networker

Don’t miss an important element on your submission that could get you an audition.

There are many ways a casting director makes their choices as to whom to bring in for the audition. First, I’ll mention the obvious ones, and then I’ll talk about the one that stands out to me as not so obvious and not used enough.

The obvious things a casting director looks for to choose you to come in to the audition are . . .

  1. Your photo.
  2. Things we’ve seen you in in the past.
  3. Your resume.
  4. Your training.
  5. Your special skills.

. . . and the One Big Thing That Grabs A Casting Director’s Attention . . .

The Note Section

Use the note section to grab our attention, which seventy-five percent of agents and actors submitting directly don‘t do. Add a note to your submission to highlight some special skill. In breakdowns, when we are looking for any kind of special skill, we ask for notes. Agents and talent are not paying much attention to this, so we even cry out our request by putting it in caps: NOTE YOUR SPECIAL SKILL.

Agents Who Don’t Put Notes On Submissions

I’ve called agents who don’t add a note to ask why they didn’t note the special skill as requested. Their answer is, “It’s listed on the resume. I would not have submitted them if they didn’t have the special skill.” Yes, that makes sense and is the logical thinking of a good, responsible agent. But things have changed in the fast-paced industry with the number of submissions easily reaching 4,000 and more.

The New Effective Way Of Submitting Vs. The Old Way Of Submitting

With electronic submissions, there are many more agents and managers submitting who I’ll call “click happy.” It just takes a click to submit a photo; some people really go at it with very little thought behind it. “Throw the spaghetti on the wall, and see what sticks.” When we call the agent’s office to question why many wrong people have been submitted, some of the answers we get are actually “Oh, my intern worked on those submissions” or “Oh, I guess I didn’t read that piece of information.” The end result of having to weed through an excessive number of submissions, whether they are off-target or on-target, results in lot of exasperation with the ones that are off-target, and just not enough time overall go through everything.

Looking At Notes Helps A Casting Director Weed Through Submissions

A solution on the casting end is to first ask for notes, and then scan all submissions and look for those notes. I am not talking about notes that are permanently on a submission. For instance, I was looking for a good comedic actor with an authentic sounding Boston accent. A permanent submission note of “Great dramatic actor” clearly had noting to do with this breakdown, and shows lack of thought and attention to the specifics of the breakdown.

Examples Of Effective Notes To Put On Your Submissions

Make your note very specific. Here are some examples of good notes.

If the breakdown calls for:

  • A Boston Accent, note: “Born and raised in Boston.”
  • Good Jogger, note: “Jogs two miles three times a week.”
  • Good Tennis Player, note: “Was on college tennis team.”
  • Good at Improv, note: “Advanced Groundling.”
  • Drives a Motor Cycle: “Motorcycle License, owns a motorcycle.”
  • Speaks Spanish Fluently, note: “Speaks Spanish fluently.”
  • Real Photographer: “Special event photographer,” or “Owns two Nikons.”

Some of the notes are obvious and just repeat what we have asked for, but it will make your submission stand out, rather than requiring us to read through 4,000 resumes and hopefully get to yours.

The most important thing is to really be honest. You will be doing yourself and us a really big favor.

If You Think You Have No Power Think Again

By Terry Berland – Written for The Networker


Since you are the seller, and not the buyer, you have to find a way to stay positive. You may think you are in a less desirable position than the buyer. Let’s turn the tables in your direction. Maybe you would feel more empowered if you really thought about the fact that the casting director, producer, or director who are doing the “buying” (finding the right actor) do not have a commercial, film, or whatever else they are casting until they find the right talent.

Some actors walk into a casting room jazzed, excited to be there, and ready to create. Their attitude is “Give me a few minutes and I’ll give you what I got.” They bounce out of the room happy and go on to whatever comes along next, while other people are nervous and self-sabotaging in the audition and after.

Let’s look at ways to turn your negative thoughts that sabotage you into thoughts that empower you.

Know The Specific Acting Technique

All the advice I’m giving you will be based on the fact that you have to know how to act. In addition, you have to know a specific acting technique for whatever venue you are acting in, be that commercial, voiceover, film, television, or theatre. You should be working out in an acting class on an on-going basis, striving to be the best actor you can be, bringing out the true, authentic, honest you.

Now we can look at how your thoughts can be more empowering.

Negative Thought: The casting director has power over me.
Powerful Thought: That casting director is nothing without good actors. I am part of the collaborative team in casting this commercial, voiceover, TV show, film, or theatre piece.

Let me remind you, you can make or break a casting director.

Negative Thought:  Am I making the right choice? I’m worried I made the wrong choice.
Powerful Thought: Yay, I am being given the chance to create. Neutral is not a choice. If I stay neutral, no personality comes out. It’s my choice. I am really part of this creative process.

Reassure yourself that there is no guaranteed right choice. Remind yourself, if there was one right choice, they would have given you that choice to act out.

Acting coaches are hired by celebrities to make choices and work with the actor on their choices for a particular piece. I can assure you, even those coaches hope they made the choice that’s going to result in their client being cast. They also are not sure if they made the right choice.

But what’s the alternative?

No choice – no chance. Giving them no choice gives you no chance to be considered.

Negative Thought: You walk into the call back room and the voice in your head has a lot to say, mainly second guessing what they want. Every choice you’ve made flies out of your head.
Powerful Thought: Use the “I have to make a choice” scenario. Remind yourself you are in the midst of a creative process. They don’t exactly know what they want. “They are counting on me.”

The Callback Nerves

Negative Thought: You walk into the callback room where there are lots of clients and think  “I’m nervous. Who are these people? Will they like me?”
Powerful Thought: These decision makers in the room are human beings who have jobs. They are each there for a particular purpose. One being, their opinion counts as to who will be booked. Some do not have as much say and are more responsible for working on locations or wardrobe or responsible for bringing everything in on budget. However, all are answering to their client’s needs to the best of their ability.

Other powerful thoughts to use if the people in the room make you nervous:
I am so glad I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, pushing papers.
I am so grateful I can be artistic and creative.
I am so grateful I have a survival job that enables me to audition.

Negative Thought: I’m worried that I won’t get the job.
Powerful Thought: One person gets the job for various reasons, some of which are nonsensical or at the very least have nothing to do with my acting ability. I know I gave a really good audition. Even if I don’t get this one, I know this casting director, producer, or director will keep me in mind for other things.

Here’s the one you hear all the time: don’t take it personally. As long as you know your acting is top notch, you are constantly working out and under the guidance of a good acting teacher in whatever venue, I can assure you the rest is a process that is part of the crazy job of acting.

The suggestions in this blog will be more effective if you add power thoughts of your own to each situation.

What Separates the Professionals From the Wannabes

Written for The Networker by Terry Berland


How many times do we hear “Everything depends on the casting. This piece is actor driven. The cast will make or break this spot?” It amazes me that the right person can be picked for a commercial from a one minute audition, followed by a five or ten minute call back.


In that eleven minutes, the creatives see your acting, feel the essence of who you are, and know enough to book you. They are then banking on you, fully depending on you to come through and do a good job acting on the day of the shoot.

Many people enter acting on a whim because it looks like fun. However, there are certain responsibilities that separate the professionals. The culminating moment is the audition, but it’s refreshing to take a look at all the elements that go into the preparation of that event.


Your responsibility as an actor started long before the moment of the booking.

    This responsibility or empowerment list includes:

  • *Knowing the technique.
  • *Having good photos.
  • *Keeping your resume fresh, reflecting your strengths.
  • *Keeping sharp with acting classes.
  • *Developing good demo reels.
  • *Having a website.
  • *Obtaining agents and keeping up those relationships.
  • *Confirming your auditions.
  • *Preparing for auditions.
  • *Showing up on time to the audition.
  • *Wearing the right clothing.
  • *Auditioning well.
  • *Staying healthy and being healthy from the start to finish at the shoot.
  • *Knowing your lines.
  • *Showing up in time.
  • *Showing up at wardrobe.
  • *Knowing how to go over your contract.
  • *Keeping track of your conflicts.
  • *Being available for your agent to audition.
  • *Booking out when you are not available.
  • *Staying creative throughout the day or days of the shoot.
  • *Keeping up your energy.
  • *Staying consistent to the look of your photos.
  • *Being able to sustain line changes.
  • *Ability to work well with others.

I’m sure you can add other things to this list. Send Berland Casting a message and let us know what empowering responsibility you’ve added.

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.

The Art and Technique of Commercials

The AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) has an awards competition every year for the best commercials, divided into many categories.  It is called The Art and Technique of the American Commercial.  Putting aside the auditions where you slate and “tell us something about what you like to do other than acting” auditions, I really do agree that acting in commercials is fascinating and an art in itself.

What makes a good commercial audition?  Actors will ask “What makes one stand out”?  Thank goodness the “old school” mugging and over acting with broad facial expressions is far behind us.  Plain but not simple, the more honest and the more depth that you can reveal of your personality in this short format, the better the audition and the more you stand out.  A lot of awareness and choices go into preparation resulting in seemingly effortless transitions.

You need to stand on the mark that you are given and immediately let us know who you are and how you feel. I liken it to a short theatrical scene, the “under fives”. There is not much to grab on to; very little time with very few words.  And in that short amount of time, you need to connect to whatever the scene and character is.

You need to know where you are, what your relationships are, and most importantly, who you are.  Actors, sound familiar?

The words become secondary.  It is WHO is saying these words that the client is going to buy.  That is what makes your audition unique.  Even the same “types” have unique personalities.  The key to a strong individual audition is letting out your personality, which allows the creative team into some depth below the surface.

The client does not need you to sell anything.  They take care of the sell.  They are using you as a vehicle for their sell. You do, however, have to understand the sell. You, then, have to take the script (or the improv) and make that a vehicle to let out who you are and how you feel.

Understanding the space you are working in, knowing how to expand it, and being able to identify beats will give your performance in this little space texture and dimension.

I don’t believe in thinking of yourself in terms of specific characters that you can play.  I think it is limiting to categorize yourself as a lawyer, doctor, businessman, nurse, etc.  However, know your type.  What I mean by that is what qualities do you innately have?  For instance, do you have humor?  What kind of humor is it?  Are you grounded, flighty, upscale, blue collar?  Commercials happen so fast; there is no time to develop a character.  You hear many times it’s “how you look”.  Looks do play an important part in this venue because of the speed of the message.   Longer theatrical scenes are actually easier because you can dig your teeth into and develop the character.  In commercials, we drop right into the scene and within one minute, it’s over.  No time to develop, grow, mature or evolve.  You have to make a choice and be committed starting with the first word.  Commitment starts way before you come in to the audition.  During the selection process, I recently had the experience of looking at four photos of the same actor. The actor looked completely different in the last two photos, even as far as hair color. I asked myself “who is this person, who would show up?”  I felt confused and a lack of confidence in the message the actor was conveying. I ended up calling in an actor I felt certain about.

Commitment continues during the audition. The client is looking for a personality to make the character in their spot come alive.  You have to make a choice and then stay true to who you are.  To do this, your personality choices need to drive your performance and the words will take care of themselves. Don’t let the words drive your performance.

Choices are a concept to respect.  You cannot be everything to everyone.  Yes, you need to know your technique to make smart choices and then put your energy into confidently staying committed to that choice. Wondering what “they” want while performing is counterproductive.  If you understand their sell and know the space you are working in, you won’t do anything terribly wrong.  After that, you’ll be directed with a slight adjustment if need be.

Know your technique, make strong choices, be flexible to change as directed and enjoy the 60-second opportunity.

It’s an art to tell a story and act in 60 seconds.  Be the best artist you can be.#‎berlandcasting #‎casting


Many actors think that the only thing important is to “turn on” when the camera rolls or when the scene starts. However, there is nothing farther from the truth than this.

First step of selecting “yes’s” was made. The next step is to go through all the possible yes’s and hone them down to the first choice and two backups. To do this the creatives go through the size card photos that they use as reminders and they shuffle them around for organizational purposes. They consider each person and talk about their performance and their essence that will fulfill the character

One of the actors did a great job when the camera turned on, but totally lost all personality when the camera was off. When they got to this fellow’s size card the first thing the creatives talked about was the fact that he really did a good job when he was acting, but when the camera turned off, he had no personality; he turned off. They quickly decided they were not interested in someone who turns on and off, who doesn’t have “it” all the time. It means he is just “acting”. They wanted a personality when the camera is on and the camera is off. That actor was unanimously put in the “no” pile and lost the job.

So the trick is how do you be “on” all the time without being fake? How do you “take a room”? It’s not so much that you need to be “on”. It’s more like you can’t turn “off”. Being “on” is as simple as being open, present, emotionally connected to being in a room full of people and in relationship to the other human beings in the room and to what is going on. The relationship you want is open, friendly, pleased to be there and loving what you are doing…authentically.

I would venture to believe that actor whose resting face was disinterested, removed with the lack of any joy revealed in his face, probably did not feel that way at all. I truly believe he felt really happy to be in that room and had no clue that his resting face was unengaged and disconnected from other human beings.

I’m noticing how important the resting face is. Recently I was teaching a workshop and one of the participants in the workshop looked like he hated me and everything else that was going on. His facial expression was hard and unfriendly. He was that way sitting in his seat and as he took his mark. But when the camera went on he lit up and did a great job. The huge lesson for him was not what to do when the camera went on but his awareness of who he is, or appears to be, at all other times.

“Who you are” at all times matters, and who you are must show on your face.
We are looking for people who are “engaged”, pleased, friendly and open. If you’ve never thought about it…take a look at yourself when you’re not looking…take a look at your resting face.