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Commercial Acting: 5 Tips to Keep it Professional on Set

Commercials are many actors’ bread and butter. But a commercial set can be an intimidating environment, especially if you’re new to it. It’s fast work and you likely have a limited time to make a good impression, so here are some tips to keeping it professional and positive on set.

Stay present. This is harder than it sounds. Everything moves so quickly and there is so much going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated. Likely you’ll have to do many takes of minute moments; you don’t want to go on autopilot. When you’re not actually acting, there will be a lot of waiting around. You want to avoid going “cold.” Keep yourself grounded. Physical grounding techniques such as breathwork, regularly standing, moving, and keeping your body loose and warm, will help keep you in the room.

Stay focused. There will be so many distractions. Keep laser focus on your scene objective, connecting with your scene partner, and listening to your director. It will be over before you know it and you will likely have a very small window to actually do your work. Make it count.

Anticipate where you need to be. Directors, ADs etc. won’t always be talking to you, but you always need to be listening. An awareness of your surroundings is key to keep on top of rapidly changing developments. Remember no one wants to wait on you. Staying vigilant enough that you can react quickly will put you ahead of the curve.

Stay flexible. Everything can change at a moment’s notice. How much time you have in makeup, direction on set, even lines, will more than likely change in the moment, frequently. Staying calm and flexible will help you go with the flow and it projects confidence and competence.

Be ready to play. Preserving a sense of lightness and fun is crucial! No one has time to take care of you or coach you along, so having a positive attitude and being able to play and improvise is a huge asset.

Cultivate good relationships. When people are stressed and rushing and tired, it’s easy to get snippy. Remember, whatever long hours you’re working, there are many many people who showed up earlier and will stay much later than any actor on set. Beyond basic courtesy and decency, alienating anyone associated with the project is not smart. You don’t know who knows who, and nothing looks more entitled and rude than talking down to people. Be kind, be courteous, be appreciative. Be a good person and a good actor.

Follow direction. This seems like a given, but it is a surprisingly rare skill. Whatever preconceived notions you have about how things should run and how the scene should play, remember it’s not your product and not your set. You can give input where welcome, of course, but following direction quickly and well will always make a good impression.

Stay out of the way. A great way to quickly annoy people is to impede the flow of traffic. Stay aware of people’s needs on set and stay out of the way but quickly accessible when you’re not being filmed.

Commercial work can be very fun and lucrative! Keeping a good head on your shoulders and a positive attitude goes a long way. Beyond that, remember you were hired for a reason. Trust your instincts and talent and do what you do best!

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