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Commercial Acting: 7 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 requires special skills such as adaptability. There are several types of roles you can obtain and character types you can play in commercials.

If you want to have a commercial acting career, you’ll have to understand some tiny nuances that separate this genre of acting from others, such as film acting. You will also likely have a limited time to make a good impression, so here are some tips for keeping it professional and positive on set.

Stay Present During Commercial Shoots

This is harder than it sounds. Whether it’s regional commercials or national commercials, everything moves so quickly in the commercial industry and there is so much going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated. There will be times when you’ll have to do many takes of minute moments, and you don’t want to go on autopilot when that happens.

When you’re not acting, there will be a lot of waiting around, even if you’re the lead or a principal role. That being said, you want to avoid going “cold” during these times. Avoid sitting if you can.

Keeping yourself grounded with physical techniques such as breathwork, standing, moving and keeping your body loose and warm, will help keep you in the room.

Stay Focused On Set

There will be so many distractions on a commercial set. Keep a 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 do your work. Make it count.

Anticipate Where You Need to Be At All Times

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 understanding the rapidly changing developments in commercial production. Commercials are fast-paced shoots. No one has time to wait or wrangle actors for what will become a 1-minute video. Staying vigilant enough that you can react quickly will put you ahead of the curve.

Stay Flexible to Accommodate Changes

Everything can change at a moment’s notice. How much time you have in makeup, direction on set, and 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

From car dealership commercials to hair commercials, there are various types of commercials you can book. When you get on set, 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 to commercial actors.

Cultivate Relationships With the Cast and Crew

When people are stressed and rushing and tired, it’s easy to get snippy. Remember, whatever long hours you’re working, many people show up earlier and will stay much later than any commercial 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.

The commercial industry is smaller than you think. Having a good reputation will help determine your level of success in every area of life. In the entertainment world, it can help you book commercials as commercial casting directors, commercial agents, and commercial directors like to work with people who are easy to work with.

Follow Directions and Stay Out of Production’s Way

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 that you only have a commercial role. This is not your product and not your set. Of course, you can provide input where welcome, but following directions well will always make a good impression.

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.

If you want to be an actor in commercials, this type of work can be both fun and lucrative. There are plenty of audition opportunities, and commercials can help beef up your acting reel. Some actors use a collection of spots for a dedicated commercial reel.

After sending in audition tapes, impressing commercial casting directors, and booking commercials, there are nuances involved in the production that go beyond what you did in the audition. Keeping a good head on your shoulders and a positive attitude goes a long way.

Regardless of the type of commercial you’re in, remember, this is an acting job. You were hired for a reason. Trust your instincts, and talent and do what you do best!

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