on March 26, 2000
Joan See, a classically trained actor (Sanford Meisner, Wynn Handman), explodes numerous myths about acting in commercials, such as:
o Commercial acting is easy
o Commercial acting requires no craft or skill
o Commercial acting is selling
On the contrary, says See: the actor's job is not to sell. Actors "must bring little stories to life in a way that makes other people believe them. If you believe that your job is selling, you will feel that something other than acting is required. But don't forget what the advertisers hired you for - your acting skills. They want your ability to communicate ideas and feelings in such a way that their audience believes you." In other words, actors in commercials need to remain grounded in their foundation skills of acting.
The challenge for actors with a background in theater, says See, is that they don't understand the differing requirements of acting in front of a camera, and the challenge for all actors unfamiliar with the commercial genre is the need to turn in masterful performances in mere seconds in the somewhat bewildering formats and styles found in commercials. This book provides detailed help on both fronts.
The author begins by reviewing acting fundamentals that apply to the naturalistic stories actors are most often asked to bring to life in commercials, including the basic skills of relaxation, concentration, listening and responding, and physicalization. She then discusses the mechanics of acting before a camera, both in the audition and on the set, and lays out strategies for overcoming the most common traps in those settings.
Finally, in the meat of the book, See identifies the three most common forms that Madison Avenue tends to use in commercials -- slice-of-life, spokesperson, and MOS -- and the three most common styles in which those forms are expressed -- film-style, sitcom-style, and "Honeymooners" -- and lays out extensive strategies for practicing, auditioning, and performing in these forms and styles.
This is valuable information indeed: "Analyzing commercial scripts by pinpointing their form and style gives an actor the first chance to control the material. With this information, you suddenly have guidelines for your performance. You have something to work with. The directors and casting directors in the commercial advertising field know what results they want. They are not always skilled at helping actors obtain that result. Actors must be able to function as their own director and bring their performance into the audition with them."
This book provides an excellent set of tools for navigating these challenging but lucrative waters. It is full of practical information, example scripts, and helpful guidance, almost all of which is firmly rooted in classic acting. Practicing and using the techniques in this book, an actor should no longer be like a deer in the headlights at an audition or on the set. Highly recommended.