Wednesday, February 15, 2017

THE THREE ALARM FIRE: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A COMMERCIAL SHOOT

I booked my first union commercial job in college.

And the morning of the shoot, I woke up fifteen minutes AFTER my call time.

Yeah, I can hear every single actor out there suck in some panicked air. I still remember just…staring at that digital clock by my bed. It…couldn’t be…I, no….couldn’t…..(jump cut to a terrifying, illegally fast drive to Detroit to park up on a curb to find about twenty people WAITING AROUND on set. Can you even imagine the silence?) Oh, and did I mention I didn’t bring the clothes I was supposed to bring? Another blog, another time.

After the shoot, I returned a jacket to an older, distinguished actor who lent me his spare for the shoot. I apologized again. He turned to me and said: “You’re the reason people hate actors.”

And you know what, he was right.

Time is currency in business. And if you want to rock in the commercial business, play by this rule: always show up 45 minutes before your call time. This gives you time to achieve the 3 M's before the audition: make calls, memorize the directors name, and meditate


  1. But back to that college job. After that fateful, horrible, but ultimately huge learning experience (remember 2 burns = 1 learn, check out that blog here) I NEVER showed up late for a shoot again.
The night before your shoot, you want to set the three alarm fire:


  • 1      Set a phone alarm
  • 2          Set a separate clock alarm
  • 3          Have a friend, trusted relative, or accountability partner call you


You’ve got a huge day ahead of you, a day you’ve been visualizing, preparing for,  perhaps even dreaming of for years. Show up for yourself. And show up on time. Be the reason people love actors.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL ON SET, or SHAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT


Here I am getting paid to learn and I got to keep the jacket.

What’s the most important tool on every commercial set?
Not how many M ‘n M’s you can fit in your mouth at craft service, although God knows I’ve tried. (68, I’d like to see Flo beat that!)

It’s listening. Being present in the moment to recognize what is needed.

Lets’ take a time travel back to my Hershey’s Pot O' Gold spot. A great national spot that ran for years, bookended a Late Night with David Letterman I was watching, and made me tens of thousands of dollars. But ultimately, those weren’t the most enjoyable results of the spot.
The best part was learning something incredibly valuable on set. Learning to listen.
If you go to my reel, you’ll see at the end of this spot how I reach into a planter and grab the host’s flowers as a panicked last minute gift. Pretty funny.

After the first take, the Assistant Director who was standing behind the camera spoke. (He was getting notes in his earpiece from the director who was watching on the monitor off set) The AD says, “Okay great, this time shake the flowers so we see the dirt fall out.” Which I did. “Cut!” Huge pause. We wait on that porch for about 10 minutes while off-set the whole production crew, a group of producers and team of clients discuss.

Finally, the AD comes back up to me. “Okay, they say forget the dirt. Just hold up the flowers.” “I thought that was pretty funny,” I think to myself. “Too bad.”
And we shoot it again. After “CUT,” the AD immediately comes up to me.
“Okay great, we’re going to do it again. And don’t shake the flowers.”
“I didn’t know I shook the flowers.”
“Yeah. You did.”
We shoot again. “CUT” The AD slides up and grabs the flowers out of my hand. A tight smile.
“Okay. You’re still shaking the flowers. DON’T shake the flowers. They don’t want you to shake the flowers anymore.”
Another take. “CUT!” The director whips around the corner. No longer in his director’s chair.
“Okay Bill, you’re shaking the flowers when you hold them up.”
The props department guy, who had to re-plant after every shot, says, “Just, hol’ ‘em.”
“Right,” I think to myself. “Just hol’ ‘em.” Which I did. And in the next shot, I just held them. And we’re done with the shot, moving on.

See, I wasn’t listening. I was thinking of the first shot. I was thinking of not messing up. I was thinking of wasting everyone’s time. I was frightened. I was resistant. I wasn’t THERE. I was in the past, I was in the future. And the only place we can act, and act well, is now. Indeed, a true “Pot O’ Gold.”

Try this: Take a second to listen. Right now. What do you hear? Allow the sounds to meet the ear. No judgement, just listen. Try this again in an hour. And an hour after that. And after that. Hey! Look! You're listening!

Monday, January 16, 2017

What should be posted on your resume, or How To Keep It Reel

This is a question I get a lot because I suspect actors don’t want to stand out and look green. Do I list all of my commercials? Do I only list the ones I have a copy of? What if I haven’t done any commercials at all?
When I first started at Paradigm Talent Agency in NYC, they gave me good advice and it’s been on my resume ever since.
If you haven’t done any commercials, leave off the commercial section on your resume. No harm no foul.
If you have done a commercial, even if it never aired, even if you don’t have a copy yet, if you have ever stepped on set to do a commercial put this:

COMMERCIAL REEL AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

This is brilliant for several reasons.

One, LESS IS MORE. Never list all of your commercials. Maybe an exec from Coke is looking over your resume (.000000878 percent chance of that happening) and sees a Pepsi commercial on your list. Gives them pause. More likely though a casting director is looking at your resume, sees that Coke commercial on your list and wants to call you in for a Pepsi audition, either has to assume your spot is still running and not call you in, or go through the ordeal of having to call your agent, check to see if you are available, and if you are, is the spot still running, see…too much time wasted, you won’t get called in.


Two, LESS IS MORE. By saying less, “REEL AVAILABLE” there is an inherent suggestion that you might have done more than you actually have. If anyone ever asks for your commercial reel, which I have to admit in my years of this business I’ve been asked for it ONCE, just tell them what you’ve actually done and you’re working on it. If you have done a commercial, make a reel. For my reel click here. Tell me what you think about it. Post your reel. Let’s have a reel fest.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

THE PAY OFF

I was recently brought on by Dallas Travers to mentor members of her Thriving Artist Circle, an amazing group of dedicated artists who are striving to reach their goals. It is so inspirational and exciting to watch these individuals stretch out of their comfort zone to live the life they want to live. Check out the website at http://thrivingartistcircle.com.
One of the questions I received from a members of TAC was:

WHEN WILL I MAKE MONEY AT THIS, WHEN WILL THIS PAY OFF?

Wow. Absolutely. Right? When WILL this pay off? When am I going to book a job? When am I going to book regularly? When am I going to finally quit that Jay Oh Bee (Check out another TAC mentor DaJuan Johnson’s great article here). When are we going to finally lace up and run that marathon naked through the dollar bill forest?
Well, pause for a moment and ask yourself, what do I actually control in this process of “The Pay Off?” I can tell you it’s not booking the job. In the 50 national commercials I’ve booked, not once did I make the decision for the director to hire me.
 The DECISION is not up to you, but the prep, the mindset, the joy, the WORK is. But sooner or later you’re going to have to leave the audition room, and then it’s out of your hands. The “pay off” is out of your hands, if you think the “pay off” is the job. And here is where we need to switch our understanding.
When WILL this pay off if we have no control over whether it pays off?
In the 101, we talk about the engine of our audition being the act of service, being present in the moment so we can ask, with a true intention, How Can I Help? I have found that service, this presence of mind to recognize what is needed now, is what helps me through not only the seven minutes of the audition, but the much, much longer “tough” times, when the lack of money, lack of work, the belief of scarcity is present in my life. Service helps take control over how I can get paid off in this moment now. And it’s not money, it’s not status, it’s service. And I found, the more I serve, the more I work, and next thing you know, I have a career. Ask this question in your audition room, in your life. How can I help? Ask it wildly. Ask it with a recklessness. Ask it now.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hey 101'ers! Welcome to the first entry on the Commercial Acting 101 blog! The blog will cover all things 101 in our lives from service in our lives to that last audition we won/tanked. I'll be going more in depth with the 101 here as well and helpful and useful tips, resources and secrets we can all use in our next audition rooms! Welcome!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just had an incredible private coaching session with 101'er Keith. Keith came to me to work on Direct Pitch, which is talking directly to camera as the spokesperson for the product. Keith has been killing it since he took the 101 class. He booked a spot for Miracle Ear, a print ad, and just had a callback for Ramada Inn. Killing it!
We started discussing how the person that you choose to talk to makes all the difference in Direct Pitch. We were fluctuating between his good friend, then girl friend, and lo and behold if he wasn't two different people up in front of the camera. Amazing. It was eye opening for both of us. So Lesson Learned: Choose carefully who you talk to in direct pitch. It's all the difference between speaking to, or speaking at. We want to speak to, we want to communicate, we want to just be and let the camera pick up on who we're talking to in joy. That's our only job.