Thursday, March 2, 2017

THE NUMBER ONE OF THE 101: WHY I BOOKED 50 COMMERCIALS

Commercial Acting 101 is literally 101 things you need to know before your next audition. No lie, it is a shotgun of information. But there is a main philosophy that ties it all together, and once I started applying this philosophy to my auditions, I started having more fun, and my booking rate went through the roof.

First, an observation. The On-Camera commercial world, the advertising world is a world that’s rooted and driven by fear. Why is that? They have no idea if the commercial is going to work, if the demographic they are trying to reach is going to spend as much money as they want them to. Imagine that anxiety. This fear rolls from the advertisers, through the production company, through the casting agent, into our rooms! And I recognized this fear because I was walking out of these rooms in fear, doing something that I absolutely loved to do. And I thought, this is crazy, I am going crazy. How can I combat this? Or always better, how can I use this to my advantage.

So I started to apply this philosophy: walking into these fear based rooms, and asking the question, both in action and in thought: HOW CAN I HELP? And asking with a true intention, really listening and looking for an answer. If you ask this question you will see the fear just fall off their shoulders and they will gravitate toward you, and return this service with the only currency they have which is the job.

Now keep in mind when I talk about service, I’m not talking about servitude. Genuflecting to the great advertising God. I’m talking about being present to the moment to RECOGNIZE what is needed now. But there’s no way we can be present to the moment, if we as actors are in fear based thinking.

“Nobody here looks like me.”
“Everyone here looks like me.”
“This is my tenth audition and no callback.”
“This is my tenth callback and no job.”
“Is this shirt right?!” (My personal demon).

The camera picks up on this thinking and we now look and smell like everyone on the other side of the camera, and they don’t want anything to do with what looks and smells like them. They’re scared enough, no reason to bring another person on who can’t help them.
So we ask that question a lot in class. How can I help? How can I help in slate? How can I help outside the room, inside the room? How can I help in my copy breakdown?
How can I help in the callback, on set?
How can I help?

Because I’m sorry, I don’t care what kind of career coach you have, we have NO control over whether we book. We have all control over whether we serve. And I found, the more I serve, the more I book. Over and over again.

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.