Commercial acting is a great way to financially support your acting career and avoid regular day jobs. Some commercial actors make millions in cash for a few days of work, all mostly from royalties. If you get lucky, and your commercial gets picked up for a national spot to run for years, you can do the same. But how to become a commercial actor, and a successful one at that?
Before we get into this, you need to come to terms with the fact that just like any subcategory of the entertainment industry, commercial acting is competitive. Almost every aspiring actor pursuing their dream of film, theatre or TV work will audition for commercials, too. Then you also have actors who will focus exclusively on commercials. And although commercial acting doesn’t require that much talent, you still need to be able to sell yourself as a somewhat believable actor, which is what you learn through professional training.
To learn how to become a commercial actor, we must first begin by grasping the essence of five main components that will most likely determine your success in commercials:
…in that order. Now let’s break this down.
How to Become a Commercial Actor: Part 1
1. Do you have a marketable look?
Casting directors hire actors who fit well alongside the product, and whom they know the audience will want to see. Because commercials are short, everybody will judge the person on screen “by the cover.” If you’re selling a new set of cooking pots, you should look like a housewife.
With that being said, if you’re lost and don’t know how to become a commercial actor because you’re not getting auditions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a “bad look.” Those days are gone. Today, there are categories, from more marketable look to a less marketable, and from more sought-after to less sought-after looks. But ultimately, there’s a commercial for any look out there.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of personality
Your personality matters a lot, and the first people to get a glimpse of your wonderful self will be the casting directors. So if you want to know how to become a commercial actor and maintain this as your regular job while pursuing other creative endeavors, focus on bringing your smile, confidence, and your positive spirit into the room.
Remember, you’re going to sell a product, so know that you belong there. Once you make the whole casting room fall in love with you, keep that personality going until you finish the shoot. After the filming is over, it’s okay to go back to being bitter and insecure actors that we are.
3. Learn some skills of commercial acting
Commercial acting is not the same as your craft of pretending on TV or film. This is not the place for you to study methods and deliver the most thought-provoking, emotionally engaged and creative work. Commercials are about knowing where to stand, how to look into the camera, how to think quickly on your feet and take directions, how to be relaxed and real, and not screw up an already tense shoot.
If you’re looking to learn how to become a commercial actor, then two types of classes will help you to acquire the necessary skill of booking more commercial auditions. First, it’s the commercial class (duh!), and second, it’s a good improv class, which hopefully you’re already taking to improve your spontaneity skills on stage.
4. Try to grab some of that talent, too
Truth be told, if you can nail the first three points on this list, you’re pretty much set. But talent has never hurt anybody. Hopefully you’re in the right business, and if you are, you should already posses some kind of talent and ability to think creatively.
Work on your imagination, read books on creativity, and most importantly – work, work, work. Auditioning is good, but you need a creative outlet, so try indies and student films. Anything that will make you dust off those old acting guns you’ve left behind in your childhood. Combine this with the above three, and you’ll be golden.
5. Catch-22: Do you have any experience?
Don’t worry about catch-22, unless you’re trying to learn how to become a commercial actor by working through this list backwards. Yes, if you have some experience in commercials, that will help you book a few more auditions (mostly because you will simply be better at it). But in all seriousness, experience doesn’t have that much of an impact on casting director’s decision of hiring you for a commercial. See above.
If you have the right look (you’re probably already getting a callback), that comes with a good personality, and you have the skills and some talent to go with them – you’re set on the path to becoming a successful commercial actor. Remember that you don’t even publish your commercial credits on the resume, and very few CDs will ever ask you about your previous work (agents will), so fuhgeddaboudit. For now.
Next: Here’s the second part of this article on how to become a commercial actor.