Commercial Acting— Training is Essential

March 16, 2018


Use what you know. Don’t worry about what you don’t know.

—Michael Shurtleff, playwright, casting director, and author

Maybe your friends tell you, “You’re so attractive, you should be in commercials!” Or perhaps you’ve been approached at the mall by a talent agent who says your child is a natural and it’ll be easy to get her into commercials.

Acting in commercials has the lure of seeming to be a simple profession. Everyone believes it’s easy to get into, easy to achieve quick success, and of course you will make piles of money!

But as commercial director Kevin Emmons says about a British actor: “I was working with this actor on a shoot. He was classically trained and brilliant, and he is now suddenly in front of a teleprompter with all these lines, and he has to do this specific action while walking and talking . . . and by the third take he was overwhelmed. He said he acted his whole life and this [commercial stuff] is hard!”

Good actors make commercial acting look easy. However, saying words that are product-driven with little- to-no time to practice or rehearse, getting virtually no background explanation whatsoever, making it look like you’re having an everyday conversation with a friend in front of complete strangers while the camera is rolling—it is all a lot more challenging than it looks.

A student in his late 50s took my 6-week A-Z commercial class. He was a successful ear/nose/throat surgeon, and typically impatient. After the final class he asked, “How long does it take to get a job?”

“Well, how long did it take you before you began prac- ticing surgery?” I asked with a smile.

He said, “Four years of college, two years of grad school and four years in a residency.”

“Okay, and so what makes you think you can master commercial acting in six weeks?” I said with a little glint in my eye and steel in my tone. He was speechless.

Casting director Ross Lacy told me once, “I always laugh when someone says, ‘Omigosh, I would like to be in commercials,’ and I say, ‘Sure you would! So would everybody. That’s why these people are training and go to improv classes all night long because they make it look easy—and it’s not! And the people who think it is are mistaken!’

Ross continues, “The one thing I know is that training is imperative if you want a lasting career in commercials. Of course there are stories of the person who walked in, booked the job, and made a pile of money off one spot. This is definitely the exception. The same odds apply to winning the lottery.”

Just like my acting student /surgeon, most people wouldn’t dream of trying to start a new career in any field other than acting without getting the proper training, doing whatever it takes to make themselves competitive.

Judy Kain is an actress who has appeared in over 400 commercials. Most recently, she has had recurring roles on The Fosters, Hand Of God and The Odd Couple. Judy currently teaches acting and business of acting classes at her acting school, Keep It Real Acting Studios, in North Hollywood, California.

Finding the Character’s Dramatic Need in Their Life & In The Journey of the Script

March 15, 2018

When I began to study screenwriting with Syd Field, one of the major principles that he taught me was Dramatic Need and it really struck a chord with me. Below is a discussion of how now, years later, I teach dramatic need to actors, writers, and directors.

What does the Character Want?

Wherein, we delve into discovering the golden nugget that keeps actors connected, grounded, and fighting for something that is essential to the character’s existence. In its simplest terms, what is it that the character wants? Answering this question specifically will be crucial and inescapable. For every scene, character, and audition that the actor brings to life, he will have to know, who is the character and what do they want.

What is the Character’s Objective?

The most common way of describing and instilling into actors this concept of wanting something is done with the word, “objective.” Coaches and directors will incessantly ask, “What is your objective”? That is to say, what does the character want in the scene? What does the character want from the other character in the scene? What do they want for themselves? To find objectives, the actor can analyze the action and answer three questions: «What is my character doing physically and emotionally? Why is my character doing it? How will my character do it? » This creates the performance for the actor. This creates the character. Action is character, Syd used to tell us incessantly. It is through action that the actor understands and connects with the main ideas and themes in the script that the writer is attempting to convey. It is through actions that characters pursue their objectives.

In human nature, desire is essential. We are always in the quest for something. For purposes of creating character, Syd Field defines this notion of desire as, “what does the character want to win, gain, or achieve in the journey of the screenplay?” Before writing anything, it is crucial to understand the main character, so that the writer can better develop the situations he will be creating for his character in the screenplay.

The writer has to create all the elements for his story from scratch. The actor has the blueprint and the clues that the writer has provided, for interpreting and deciphering the character’s desires. I like the name that Syd Field has given this concept of desire. He calls it the Character’s Dramatic Need. I find it much more colorful and heightened than objective.

In a script, we generally see a portion of a character’s life. Even if it is a biographic picture, it is impossible to show everything about a person’s life in 120 minutes. As a consequence, we end up seeing only a slice of the character’s life. Usually in this window of life, there is something that the character must uncover or fight for. This becomes their Dramatic Need.

It is dramatic because on several levels what the character wants is urgent. It is dramatic because in this sliver of life, the circumstances and obstacles that the character is encountering are life altering. The character’s Dramatic Need is driving the story line and thus providing the script with the different avenues for the “drama potential.”

What the character wants is a need because it is not a whim or a passing fancy. Their lives are usually at stake, literally and/or metaphorically. Achieving the goal or not, is usually what the story is about and what keeps the viewer hooked. A character’s Dramatic Need provides them with their purpose. It is their most heartfelt wish.

When exploring the objectives of a character, the actor should start with the global ones first. What is their overall objective in life? What is the purpose of their life? What is their purpose in the journey of the script? What about at this moment in their life? The actions that the actor chooses to play for the character are governed consciously and subconsciously by what the character wants.

For purposes of clarity, let’s make a distinction between Objective and Dramatic Need.

Throughout life, objectives may change but usually the core impetus, the dramatic need within, stays consistent, even if one is not able to consciously define it. Our objectives change because we are a wanting animal and when we achieve one objective, we are ready to tackle another. That is why life is a journey. We cannot know all the answers in advance. We must be in the doing and then things will unravel and be revealed. The answers will come.

When I did my own personal list of objectives, I found that they were, above all, work related. So, I dig deeper and ask myself WHY? Why do I want all these things? Where does this desire come from? Well, if I start way back when I was fourteen years old in Honduras, I was a child of divorced parents; awkward, lonely, misplaced in a bourgeois, superficial society, where the arts were frowned upon. I felt stifled. Yet, in the after-school drama club I felt like I belonged. We created other realities, imaginary ones, and that was fun! I discovered I could express my feelings, and those of others. Once I discovered this possibility, I knew I had to leave my country. My overall Dramatic Need in life was for expression, freedom, and achieving “the impossible.” Psychological events and the circumstances surrounding my persona helped to establish that.

As I have gone through my life, my immediate objectives have changed but my overall Dramatic Need for expression, creativity, dreams, freedom, and autonomy, has remained consistent. WHY? Why must I do this? Perhaps because, from my Point of View, I was left alone and abandoned by my father. He was absent and unavailable to me so, I have the NEED to prove that I can succeed, and on my terms.

Knowing the main objectives will also help in choosing the immediate, moment-to-moment objectives that appear in each scene. Knowing the Dramatic Need drives everything. It is a tank of fuel that feeds the performance engine. Everything becomes clearer if we understand the big picture. By knowing where the character is headed, the writer, the actor, and the director can create the steps that must be accomplished to get there.

Natalia Lazarus is the Artistic Director at the helm of the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory & its subsidiaries. In addition, Ms. Lazarus is also a private and international coach for Hollywood celebrities on sets (most notably Ken Jeong of The Hangover, Community & Knocked Up; Teresa Ruiz from Border Town with Jennifer Lopez; and in institutions throughout the world, like Bridge Media, The International School of Cinema of Paris, the Guanajuato Film Festival, Casa Azul in Mexico City, River Hollywood Training School in Tokyo Japan, Instituto Stanislavsky in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in Los Angeles.

Product Identity and Your Brand

February 16, 2018


A successful career in the arts and especially in the performing arts is difficult to think about as a product. After all, a human being is involved. The preparation necessary to become an actor is specific and requires an expenditure of dedication, time, and money.

By definition, your career is a focused application of a skill designed to provide earnings and satisfaction. Thus, no matter how personal an endeavor an acting career may be, certain principles of basic marketing can and do apply and ought to be employed even by the artist.

The proliferation of social media and the emphasis of having an online presence have created a marketplace crowded with options and information proclaiming the virtues of every product from toothpicks to artificial hearts. The focus on marketing offers has become essential.

Marketing – of any product – can be reduced to three essential principles: Product identity, packaging, and placement. When understood and effectively employed, these principles can help you navigate the overcrowded marketplace and enhance the prospect of success.

The “grandmother” of these principles is the first, product identity. Without a cleverly discerned and properly articulated statement of product identity, the second two principles, packaging and placement, aren’t even possible.

It doesn’t take many interviews or auditions for an actor to realize that there’s more going on in a casting session than simply how proficiently a scene is read. It’s obvious that there are other factors at play besides the quality of your craftsmanship. And because you are not able to see the audition from their point of view, it is impossible to understand how they perceive the work, the “product”.

Product identity is pretty simple when you’re marketing toothpicks or even artificial hearts. If you’re trying to market one of those products, you can put it on a table in front of you, you can see it from the same angles as a potential buyer can see it. You can invite others to look at it with you. You can appreciate the item from their point of view and, thus, interpret the reactions they may have to the product. It isn’t the same when you are the product.

What can you do about it? Find out what’s going on in that outside point of view and integrate it with your interior point of view.

By taking these two essential actions, the two aspects of personal product identity can be a unified. From having the right photographs to having an effective website and social media presence to giving truly memorable auditions you can more effectively market your identity – your brand.

The above has been at the core of the Sam Christensen Process that I’ve been offering for almost thirty years. 2018 marks the final year that I’ll be teaching my Process in person. I’m leaving Los Angeles and I’ll be presenting an on-line version of the image and marketing work I invented. So, experience the Process as I created it – and enjoy the confidence and ease it produce as you build your career.

About Sam Christiansen:

Sam has had a career of well deserved lucky breaks (Public Theatre -New Talent, Arthur Laurent’s assistant, Broadway Company Manager; Casting director-M*A*S*H, Clash of The Titans, The Champ; Personal Manager-Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jean Claude VanDamme, Rita Wilson) all of which lead him to create his landmark personal branding system and a lifetime of close personal work with actors. (Leslie Jones, Drew Carey, Dan Harmon, Will Wheaton, etc)

Conscious Auditioning (pt. 2)

January 16, 2018

Conscious in the Room

This one would seem to be obvious—of course you’re going to be conscious in the room where you’re about to audition, that’s what you’re there for! But it’s sometimes harder than it sounds to remain totally conscious and completely present when your brain is racing around taking in all of the new stimuli and your heart is beating fast with excitement and anticipation.

I have heard many actors tell me they lose their confidence when they walk into the room, and all of their work goes out the window during the read. They feel as if they weren’t really there.

This is when you can lean on the body to stabilize you. When you walk in and take your place, take a moment and feel your feet on the floor. Gather strength from the grounded sensation of being firmly rooted to the earth and then take an energizing breath that expands the upper chest, opens the shoulders, and straightens your posture. Now you’ve truly taken your space and are ready to work.

When it comes time for the reading, it’s important that you’ve prepared in a way that allows you to let go and trust that your hard work will shine thorough with the ease and confidence of the true professional. If you feel yourself pushing or going flat or otherwise losing consciousness, it’s essential that you immediately reconnect with your listening. If you’ve done the work of fleshing out the relationships in the piece, listening will retrigger your emotional connection, allowing you to relax back into the rhythm of a true conversation.

The more you feel grounded the more conscious you’ll be as you move from moment to moment—free to listen, react and respond.

It takes focused, conscious work to deliver a great audition, but with a solid technique as your guide you’ll ensure that all of your auditions will be alive with humanity: interesting, fun, and surprising.


Craig WallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at

The Three Pillars of Comedy (Part 3 of 3)

November 15, 2017


Storyline The element of surprise is at the heart of any successful sitcom. In terms of storyline, the unpredictable is what keeps us laughing out loud and tuning in week after week. We know the character will want something desperately and will pursue it with comedic gusto. What we don’t know is how they’re going to go about getting their Want, what will stand in their way, or what will happen if and when they do get their Want. If boy wants girl, we know boy will pursue girl. What we can’t predict is how he’ll go about it, what obstacles he’ll face and how he’ll totally screw it up.

Characters – In sitcoms, there is an inherent, unpredictable nature 
to all comedic characters. What makes a good sitcom character is a funny writer with a fresh, humorous perspective on human nature, and a funny actor who brings their own life experience, essence and unique spin to the role. As you will see, each of e Eight Characters of Comedy has room for interpretation, a distinctive “take,” which will naturally make them unpredictable.

That being said, there is one character who is a walking, talking personification of the unpredictable and that is the In Their Own Universe character. However, it’s important to note that each character will come with its own surprises. For example, if a Logical Smart One
 is given an A or B storyline, they could take on the characteristics of another character, like The Neurotic (anxious, over-thinking, fussy) in the desperate pursuit of their Want.

It’s important to note, there is also some humor to be derived from “The Predictable,” especially regarding characters that we are familiar with and have grown to love. We know them and their personalities so well, and we look forward to their funny reactions or their particular style in delivering jokes. They are so well-defined in our minds that
 we know what they say or do is going to be hilarious. But where the element of the unpredictable comes into play is that we don’t know exactly what it is they are going to say or do to make us laugh.

Jokes Jokes are built upon the element of the unpredictable. One particular joke that encompasses this unpredictability, which goes back to the advent of sitcoms, is what I named a Triplet. Triplets are based on the theory that a joke starts by establishing a familiar pattern in the dialogue or action which lulls us into a sense of comfort, as we think we know what’s going to happen next based on that pattern. Then, we are suddenly thrust out of that comfort zone when that pattern is broken or disrupted by something “unfamiliar” (the joke) at the end.

We might know that a joke is coming, but we can’t predict when, what it’s going to be, or, even more important, how clever. We also can’t predict the speed, volume, intensity or intention of how the actor will deliver this joke.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into building this sitcom house. You need to have The Three Pillars of Comedy working together to support the continued success of a good sitcom. You cannot remove any one of them from the equation. Conflict, Desperation and The Unpredictable will serve as the basis for most, if not all, of the humor in any sitcom. They all need to be present in the storylines, characters and jokes. Again, you can’t neglect any of those elements either. You can’t have a brilliant storyline with weak characters and jokes. The Three Pillars of Comedy will hold up your sitcom house and reinforce it episode-to-episode and season-to-season.

Scott SeditaAbout Scott Sedita – Whether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at

Three Tips to Succeed This Episodic Season

July 17, 2017

Episodic season is the time of year when the episodes of many TV shows are being cast. With TV pilots now sold and the leading actors hired, the casting of recurring roles, guest stars and co-stars begins.  This is when working actors have a chance to get really busy.  This is the time when you want to prepare to get into the audition room and nail it.

But how exactly does one do that?

Here are three tips that can help. Let’s start with:


When researching an already existing show you can watch the show to see what its style and characters are like. Sometimes, as in the case of new series, the shows haven’t yet aired. Here you are tasked to figure out what the tone of the show is, what the world is, and what the style will be like just from a few script pages.  This is where you can make a huge mistake, simply because you can’t get familiar with the specifics of a show that doesn’t exist yet.  It’s like getting an invitation to a party, without telling you what kind of party it is.

Where do you start?

Look at the Script. Gather as much information as you can from your script. You can ask your agent or manager for any additional information, or to get you a copy of the entire script so you can read it and find out how and where your scenes fit in to the overall story.  But if you can’t get the whole script, work with what you have. Pretty common sense, but what else can you do?

Be a detective. One way to gather a lot of good “intel” on a role is to look up the show creator and his/her style in the present or past projects.  Watch their shows.  What is the style of portrayal– realistic, low-key, stylized, quite broad or theatrical?  What sorts of characters do they place in their worlds?

If the show is a comedy, can you get a clue as to their sense of humor?

Consider if any of the style points you have noted will translate to this project and see if you can find a way to integrate that into your audition. You will stand a better chance of fitting into this new story if you are able to operate within the same basic creative approach.


Strive to make an interesting choice.  You will have much more impact if you present a role in your own unique way, different from what anyone else might bring. Your audition will stick out from the crowd if it is unique, not a cookie cutter duplicate that others are also likely to present.

Ask yourself what about the role interests YOU and what can you bring to it that no one else would. That’s what casting agents mean when they ask you to “make bold choices.”

Be specific with your character. What do they like, don’t like, what is their viewpoint on things? Create a real person with a life and then live that life in the script.


Take the stress out of it. Leave plenty of time to get to the audition, to park and prepare yourself to go in—so you are not feeling rushed. Often at an audition, unusual things will happen that you couldn’t have predicted at home; script changes, last minute character adjustments, phones going off in the room. Be ready for what may come up.

Have confidence in what you are doing. Through research and drilling, be so ready with your choices that nothing can shake you. If you are prepared, and understand the world of the show as much as possible, even if they don’t cast you for this one, you will stick out in their minds for the next project.

Present yourself as a professional, they will at the very least come away knowing that, and that’s the kind of impression you want to make on casting agents in this, and every season of your career.



The Acting Center helps actors to gain control over their work, teaching them to rely on their own instincts, imagination and choices. Our scene study and improv classes produce confident actors who bring an original voice to every production.

In fact, the most distinctive thing about an Acting Center student is how different each one is. We train actors to speak in their own artistic voice—producing characters that are rich and layered. They become the artist they always wanted to be.

Theater, television and film are all collaborative mediums, so an actor must work well with other actors, directors, casting directors and many more. Our technique trains them to do just that! That’s why directors love to work with Acting Center students.






The one thing it takes to be a great artist

June 23, 2017

The start of a new year inevitably brings with it a list of goals: taking new photos, editing your reel, signing up for scene study and on-camera classes, sharpening your improv skills, finding new representation, going on more auditions.

The list can go on and on (and on), and every single one of those things is a good, tangible intention to set.

But amidst all the practical, proactive goals you’ll set out to accomplish, there is one thing you can’t forget, one thing that needs to drive you through all of it: You have to want to reach that excellence in yourself. If you don’t truly want it with all of your heart and soul, that list won’t mean anything, even if every single box gets checked.

Ask yourself: What does it take to be a great artist? How far do you have to push yourself? How does genius flourish? Do you have to bleed in order to hit your potential? How far do you need to go to be the best that you can be? What will motivate you to get there? Should you look for a teacher or a mentor that will stop at nothing to get to excellence in you? What does it mean to push yourself and work hard in acting? What is it that you truly have to do? How many hours do you have put in to succeed? What material do you have to work on to soar?

You have to feel like you have no choice, that your love and passion for the work is a conduit, a driving force. You have to crank up the desire to do the best work you are capable of and let yourself feel that ambition. You have to stay determined to succeed even when the going gets rough, even when all you’re hearing is rejection. Let yourself get up time and time again because you know your potential, and you know you have it in you to deliver the goods.

Make the promise to yourself not to betray what you know you can accomplish and put yourself in the position to do the work. Give it every ounce of creative energy in you. Once you’ve made that resolution, don’t back down or let anything stop you in the pursuit of that. You will aspire to nothing less than your biggest dreams and you will not settle.

And when you find yourself winning people over as you strive for greatness, exciting them with your potential, you’ll know that it’s what you really, truly want and that you’ve given it everything you have.


MicMICHELLE DANNERhelle Danner is a renowned acting coach who works with A-List Actors privately as well as on set. Michelle trained with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen and was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers and featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  Michelle has two books coming out in 2016, The Daily Ritual and The Golden Box.  Please find more about Michelle and her acting programs and classes at

The Callback vs. The Shoot

April 14, 2017

Casting Frontier | Frontier Insider

I have been teaching commercial acting for 20 years and auditioning for 38 and have never figured out a way to teach actors how to work on set. I have found numerous techniques to hone their skills in the audition room. I have created techniques on how to stand out and be noticed for good solid work. I have even found ways to recreate a callback setting so actors can deal with the nerves when a job is at stake.

But being on set is its own beast. I am going to give my sage advice on things to do and things to avoid once you have booked the elusive job.

Let’s start with the fitting, which is usually the first time you will interact with the director and clients if it is a commercial. I strongly suggest you come dressed in an option for the role. If they ask you to bring some wardrobe choices to the fitting, bring a few. You don’t need to bring your entire closet, just one or two strong choices and wear one of them to the fitting. Make sure your hair is washed and you wear makeup or come as if you were going to the callback. I have seen people lose the job after being cast because they are so casual or unkempt and that is not how the CLIENT sees the character. You should always present your most cast-able self anytime you are around those hiring you.

Often what I wear to the fitting is selected for the job. Make sure you wear nude underwear or things that will not detract from the outfits you will be trying on. I suggest pantyhose for women because they may have you change behind the clothes rack or some other makeshift dressing area.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 5.53.01 PM

Great! On to the shoot day

First: Get to the set at least a half hour early. Walk around and say hello to people. Introduce yourself. Have a bite to eat and relax into the setting. Find a place to drop your things in your room.

Note that often nowadays there are rarely separate trailers for actors especially on commercials. Budget cuts and the like have impacted this. So find a spot that you can put your stuff down and travel light. Bring a phone, a book and maybe some comfy shoes… that is it.

Second, Get to know the names of the AD (assistant director) or second AD who will be signing you in and monitoring your whereabouts. Let them know where you are, so they can find you. Nothing irritates them more than looking for you when they need you in makeup or on set. The more you can know names of the folks working on the shoot the better and the more comfortable you will be

In all likelihood, one of the first things you will do is sign your contract. ALWAYS SNAP A PHOTO OF IT and send a copy to your agent even if you think it is fine. You want the agent to deal with discrepancies, not you. You are there to act, to create, and to be of service. Let the agents negotiate on your behalf.

Be kind, respectful and professional. Have your photo ID, passport or social security card handy for them and any other paperwork you need. Know the address of your agency. Uou can always download contracts on line and practice filling them out so you look like a pro.


Yes they called you at 6:00 am but don’t get around to shooting you till 3:00 in the afternoon. It does happen. This is where your patience and professionalism must come into play. You CANNOT complain. They are paying you for the day and you are to be ready and energetic when they call you to the set. Do whatever you have to do. Walk, exercise, nap, eat, read to amuse yourself and stay focused.

SHOOTING—when the 2nd AD calls you to the set, be ready to go. First, they will do a rehearsal with the director and the DP (Director of Photography) to see how they are going to shoot the scene. Give your all in the rehearsal. This is where they can see what will work and what won’t. Don’t hold it back for the actual shoot as they may not know how to cover it. Drop the ego and listen to what all of the moving parts are. They may need to make changes because of lighting, or cast, or angles, nothing to do with you, but it will affect what you do in the scene.

LISTEN. Then they may ask you to step away while they light or set up the scene. Stay close by and make sure they know where you are. Keep your energy up and pleasant and be respectful of the others doing their equally important work.

They usually start with a wide shot, covering the whole scene. Still give it your all in every take. Be open and available for notes from the director. Be open to listening to the assistant director as well because the director will frequently tell the AD what they want from you in the shot.

After they have THE WIDE… Then they will come in closer, for perhaps a two shot or just another angle. Things may adjust. They might pullout the table that you had in the scene because they need to get in closer with the equipment. People are all around sticking things in your face, light meters, make-up people with powder puffs or maybe you are sweating and the makeup person is nowhere to be found. Don’t be afraid to quietly ask the AD if the makeup person is close by because you feel shiny.

Be open to the notes and when and if they do several or many takes, it is often other factors, lighting, camera, focus that is causing them to do so many takes to achieve the desired effect. You want to keep it fresh and new as if it was the first time you said it, but unless they suggest it, keep doing what they asked for. If the director seems to be reaching for something in your performance, try it. Repeat what the director said in a playable action. If the director says, let’s speed it up. You can ask “so more urgency?” Or if the director says take more time, you can ask, “so languish in the moment?” This way, you are collaborating with the director and giving yourself something playable to do.

Often the producer or clients will have a way they want to try and it doesn’t mean what you were doing was wrong; they just want to have options to look at in order to pick the right one for the spot, film or episode.

I AM READY FOR MY CLOSEUP – this is where most actors fall apart. Something about the camera being up close and personal gets them all shook up. Remember who you are talking to and what you want and try to anchor yourself with something or someone.

You might be looking at a blue piece of tape, when before in the wide shot you had an actual person or something real to look at. Now you have to have the same reaction with a piece of tape. Use your memory or emotional recall to capture the picture in your mind’s eye and make it as believable as you can..

About the author:
Judy Kain is an actress who has been in over 400 commercials. Her television credits include recurring roles in The Odd Couple, Hand Of God and The Fosters. Judy owns Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood.

Always Ready

April 13, 2017


Casting Frontier | Frontier Insider

Learning what it takes for you to always be at your best and ready to deliver is one of the most important lessons for an actor to learn.

You never know when and where you’re going to get your shot, so your time needs to be spent preparing, not waiting. If you ask 100 working actors how they got where they are, you’ll get a wide variety of answers. For most, it started with an audition, but no matter how their opportunities presented themselves, they were READY.

Actor preparing

Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re ready to audition and ready to work:


I’m a teacher, so, yes I think this is an important way to stay sharp! But, I’m also a student and take many classes myself. I see how powerfully they guide me and how I count on them to keep me focused and at my best.

A good class should remind you of why you wanted to act in the first place. It should encourage and uplift you and leave you better than when you started it.

Acting is a heart and body centered art form and an open heart and acute body awareness is essential to your success in connecting to your work and to the audience. A good acting class should care about your heart and enliven the body.

Class is also a great way connect with your peers. It’s easy to feel alone on this path and being with others who are striving to be the best they can be is a wonderfully supportive thing to do.

Also ask around and be sure the teacher of the class isn’t someone who thinks they have the answer and loves nothing better than hearing their own voice tell you the truth. There is no one answer on how to act or audition, a good teacher knows this and will have the skill, through whatever technique they teach, to guide you to your answers and help you find your truth.


It’s easy to get stuck in the habit of putting your head down and bull dozing through the tasks of your days, with little recognition of what is going on around you. This is death to the artist. Here’s a fun exercise to try to keep the tools of awareness and imagination sharp, so that you’re always alive and energized.

Get out of your house. Go to a park, café, or anywhere you can sit and observe. Now, choose a person and really watch them – notice the details of what they’re wearing, their hair, the pitch of their voice, their laugh. Imagine where they would live. House or apartment? How is it furnished? Do they have a lot of dishes or just one or two? Are there pictures of people in the living room? If so, who are they? Pets? What job does this person have? Do they like it? What kind of money do they make? Are they comfortable or do they need more? Are they lonely or do they want more time alone? What do they long for? Ask as many questions as you can think of to make that person come alive for you in a specific, real and heart-felt way.

Repeat this exercise until your eyes and ears are razor sharp from observing, and your body and heart are fully awake and engaged.

Use this exercise to re-connect with your internal and external world. You will vibrate with an awareness and energy that will brighten your work and lift it to a higher level.


No matter what is happening in your life or how hectic your survival job, every actor should set aside at least one hour a day to feed their creative souls. The activity is up to you and should be based on what you need that particular day: rehearse a scene, prepare a set of sides as if you had an audition that afternoon, watch an interview with an actor you love, read. Life is busy and sometimes it’s hard to find time, I know because I do this as well. I am a teacher and even on days that I teach and coach, I take my hour or so and hone the exercises I teach, create new ones, meditate, talk to casting directors or whatever wakes me up to the joy of my profession on that day. I never miss a day and you shouldn’t either – this is your creative life we’re talking about here!

Ultimately, you want to gain control of your life to the extent that you are living as an artist 24/7, so there’s a lot more to it than just these three steps, but they’re a good start. I actually teach an entire course on living as an artist because I’ve seen again and again how intertwined the life and the work of the actor are.

So take good care of the now, after all, the present moment is the only moment you can control. But, if you spend it waking up to your life and your work in a truly committed way, you’ll be more than ready when your time comes.


CraigWallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at




They Break Me Down

December 19, 2016


A number of years ago, The Acting Center was interviewing students about their careers and experiences as actors. Many students had recounted stories of ranting teachers, trying to use tortured memories for scene work and being embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates in an effort to learn acting. One interview, from an experienced actor, stood out that day. “They all say they are breaking you down to build you back up,” he said, “but where’s the ‘building back up’ part? I just feel broken.”

He laughed. I was floored by his comment and it still haunts me.

Acting is like any skill. Do it a lot and you get good at it. But just like riding a bike or learning to cook a soufflé, you have to get in there with the training wheels or practice making an omelet first. You certainly don’t gain confidence in yourself in an environment where you’re made to feel embarrassed or uncertain about your work.

Actor training is exactly that: it is training to know how to become a character and learning to identify and express each emotion as that unique person. A trained actor should also be able to layer on each part of a character and deliver the whole personality package—physical traits, attitudes about life, thoughts, rhythms, what the character has to say and more. And when an experienced performer does it well? The audience believes the character and is swept away in the story.

So what’s all this about “breaking down” a performer?

A performer needs to be BUILT UP at every turn. An acting school needs to provide lots of effective exercises that drill each particular skill an actor needs to be their very best at auditions, on set and on stage.

A school needs to provide lots of time during class for an actor to practice so they gain self-confidence.

A school needs to provide lots of stage time so the actor can overcome nerves and get comfortable in front of an audience.

And a school needs a kind, caring staff that is helping each artist succeed in achieving their dreams.

So get into a class where you can gain certainty in your work, one that builds you up—not breaks you down.

At The Acting Center, we are committed to building up artists, one-by-one, in every class.

Written by April Biggs, Executive Director of The Acting Center

Whole Body Auditioning

December 17, 2016



During a recent meeting with some casting and film director friends about what actors needed to do to book work, two words were repeated again and again: Embodied and personal.


It is no longer enough to play your idea of the role, you need to be a living, breathing embodiment of the role.

To achieve this high level it’s essential to center your preparation in the body and heart – not the mind. The mind is a literal organ that exists primarily to keep you safe. It will tell you what the piece is about and give you a few obvious ways to play it. If you prepare from the mind – and too many actors do – you won’t be showing the people in the room who you are and how you feel, only what you think.

Your brain will have an opinion about how you feel, your body will know how you feel.

Everything that we experience is taken in thorough the 3 sense doors of the mind, body and heart. The body is the least explored and also the most revealing. We have a physical reaction to everything that happens to us and that reaction is the truest one that we can have, because the body has no agenda but to show you how you feel.

Remember though, it all starts at the very beginning. How you start is how you finish and many actors start their “preparation” before they have relaxed the mind and connected with their body. You only get the first chance with the material once, so make sure that before you begin your mind is calm and focused and your body is awake and energized. This mental and physical positioning will ensure that you are operating at the full strength of your creative (not mental) powers from the very start and that you will continue to do so throughout your preparation.

Here is a way to start your process by establishing a deep connection to the body so that you have access to all of the honest, clear, compelling information that lives there.

Read the piece through out loud feeling your physical reaction to all of your character’s words and all of the other characters words. Let your body tell you how you feel by where you might be tightening or relaxing. Do certain words make your stomach clench or your breath catch in your throat? Do others relax your shoulders and open your chest? Note it all – it’s the most specific information you’ll get about how you truly feel.

Now, note the emotions that the body sensation trigger. For instance, if someone says something that scares you and you tightened the stomach and held the breath, the associated emotions could be fear, or panic or even anger. Allow your body to instruct your heart and reveal your true feelings. These feeling will become strong, connected and honest choices – choices that the brain, by the way, probably wouldn’t have allowed you access to.

Working this way you become the actor who have instills the role with all of the power and truth that results from wrapping your body and heart completely around the words on the page.

The people watching will not be able to separate you from the words and will have no choice but to hire you – they have to, you’re already are the role.

Embodiment in audition is the ability to physically manifest the words on the page. If you have prepared correctly, you arrive at the audition needing to do nothing more than speak, listen and be. You are no longer an actor acting or reading the words, trying to communicate the thoughts of the brain. You are a person being.

Personal embodiment isn’t just the new battle cry in casting, it should be the goal of every actor who is in this not just to book the occasional job, but to have a long, successful career. This is not a time for shortcuts and tricks. It’s a time for the real actors to learn how to connect to their bodies and hearts, step up to the plate and start booking. You’ll never have a better chance than right now.


Craig WallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at


Do You Have An Acting Approach?

December 15, 2016

What do you do when you first approach a script? Think about it. What’s going through your head? Are you thinking, “How should I say this?” Or maybe it’s, “I have no idea what they want from me. I wish I had some direction.” Do you find yourself ramping up into your performance and trying to accommodate direction you never got in the first place, then settling on a delivery that only pleased your comfort zone? Well, you’re not alone.


Regardless of your experience level, most talent settle for ‘good enough’, especially when we’re trying to turnaround 5 or more auditions a day from their home recording set ups. No wonder the failure rate is so steep for voiceovers. To add to this it’s very likely you’re attacking every audition with the same cadence, tempo, volume, and possibly even the same inflection, whether it was appropriate or not. Mostly out of habit more than anything else. The problem with this approach is it’s no approach at all.

Proper technique training develops performance agility, expression, and, among other things, challenges your imagination. It does if you’ve coached with us, that is. Much like circuit training fine-tunes your physical acuity with continued use, technique training conditions your performance muscle. You can’t expect to run a marathon if you don’t train. And, if you consider what your conditioning has been up till the present, coaching adds value to who you are and instills stamina to go the distance in your career. This is why every skill level benefits from proper coaching.

It’s always a challenge to bite the bullet and commit to training, and not just from the onset of your career. All talent need a couple of good coaching sessions no less than twice a year, especially once you’ve been given an approach that allows you to consistently discover the very best performance options and you’re able to fluidly adapt to direction when its offered.

Granted it’s commonly considered there’s no single approach more effective than another. However, that line of thinking tends leave far too many talent without any effective approach whatsoever.

‘Winging it’ isn’t professional because it’s unreliable, and could explain why there are so many one-hit wonders in this profession. You need training.

Every reputable agent, producer, and director wants to be reassured you’ve been well trained as a talent. Natural ability is never enough. Without an effective approach, the adage ‘vision without execution is hallucination’ applies. Technique gives you a process that might not be immediately intuitive, but will achieve improved results in your performance when applied with some routine. It takes practice!

The fact remains that in nearly every performance scenario you’re expected to offer options, rather than a single, solitary take. But, left to your own devices, if you inadvertently condition yourself to only deliver one repetitive performance option, then you will limit your delivery options and only be capable of a single solitary delivery. What makes you valuable as a talent, above all else is the simple fact that you’re capable of a limitless number of remarkable deliveries. Make it your mission at the onset of every audition and every session to discover just a few of them. It’s what you’re paid to deliver. No one is interested in hiring a robot. You’re paid to have a pulse.

Our goal, when we coach, is to man you with exceptional techniques and tools that will condition you to deliver your best while developing your ability to self-direct. Mastering these techniques will make you indispensable to every production you’re involved in, regardless the medium.

kate_mcclanaghan-jpg-644x0_q100Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business. 

McClanaghan has cast and produced thousands of national commercials, including spots for McDonald’s, J.C. Penney, State Farm, Sprint, Chase, and IBM, to name a few, and has produced documentaries and assorted narratives for the likes of HGTV, Discovery Channel, and A&E.

McClanaghan’s unique, custom-tailored approach to establishing, expanding, and maintaining a professional career as a working actor and voiceover performer is detailed in her book “The Sound Advice Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent.”

For more information, please visit:

7 Ways TV Commercials Can Help Build Your Television and Film Career

November 15, 2016


  1. TV Commercials are the fastest way to get on national television, make great residual income and begin building a recognizable brand in the TV/Film casting community.
  1. The Actors Search! When you do a National Commercial, due to the hundreds of times it runs on television, the exposure can lead to a TV/Film Casting Director that is casting a project calling you in to audition because you fit the type they are looking for in one of the roles they are casting.
  1. Commercial Casting Directors that also cast films. Some Commercial Casting Directors also cast Independent and major Films. When you work well with commercial casting offices you can also get called in to audition for Films.
  1. Commercial Directors that also direct television shows. The Russo Brothers, Ridley Scott, Joe Pytka etc…are Television and Film Directors that also direct TV Commercials. When you work well on-set on a TV Commercial, you will be remembered and favored in casting offices, by Commercial Directors that also direct TV and Film.
  1. Commercials to put on your Theatrical Demo Reel! The “Slice of Life” TV commercial (the 30 second scene in a sitcom type of commercials) can be put on your Theatrical Demo Reel. Some Theatrical Agents even request it as it can help the Agent pitch you for certain TV/Film roles, especially when you don’t have a reel.
  1. On-Camera Audition Skill Building. Some of your TV/Film auditions will be recorded in the Casting Directors office and sent to the Director. Most Scene Study and Improv classes are not on-camera so the actor does not develop the skills needed to audition well at TV/Film castings when being recorded on-camera. All work in our 4 Week Course is done on-camera. Helping the actor build great audition technique skills that are necessary and helpful in TV/Film Casting Offices.
  1. The fastest way to become SAG/AFTRA and make all or most of the money back quickly to regain the dues you had to spend to join the Union (Guild). Moreover, most major TV/Film Casting Directors will not audition you for television shows and films if you are not SAG/AFTRA. Your major TV/Film career trajectory will accelerate when you become SAG/AFTRA. Commercials can help you get there faster!


Booking Coach Mike Pointer of Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! Has helped thousands of actors over the last 17 years book hundreds of national television commercials as well as television and film work. Coach Mike, a successful commercial actor for over 28 years himself, teaches outstanding, cutting edge strategies that has helped hundreds of actors quit their day jobs, and build a successful career in TV commercials. Coach Mike’s powerful on-camera techniques and outstanding business strategies has set a new standard and cutting edge approach in the on-camera commercial training industry. These classes are highly recommended by top commercial agencies as well as top Managers, and Casting Directors that also teach classes!

Commercials – A Slice Of Life

November 14, 2016



Hundreds of years ago (well maybe it just seems that long ago) I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress and a singer. Like most people, I was told the way to become an actress and get a TV/film career was to start out in commercials. Well, in those years I did fit the qualifications for a young mom, a girl who loved pizza and someone who loved to be traveling on an airline. So I immediately went out and found a commercial agent who agreed that I had the perfect look. They even gave me a commercial copy to read – I don’t think I was very good at it but they traded my lack of knowledge for my bubbly personality.

I was a speech therapist during my early 20’s so after I taught I would go on these auditions where I would get to know all of the commercial actress’s in my category. In the beginning, it was intimidating as I recognized many of them from actual television commercials. The process was the same. I would get a call from my agent telling me to show up at a certain casting office. I would sign in and then be given the copy of the commercial. I was very nervous because all I did was read it over a few times and hope that I wouldn’t bomb in the audition! That did happen a lot but eventually I began to understand what they were looking for and started to book them. I did so well that I bought a house with the money that I had earned. It was a fun game. Run home to open the mailbox and guess how much money I made that month on a national commercial.

Looking back, the only thing I liked about commercials was the money. I didn’t have “Margie Haber” to teach me that a commercial is a small slice of life. The creation of one line, 2 lines, 2 paragraphs or 2 pages is the same for a commercial, a co-star or guest star, a series regular or a film. It is all about creating the life. All of the commercials I did would have been so much more awarding if I understood that premise. Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Formula 409 and Tang were opportunities to experience the life – to use my imagination and live it.   One commercial was Tang with Florence Henderson. In that commercial I had a child and went to visit my neighbor (Florence Henderson) and we sat on her patio drinking her Tang loving the taste of it. I didn’t know that I could actually create a life for my “character” rather than worry about my lines. I could have said,” I am this person living this life” – what was it like to have a child?  Did I watch her play sports or listen to her playing the piano? What was our ritual before I tucked her in bed? Create my relationship with my neighbor. How often did we come over on a hot summer and sit on the porch drinking Tang and sharing stories of our day – not trying to sell the drink Tang. If you want to see my commercials in the 70s and 80s they are on my “Stop acting” app that you can find on your iphone/ipad or vimeo on demand.

My advice – don’t be technical – create any life and enjoy the process!



With 40 years of experience, Margie Haber is known as Hollywood’s top audition coach. What is it that Margie teaches? The answer to that question is within title of her book:  Margie teaches actorsHow to Get the Part Without Falling Apart.  Margie takes away the “three p’s”- Pain, Panic, and Performance Anxiety- from the cold-reading & audition process and gives back the “Big P” – POWER- to the actor.  She teaches actors her philosophy, “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life”, using her unique 10-step approach to breakdown the slice of life physically and emotionally, rather than intellectually.  Her revolutionary Haber Phrase Technique has helped thousands of actors use to use the page without losing the life, while supporting relationship and purpose. (310) 854-0870

We all need affirmation! (part 3)

October 25, 2016

In parts one and two of ‘We All Need Affirmation!’ we discussed the power of positive affirmations and a number of exercises of changing negative thoughts to positive ones combating those lingering, counter-productive thoughts.  In this final installment, are two exercises on building self-confidence and belief in oneself.


Exercise: I believe in myself.

This next Affirmation will help you believe that you are good enough to be great.

Once again, write this down in your Actor’s Journal.

I believe in myself.

Then take a breath and say it out loud:

I believe in myself.

Say it again, quietly to yourself.

I believe in myself.

Feel it, own it and live by it. This should become your mantra, part of your morning ritual. Before you brush your teeth, drink your coffee, or pick up your cell phone, you need to look in the mirror and say “I believe in myself” three times.

You will immediately see a difference in yourself. You will gain a stronger desire to achieve your Want and you will be more positive about your prospects. Incorporate your mantra into your daily life. Say it to yourself three times before you go to class. Say it before you go into a meeting with an agent. Say it after a rough day before you go to sleep.

I believe in myself.

This Affirmation is especially effective before auditions. It will counteract any prior self-doubt and negative thoughts and statements about failing such as “I’m going to screw up this audition.” It’s equally as valuable after auditions to block any negative thoughts from re-entering your subconscious like “I just screwed up that audition.”

Also, to complement this Affirmation, try the following visualization exercise at home or sitting in your car before any audition:

Once again, relax, take a deep breath and imagine the inside of the casting room. Picture yourself standing in the middle of the room performing your scene with focus, energy, passion and the Confidence that comes with being fully prepared. Picture a casting director, writer, producer and director all sitting across from you, smiling, interested, taking notes and circling your name on their call sheet. As you finish your audition, visualize them smiling, thanking you for your work and telling you with a wink that they’ll be in touch. See yourself walking out of the audition with your shoulders back and your head held high, proud and satisfied with your audition, confident that you did your best.

Visualizing a positive outcome will fuel you with Confidence.

Exercise: I am a confident actor.

In this final Affirmation, I’m going to help you build upon the Confidence you already have. I’m going to help you find something you’re confident about and translate that into your acting. I’m going to help you accept that you can be a confident actor.

First, let’s find out where else in your life you feel the most confident. Steer it away from acting. Think of something you know you are good at, something that you believe you can do and do well. We all feel confident about something. Do you feel most confident about your relationships, at your job, playing a sport, schoolwork, giving advice, in sex?

Where are you most confident? Write it down in your Actor’s Journal.

I am very confident when I …

Let’s say you wrote down, “I am very confident when I am driving.” That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or a professional racecar driver. It just means that driving is something you feel sure of doing.

In other words, when you drive, you are not fearful of the road or other motorists. You feel relaxed, yet in control. When driving, you are cautious even when you’re talking to your passenger, singing to the radio, or talking on your headset. You feel free, at ease, your thoughts are flowing. You feel confident and the Confidence surges through your body.

Well, that’s how you should ultimately feel about your acting, whether it’s in classes, auditions or on the set. You should feel comfortable with the material. You should feel at ease in the room. You should feel strong about your intentions. You should feel confident. You should feel like you’re a good actor.

I want you to think about that activity, the one that makes you feel confident. Picture yourself doing it in your mind and feel the Confidence rise in you. Attach that powerful feeling to the following words. Write it down and say it out loud three times:

I am a confident person!

Carry that feeling and that positive thought into the classroom, meeting or your next audition. Experience the difference it makes.

Translate those feelings of Confidence into your acting. Say it out loud:

I am a confident actor!

As you work on your Confidence in and out of acting class, this mantra will ultimately become your personal truth.

Now you have four personal Affirmations to work with in gaining Confidence and sustaining it on a daily basis. Take these Affirmations and write them on a Post It. Hang the Post It on your computer, your bathroom mirror, your dashboard or put it in your wallet to always carry with you as a reminder.

I am good enough to be great. I believe in myself. I am a confident actor.


Scott SeditaWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at

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