Embracing Commercial Work

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I meet talent every day that I would consider as a casting director as extremely marketable for commercial work, yet far too often, the talent themselves don’t consider themselves commercially viable at all.

And the reason they don’t? They are taught as stage actors, as artists, to repel ANYTHING commercial in order to avoid selling out; they are taught to do so at any cost. It’s quite the stigma to overcome, especially if it’s been drilled into you for four years or more in theater school.

That’s right, theater. The one medium, as much as I love it, in which you’re likely (and actually expected) to starve happily. You’re expected to feed your soul by accepting roles that few if any will see. It’s a sad fact, but less than one percent of the population has ever even experienced live theater!

On one level, this gives new meaning to entertain yourself, which I happen to think is a vitally important element in the acting process. Ideally, your small stage work parlays into greater theater work at larger, more established theaters. But far too often, actors devote a decade or more to mediocre productions before inevitably caving in and subjecting themselves to getting a “real job” in order to support themselves and their families.

The real goal here, in my estimation, is that theater will allow you to develop the skills of your craft as an artist, and commercial work will replace the real job (a real job that would only take you farther away from becoming a working talent). You will earn a living from whatever you put your attention toward. How well you live, personally, is relative.

At some point we all have to up the ante in order to move on to the next level—regardless of the business we are in. That requires taking a leap of faith. A life without risk is a life not fully lived.

If you have no other aspirations beyond stage, and you have an unending supply of funds to back you, then I’d recommend you continue to pursue theater alone. If not, well, that’s what we propose to solve at SOUND ADVICE by preparing you to pursue commercial work, both on- and off-camera.

Prior to SOUND ADVICE, I had never heard of any performance-based training teaching an actor how to become a working talent. No wonder acting is considered to be a complete crapshoot profession. In fact, this single precept could easily be held responsible for keeping scores of talent from succeeding and realizing their dreams.

For years it seemed few, if any, would divulge any information on how to break into voiceover.

The old adage went: “The same ten people get all the work,” which was a ridiculous notion even 20 years ago when there were only a small handful of cable stations and the three networks to contend with. (It’s hard to imagine only one HBO, isn’t it?)

The industry in general requires a great variety of types. It always has. Think about it. If you had a production full of romantic leads, the audience would probably be completely confused as to which storyline to follow.

Either that or you’d find yourself as a series regular on Desperate Housewives.

There are worse career fates, I’m sure.

In the meantime, this is what we do. We create. It’s how we’re wired. No matter who you are, you’re gonna create something, whether it be havoc or aesthetics or even a batch of cookies. This is what people do. Create.

May as well make the best of it.

The goal, as actors, is to make active, dynamic choices while surprising ourselves at the same time. That, for the most part, is what we’re paid to do as professionals.

Lucky us!

Copyright © 2009 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved