It’s no secret that social distancing has turned everything upside down, especially with all auditions having to be filmed at home. But how is the pandemic impacting the world of commercials? We’ve all seen the ads that are addressing Covid-19 and the way their company (Facebook and Walmart, for example) is operating during this time. So, if the companies are still making the commercials…what does that mean for the actors? Commercial actor and coach Josh Covitt gave us his perspective and insight on how this specific part of the industry has been impacted.
At first, commercials just stopped completely! I was lucky enough to shoot a commercial the week before everything changed and hopefully, it will still air – but COVID19 sent a shockwave through the entire industry. Aside from commercials whose production had to be scrapped because of quarantine, other commercials may never air because the tone of advertising has had to adjust to the pandemic. If a company shot a commercial in early March that features a lot of actors hanging out at a packed bar or sporting event, well… that doesn’t ring very true to life right now so there’s a good chance it won’t air.
As new commercials have started to air, we’ve seen they are addressing this strange time head-on and tonally they are very different than the commercials that had been airing before. Also, visually, you can see that some commercials are being shot remotely or in actors’ homes with less sophisticated cameras and gear. You certainly aren’t seeing a lot of new commercials that feature more than one actor in the shot due to social distancing.
As of now, all commercial auditions have gone to self-tapes. There were some before, but currently, ALL auditions are self-tape first calls, with the callbacks being over skype/zoom or some other video conference. It may evolve to where first calls are like that as well, but for right now the first audition is a self-tape at home. Also, there are commercials that are asking actors to film themselves in their own home once they book the job – so not only is your home your self-tape location but it could also be your “set” if you book the commercial.
My guess is that it will stay this way until casting offices have worked out safety measures so that actors can enter a room and not be in danger of contracting or spread COVID-19.
First and foremost, you want to have a self-tape set up where you can be clearly seen and heard. It’s okay if you don’t have a professional studio, but at the very least you have to find a way to light yourself. That can be natural light or artificial, but make sure you can see your face and eyes. You could be an amazing actor, but if they can’t see you, they won’t book you.
Audio is important as well. However, a lot of commercials are without dialogue, so I’d put audio second to lighting.
You can find lots of small lights, microphones, and accessories that will work with your phone or computer’s camera. It’s unfortunate that the pandemic is putting pressure on actors to invest more in filming from home set-up than usual, but a small investment can go a long way.
Aside from making sure your home set up is in a good place you can still do so many of the things that will keep you sharp as an actor. You can still stay on top of your training – almost all acting classes and coaches offer virtual training now. You can watch movies and TV shows *and* commercials for research. You can still read scripts – either by yourself or with fellow actors over Zoom.
Aside from a reduced number of auditions and productions, there’s nothing different about your life as an actor now. Anything you did before COVID-19 to work on your life as an actor right now you can still do – you just can’t do it in some of the same physical settings, that’s all.
At some point auditions and production will ramp up, this won’t last forever. So don’t use this time as a vacation from acting – keep working and keep attuned to the things that feed you as an actor.
Again, this won’t last forever! Remember that and please know that it’s also OK to feel strange and uncertain right now because it’s a strange and unsettling time for us all. We’re all in this together.
Josh will be offering virtual sessions that can be used however you like. Whether that be a consultation about commercials or working on upcoming auditions, he’s your guy! He will also be available for writing original monologues or scenes that can be used for demo reel footage.
More Acting Tips from Erik + the Catapult Crew coming soon.