As many of you, my awesome readers, know - I aim to consistently feature kind and insightful entertainment industry professionals on my blog in order to share their helpful advice with all of you. I feel incredibly honored to feature Los Angeles-based casting director Terry Berland, CSA, in this interview, and I’m confident that you’ll learn a lot of valuable information from Terry!
Terry Berland has worked in the entertainment industry for many years and has a plethora of information to share. While she is based here in Los Angeles, Terry originally began her career in New York City. Terry said:
“I started in New York City as an assistant in the casting department at an ad agency, when agencies had casting departments. It was one of my first jobs out of school. I worked my way up to being the Head of Casting for BBDO/Worldwide, the third [largest] ad agency in the world at the time.”
From the time Terry started out, she has been involved with many big-name productions and projects! I asked Terry what she enjoys most about her job as a casting director, and if there is a specific project that she has enjoyed the most so far in her career. Terry explained:
“Each casting is an interesting process that starts out with a blank canvas, developing and morphing into the end creative product, whether that be a commercial, voice over, animation or film. I’ve cast talent in many celebrity spots, ‘Apple’ products, motor cycle gangs, all kinds of sports and brilliant talent. I did the original casting for ‘Invader Zim,’ and it was really fun going to the Nickelodeon studios every day to cast. The most fun, unexpected and recognizable iconic brouhaha casting I’ve had was the fact that I cast the Taco Bell chihuahua voice.” (How cool is that - Terry cast the voice of the iconic Taco Bell dog!!)
As most actors are well-aware, when we are called for an audition, it is very important to be as prepared and as professional as possible. We typically only have a few minutes to show a casting director who we are and what we can do. When Terry is casting a project, she explained the following about what she looks for:
“Personality and preparedness - from the moment the person enters the door, personality comes into play. And of course, an actor has to be prepared: prepared in their technique, which comes from training, and prepared for the role they are auditioning for. Someone’s resume is very important to me. I understand when someone is just starting out and has a fledging resume. One of the things I look for on a resume is whom the person is studying with. I don’t know how someone can call themselves an actor if they are not working out in class every week. It would be like someone calling themselves an athlete and they don’t exercise or work out in whatever sport they claim they do well.”
Terry brings up a wonderful point about constantly training and learning. If you’re a reader who is new to the entertainment industry, you’re going to be faced with many decisions about acting classes and coaches, and it’s very important to do your research and study with a reputable teacher. It’s also critical to learn about different acting techniques to find which one (or ones) resonate well with you, such as the Meisner technique. (The Meisner acting technique is one of my personal favorites, and you can read more about it here, in an interview that I conducted with acting coach Don Bloomfield.)
In addition to learning about acting techniques, it’s important to learn about the similarities and differences between auditioning and acting in commercials and in television/film. Fortunately for all of us, Terry Berland also offers some wonderful classes herself - and I was lucky enough to be one of her recent students!
I asked Terry if she would explain a bit about the differences and similarities between commercial acting and TV/film acting. She said the following about the importance of being a well-trained actor overall:
“There are significant differences and also similarities. The one main similarity is that commercials take an acting ability. I teach a workshop that specifically trains actors for commercials, constantly bringing up the similarities and differences of both. I approach commercial acting the same as a short theatrical scene.”
Terry added a quick bit of information about the importance of being who you are:
“Being who you are is most important. In my Commercial Acting Workshop, I focus on who you are individually and what empowers you.” (Being who you are is a major point of focus here on my blog, as an actor and in all areas of life. There’s only one of you; let your light shine!)
Another tip for anyone who is just starting out is to watch a lot of TV, films and commercials. This may sound obvious, but when you study and watch what’s currently on the air, you can typically get a very good idea of how you might be cast. Terry sums this idea up with an example of auditioning for television:
“If you want to audition for television, watch all the television shows at least once that you would be good for. Know who the celebrities are, as they will be used as prototypes. And know classic films and TV shows.”
Working in the world of entertainment can be just as wonderful and amazing as it can be difficult and challenging. Personally, I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of a career in the entertainment industry is the uncertainty about when the next job will come along. To maintain success, I believe it is vital to always keep moving forward toward your goals and to enjoy the journey along the way! (How you individually define “success” is very important, too.)
Because of Terry’s long-lasting success that she has maintained in the entertainment biz, I asked her if she could share any thoughts and advice about how to sustain success in this field of work. She replied:
“Set long term goals. Don’t look for short cuts. Treat everyone nicely. Be aware of whom you are dealing with. Gain knowledge and understanding in what you are doing.”
Keep Up with Terry!
As we can see, Terry Berland is a busy individual in the entertainment industry, and she’s someone whom I hope all of you will have the privilege of meeting and working with someday soon! (As a former student, I highly recommend her classes!)
To conclude my interview with Terry, I asked her if she could please share with us some of the projects that she’s currently working on and how we can keep up with all the awesome things that she’s doing:
“I’m working on four short and lower budget independent films with lots of interesting characters. I just finished a great video game that is coming out soon called ‘Icons’ with lots of characters who have distinct back-stories. Follow us by liking our Facebook page: Terry Berland Casting, Twitter and Instagram. You can sign up for our monthly newsletter. And go to our website.”
Thank you, Terry, for your kindness, wisdom and advice for actors! You’re awesome!
Jesse Daley is an actor and a writer who lives and works in Hollywood, California.