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What is a PSA? (Video Acting Lesson)

PSA stands for Public Service Announcement. A PSA is a short commercial that touches on a serious topic, like underage drinking, domestic violence, or teen pregnancy. This PSA focuses on educating audiences why it’s important drivers pay extra attention while driving to children on or near roads and streets. Here’s an example used in an acting class for kids in Los Angeles:

PSAs are intended to inform and educate the public, and they are run free of charge on television and cable channels. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulates radio and television stations, which are required by the FCC to demonstrate they broadcast in the public interest. PSAs are one of the ways they meet that requirement.

PSAs vs. Commercials

While commercials help companies sell products, PSAs most commonly touch on topics like safety and health. For example, The United Way or the Cerebral Palsy Foundation create PSAs to inform the public and to get them involved with their cause or to donate money. Or for a company airing a non-smoking PSA, the goal is to raise awareness of the harmful effects of smoking and guide smokers to a resource where they can find help to quit.

PSAs you may know

Recently, there have been popular PSA campaigns instructing drivers not to text or use cellular phones while driving. Others tell drivers to not drink and drive. Several have recently encouraged people to exercise regularly and to eat healthfully. Some big areas for youth casting are the many PSA campaigns against bullying, smoking, domestic violence, gangs and narcotics.

PSAs and Acting

While PSAs fall into the short commercial format and often make use of slogans, catch phrases and jingles to help make them memorable, PSA topics often call for a more dramatic acting performance. PSAs sometimes include re-enactments of serious or even traumatic events. PSAs often pair trained actors with a person directly affected by the PSA’s topic. When Jennifer Aniston speaks for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, she often does so next to a real St. Jude’s patient who is battling very real cancer.

PSAs and Beginning Actors

Actors of all ages are needed to act in Public Service Announcements, including children and teens. For beginning actors, a PSA is often a first opportunity to exercise their dramatic skills and dig into serious characters, scenes or topics. That’s why acting schools for kids and teens often use PSA scripts for students to use in acting class.  Several of our students here at 3-2-1 Acting Studios have been cast in PSAs, including Adelaide Lawrence, who played a teenage girl in a PSA for StayTeen.org. The goal of this PSA was to raise awareness of teen pregnancy and to encourage abstinence.

PSAs and Paychecks

Usually for a PSA, a young actor will be paid for the day’s work. However, many actors also volunteer their time to make a PSA. When you see major celebrities or famous actors in PSAs, most likely they worked the shoot free of charge, as a way of giving back.

Why Do PSAs?

Being a part of a PSA is a great way to use your talents to help a cause. PSAs are used by every media distributor to meet FCC regulations, so they are seen by large audiences. Because of that, PSAs can help inform and shape public opinion.


What are PSAs for?

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