Using Props: Video Acting Lesson for Commercial Acting
Commercial acting is all about helping a company get audiences informed and excited about their products. For actors, that often means working with props. You can start to learn to use props like a pro with this video acting lesson for commercial acting. The more prepared you are, the more choices you can make, and the more you’ll stand out as an actor! This is true for child actors, teens and adults.
A prop is any moveable physical object an actor is required to handle for a part. Physical stuff around the actor that he or she does not move is “set,” as it just “sets” there and is left alone. Sometimes wardrobe items are actually props. If an actor wears a hat or bag but never takes it off or does anything with it other than wear it in a scene, that item is “wardrobe.” If the actor takes off the hat or bag or handles it, it’s a prop.
On a commercial, television or film set, different departments manage props and wardrobe. And there may be strict rules about how or how much you can handle a prop on set, especially if it is fragile or was made especially for the shoot. For now just know that if you’re touching and working with an object, it’s a prop. And if you’re working with props, you want to add it to your actor’s toolbox. Practice with props in your acting school or acting classes for kids. Practice at home. Practice before you’re in the audition room or on set.
Your first prop alert will come in the audition sides or commercial copy you get before or at the audition. You may already know from your acting classes how to read for clues about where and when a scene takes place (setting), and who and what is involved (context). Keep an eye out for props in that initial cold reading. If you see something like this, often italicized and (in parentheses) in your script, that’s “stage direction” (like entrances or exits) or physical “actions” you’ll be doing with your body in the scene. It might look like this:
(throws ball) or (catches ball)
If you see this in your script, you know you’ll likely be working with a prop and that prop is a ball. You probably noticed there were two very different balls used in this video acting lesson for commercial acting — a softball and a basketball. If you know what kind of ball you’ll be using– (throws baseball) or (catches basketball)–be sure to use the same kind of ball when you practice on your own. That will get you familiar with the weight, texture, and size of the prop. If you have lines during the action, just talking while handling the ball will help you transition to memorized lines and performance.
Begin like Lisa does in the video acting lesson for commercial acting, just handling the prop. Get a duplicate or a close approximation at home. Hold it, move it, role it around your hands, touch it on all sides. If the prop has pokey parts, get use to where they are. Learn the texture. Get used to controlling it.
Next, practice the “action” you see in the script or copy (in parentheses and italicized). You will likely get specific instructions at the audition for what to do, and you will absolutely get specific direction once you’re on set. However, if you go in with your pre-practiced moves, you’ll have ideas to improv a moment and will be even better at adjusting to direction or “taking a note” from the casting director or director.
If your “action” is to drop the prop or act like you’ve never held it before, practice that! The key to “appearing” unpracticed is in the word “appearing.” If you’re cast to play someone with the flu or a broken leg, getting influenza or snapping your real bones are not the best way to book the job. Fumbling and bumbling on cue and on camera are great skills to have. If that’s your action, treat it like any other part of your performance—warm up, practice, and prepare.