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NY Acting Markets: Industrials

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Industrials come in many shapes and forms: a live performance at a corporate gathering, a video or audio presentation designed to educate a company's employees, an event connected with a product launch or promotion. Industrial work "rarely grabs headlines or elevates performers to celebrity status," said Roberta Reardon, national president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, last fall, when the union contracts covering this work were extended, but "it does something far more important: It provides steady employment." She added that it also offers union actors the chance to qualify for health and retirement benefits.

"I create live industrials, which could be anything from doing a song for a pharmaceutical meeting to being part of a flash mob for a guerrilla marketing campaign in the middle of Grand Central Station," says Matthew Fletcher, creative director at TBA Global, a New York–based event marketing company. He says he hires actors using a variety of sources—his own Rolodex, casting directors, and online casting directories.

New York casting director Amy Gossels says actors in industrials should "be natural and more realistic than theater," but she adds that having theater credits on your résumé is a plus, because it indicates that you have experience in speaking roles. CD Judy Keller looks for a "commanding" presence and a "host quality." Actors in industrials, she says, "are usually more conventional, more conservative, have a good speaking voice, and look good in a suit or a skirt and blouse."

Scripts are not provided before the audition, and even at the event itself memorizing lines is often not an option, so Keller also looks for actors with teleprompter experience. Adds Fletcher, "From my experience, improvisation and being comfortable with interacting with a number of different people is really helpful." He explains that if the event is taking place at a trade show and the actor is asked to sell a phone or a new kind of toy, for instance, "you need to be engaged not only with the people as they come around, but also be comfortable enough to improv with the product you have. If it's at a more formal meeting and you're onstage with the CEO of the company, you have to make that person comfortable, because the CEO is not a professional actor and you need to carry the weight of the scene."

Fletcher and Keller both say they also look for special skills. "We develop such specific and sometimes really out-of-the-box events, and we'll have singers, instrumentalists, acrobats, and people who do impersonations," says Fletcher. "This past year, I had to cast a roving reporter who was a comedic Asian actress who spoke four languages. I was floored that I actually found her."

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