GUEST TEACHER | A commercial audition intensive to learn and practice on-camera skills unique to the commercial world.
The commercial world has its own rules—and you can play that game. Get tools and coaching on how to deliver a castable performance, shape your audition room mentality, and navigate the social dynamics of the callback.
WHY DO YOU TEACH, BEN?
I think it’s in my blood. Most of my family did some sort of teaching in their careers. As I was learning how to act, I did so much studying, contemplating, and banging my head against the wall because of challenges I faced in my process. When I finally had breakthroughs with results, I realized that I could communicate what I learned and help others do the same. I was also helped along the way by people like Heidi, so I feel that it’s important to pass it forward. Class is one of the few places you can make mistakes without consequences, and I love that freedom. Lastly, I was being asked by my actor friends how to book consistently, and I realized I could deconstruct it for them and help.
THE CRAZIEST SHOOT YOU EVER HAD?
Maybe when I shot a commercial inside a 14,000-square-foot coliseum built in an airplane hangar and was chased by a dozen gladiators and a chariot pulled by two horses—while a real, oversized 700 lb. tiger (the same one that jumped on Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator) lurked in a cage nearby.
Or maybe when I was on the film The Island and watched director Michael Bay attempt what he thought would be a funny prank on his 1st unit crew by telling a 2nd AD to radio to the rest of the crew that he’d fallen off a bicycle and was on the ground bleeding. A stampede of crew members ran to his aid from across the stage only for him to reveal that he was joking, as he casually jumped up grinning and a smattering of people forced uncomfortable laughter.
Also, there was that scripted scene in Showtime’s Weeds where I was asked to smoke a “joint,” and blow the smoke at a real caged raccoon while handing the raccoon Cheetos and keeping count to prove my weed was superior to Silas’s, since he was doing the same with his caged raccoon across the table. There was a representative from PETA who assured us that the raccoons were fine with it.
Oh yeah—and there was an episode of this sitcom I was a regular on, The Mullets, when me and the boys were watching a live police chase on TV, only to have that car really crash through the wall of the house we were in.
Another one: it was crazy for me on a Bud Light commercial shoot in Miami when the scene consisted of me snaking across a party cruise ship naked with a beach ball in front of my “xx.” I was really wearing a flesh-colored G-string. Wish I could say that was the first or last time I had to wear that in a commercial. It wasn’t. (And it’s exactly as humbling and uncomfortable as you’d imagine it to be.)
I could just go on and on…
Ben Tolpin has worked as an actor for over 22 years and has appeared in more than 90 national commercials, including various Super Bowl commercials (Anheuser-Busch, Fedex, Motorola, and Samsung). He was the spokesperson for TGI Fridays in 2009, which involved commercials and special appearances around the country.
In addition to shooting commercial spots for nearly everything, he’s worked with such notable film directors as Doug Liman, Michael Bay, Bobby Farrelly, Tony Kaye, Phil Morrison, and Errol Morris.
Television credits include Weeds, The Loop, NCIS, Off Centre, Wilfred, and The Mullets (series regular).
In theatre, he is most proud to have played Roy Selridge in Biloxi Blues for Neil Simon himself at the Pasadena Playhouse.
On top of having years of teaching experience, he is an alumnus of many acting programs in NYC/ LA and has an BFA in acting from Marymount Manhattan College. Ben is a member of SAG and AEA.
See Ben’s commercials here.
While I was casting commercials, I often felt like I was hosting a parade of actors for commercial execs to decide who to hire based on looks. It was totally frustrating. These seemingly illogical decisions made me itch to get back into casting theater and film.
But one day over 20 years ago, something shifted for me. I had a lightbulb moment about commercial auditions because of an actor named Ben Tolpin. I was running the callbacks for a pizza commercial. Ben came in, I saw his audition, and I finally got what makes a great commercial audition.
The character was a pizza delivery guy. The line was basically, “You ordered?” Everyone came in and delivered the line pretty neutrally off the page. Ben strode into the room and gave the line a spin—imagine sarcasm dripping in the subtext of his line. Like, really? You made me walk this pizza up here to you? And his slate was pretty deadpan and cheeky too.
His style was extremely unique. I cracked up and was suddenly having fun in the room. And, the execs loved him. He booked the commercial. Actors who bring themselves, their own style, into the auditions will rock the room. Ben is a master of rocking his own unique style in the audition.
This workshop is for both new actors and seasoned veterans. You don’t have to be a professional actor to book a commercial—on the other hand, just because you’re a seasoned pro with a long TV/film resume doesn’t mean you won’t struggle booking commercials either.
Wherever you’re at is great.
The Commercial Game is a process that frees and elevates your audition impact. I’ll accelerate your audition effectiveness, eliminate what keeps you from booking, and ready you for any type of commercial audition. The goal is to get you booking consistently and reveal things that even most experienced bookers don’t know.
You’ll begin by briefly preparing specific commercial copy (aka, a script) that you receive upon arrival. Then, we’ll springboard into the steps of identifying and learning a process to powerfully deal with all elements of commercial auditioning. You’ll learn a variety of ways to stand out, and you’ll have plenty of on-camera practice, critique, and partner work.
We’ll continue building and putting together the elements of The Commercial Game. We also have the “callback class.” This is the class that even the most experienced actors will benefit from. Learn how to navigate potential obstacles and command the callback room to maximize your chances of booking.
All audition material will be provided to you at class.
Bring water, snacks, and something to take notes.
Full disclosure—please note that we do not guarantee that actors in these workshops will be hired for any project that we might direct or cast. We do guarantee my supportive honesty and my open sharing of knowledge. We teach and coach because we enjoy supporting actors as they develop their process of working within the audition room. We seek to build their knowledge about the business of auditioning.