TV Commercials, Talent and Directors with Larry Roy

3 Sep

by: Taylor Vick

Point 3 Media Green Screen

Point 3 Media Green Screen

I got to sit down with Larry last week to interview him about TV Commercials after his great blog about 5 Ways to Improve Your TV Commercials. It was the first interview I had ever conducted since Elementary School when we had to interview one of our heroes. (Mine was Ann Richards – Governor of Texas from 1991-1995 – and she even wrote me back)! Anyway, TV Commercials can be so challenging to get right, and just about anything can go wrong. From scripting to casting to lighting to editing, the process is time consuming and can be expensive. Here, Larry gives some advice about how to overcome the challenges of producing and directing a TV Commercial.

What are the elements of a good TV Commercial?

Always start with the concept, or the idea. What do you want to communicate? That’s the message. How do you want to communicate it? That’s the concept.

Okay, so you’ve got concept and message. Now you need a script. Sometimes a commercial may not have any words at all, but there is a visual script – a story board – that tells the story, but most commercials have some written word that is spoken. The importance of a good script is that it has flow and is concise. When you’re dealing with commercials, you have less time and therefore every word counts. Oftentimes less is more. The tendency of a lot of advertisers is to cram so much information in 30 or 15 seconds that it’s not heard at all. You get to the end of a commercial, and it’s just a blur. So, I always stick with writing as little as possible. You don’t have to fill every second with spoken word. Whatever has to absolutely be gotten across needs to be in the script.

Other elements to a good commercial beyond concept, message, and script are talent and production values. Nothing can save a director more than good talent. If you cast people who are qualified and good actors, then they make whatever you have to work with better. Production values – obviously budget dictates what those can be – but the basics of good lighting, good directing, good editing, good timing are crucial.

Have you ever disagreed with a client who chooses talent that you don’t think is right for the part? And if so, how do you handle a talent that isn’t up to your standards?

The most challenging talent is usually if the client is the talent. That decision is made for obvious reasons. Sometimes it’s about ego, but other times it’s about feeling that that person needs to be the face of the company or the product. So, our first task generally is to recommend against it, unless that person happens to have some experience or is naturally comfortable in front of the camera. If they’ve done a lot of interviews, or press appearances on shows then they’re going to have a certain comfort level. If they’re very shy, quiet, and feel awkward speaking towards the camera, then it creates more of a challenge.

If you can’t propose that professional talent be used – you first of all plan to spend more time with the talent, and slowly take it in small bites to get the absolute best delivery you can for short scenes. We often will employee instances where the talent is done more interview style where they’re not looking at the camera and they’re talking to someone off camera who is interviewing them. The reason for that is because it’s much easier if you don’t do this professionally to have a conversation with someone, than to have a conversation with a lens and a red dot in front of you. Those are techniques that can be used to get a more natural, more comfortable delivery.

One of the worst things in a commercial is if the talent is very stiff, stilted, or unprofessional, because you question their creditability. Even if they’re sincere, if they can’t put across a message succinctly and comfortably to the camera, then their creditability is at risk.

What happens if your client is the talent, and he also decides he wants to direct? How do you handle that?

I’ve had that occurrence often. It’s not only with the clients themselves, but sometimes it’s with their ad agency, or their marketing director, or something of that nature. There’s some politicking that goes on. On the shoot side of things, one of the most important things to stress is – when you’re dealing with the talent – that there’s one director. That’s just something you have to strike a hard line with the client, and say this is the director. He/She will talk to the talent. If you have a thought or an opinion, please voice it to the director or the AD [assistant director] and let them communicate with the talent. When you’ve got someone on the spot, in the lights, and trying to act, multiple bosses is not a good thing.

On the backside in post-production, if the client wants to be in the production, you obviously encourage them to allow you to do a first cut and present that to them first. Then if they want to be involved after that, fine. It is just practicality. If I’m talking to the President of an insurance company, I’m not going to try and tell him what kind of life-and-casualty or term insurance to buy. That’s not my area. That’s not what I do.

By the same token, this is not what they do. Production is not – it’s a learned skill. It’s a trade just like anything else. The challenge in that is people – creativity is subjective. Everyone can have an opinion on what they think is “good” or creative. But the process of creating a finished product such as a commercial is as much science as it is art. There are steps and details in the process just like anything else. So we try and lead the client to understand and trust us that we know what we’re doing. We’re trained to do this. This is what we do every day and allow us to do it.

Oftentimes when we have a client that we’re working with that doesn’t know us, and they feel the need to be a part of the production. Almost inevitably when they’re on set with us or on location with us shooting, they realize what preparation has gone into it and how we operate in that environment. Then they tend to back away. They see that we know what we’re doing. That it’s been well thought out and well prepared and there’s an excellent crew of people there doing what they are trained to do. So 9 times out of 10, they say “I don’t need to be around any longer.” That’s usually what happens.

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2 Responses to “TV Commercials, Talent and Directors with Larry Roy”

  1. Ben Waugh September 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

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  1. Tweets that mention TV Commercials, Talent and Directors with Larry Roy « Point 3 Media -- Topsy.com - September 4, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cullian Marketing and Henry Alicea, Point3Media. Point3Media said: TV Commercials, Talent and Directors – an Interview with Larry Roy: http://wp.me/p10LxD-3A […]

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