It takes some digging to find the right people.
Having been involved with the production of well over four commercials, I believe success starts by casting the right talent. In order to do so, it is up for the creators of the spot to create “casting specs” (or “casting specifications” for those not in the industry).
What makes good casting specs? A clear knowledge of the character, his/her backstory, dreams and aspirations, food allergies and the like. What follows are some casting specs I wrote for a commercial shoot a few years back. I think you’ll see what I mean…
His name is Charles Humbecker, but his friends call him “Charles” and his enemies call him “that no good bastard prick, Charles.”
He’s the sort of guy you might meet standing in a long line, or at a pot luck supper at your sister-in-law’s. You might see him seated in a crowded stadium watching a baseball game eating a hot dog as if it were a braut, or you might not see him at all if he were hiding in a tree. The point is, he’s that kind of guy.
He is an intellectual of sorts. Bookwormy. Nebbish. Comfortably tweedy. If he smoked a pipe, his jacket would probably smell of tobacco and have some burn holes in it.
He’s the kind of guy who looks good wearing a belt.
As a youngster he probably had some jocks hold him by his feet and invert his head into a toilet bowl for a swirly rinse. He is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and higher education. He pursued his dream and became a tenured professor at a prestigious college where he has the unique ability to make every minute in his classroom feel like fifteen minutes. His students hate him with a passion only matched by mine for the Air Supply catalog.
He fancies himself a font of invaluable arcane knowledge and will drone on and on about any and every subject. He has a thirst of knowledge coupled with uncontrollable diarrhea of the mouth–– a deadly combination.
He is a pompous, officious bore. His age is fifty-plus, metric. He can be tall or he can be short. He could even be two very short people stacked beneath a large overcoat. He can be like Ben Stein, he can be like James Cromwell, he can be like Wally Cox, too. His manner is stilted, his monotone is slow and stiff.
He likes antiques and hordes cotton candy. His favorite number is 8, but sometimes it’s 3. You know the type, right? He’s that kind of joe who eats green apples and complains that they’re not red delicious.
The Smart Shopper:
She is every woman, except much prettier. And her name is Amy Gattersnort.
She’s thirty-something and conveys bewilderment and confusion as she hears the professor blather on about eating nutritiously. When she leaves the classroom, she has a relieved and comfortable smile. She operates her smile with her lips. Life is suddenly easy thanks to her leaning about how to eat better. Now her cheating husband will be true to her and stop his daylong drinking binges and obnoxious habit of scattering broken glass on the floor. Now her estranged sister will call and apologize for the awful “Cheez Nip Incident.” Now she will finally feel like a natural woman, only more humble and contrite.
Our Smart Shopper is a woman who can convey the range of emotion from rage to smugness to aggressive ambivalence to total satisfaction. Ain’t she something?!
Bruiser “The Wonder Dog”:
Should be a dog, or maybe even cat, of some sort. If the animal could do something wonderful, like talk, juggle or calculate annuities, all the better.