To improv or not to improv? That is the question!
Improv dates back to the 15th century in Europe where street performers improv-ed with people passing by. Being good at improv-ing eliminates second guessing and self doubting oneself, resulting in loose, creative choices.
Even the names of improv groups are creative such as “God’s Been Drinking”, “Name Change ending”, “Oui Be Negros”, “Three Hole Punch, “Lincoln’s Bedroom" and “Mission IMPROVable”, just to name a few.
Casting Directors for commercials look for improv on a resume, as you always have to expect the unexpected. Being good at improv means you are good at thinking fast on your feet, and are not likely to feel self-conscious with whatever you are asked to do.
There are two kinds of improv for commercials. One being the scenario where there are no lines in the final spot. In auditions for non-verbal spots, an improv audition is set up revolving around the situation of the spot to see some personality, movement and ease of relationship. Some examples might be: you are with a bunch of friends sitting around a restaurant table, you are with friends at a casino, in a car showroom or with someone in a store buying a new TV.
The second type of improv are the spots that have copy and we are looking for talent with humor. Obviously, the more you add to the copy the more the spot becomes unique to you. In this case, the actor needs to bring him/herself to the copy, as the creatives are looking for a personality, not someone just saying words. They are using you as a vehicle for their sell and you have to use what they give you as a vehicle to let out who you are and how you feel.
Many actors fear the improv setting. Not having a character to develop or script to disect and memorize takes them out of their comfort zone. The truth is, most of those same actors and models are using improv in their daily life. The good news is that it probably comes naturally; the bad news is that you might be uncomfortable being put on the spot. For situations where there is no script, it could help to develop a character based on what you know of the client, product, or casting director you'll be seeing.
The bottom line is that improv is a part of being in entertainment, no matter your title or abilities. If you aren't practicing and honing improv skills, you are selling yourself short. So what is stopping you from getting into an improv class and building those wit driven muscles?