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Tips for actors on corporate film

On the spectrum of acting for camera, one area that often gets overlooked is performing in corporate films. While commercial and advertising projects are seen as higher-profile and more money-spinning, corporate filmmaking is a potentially lucrative avenue that with the right connections, can also provide regular work.

Our largest corporate job was a training video for a public sector client, which required us to cast and employ 26 actors across two different films. Many of these actors were then required for additional days of filming, outside of the main shoot itself.

Naturally, we can't guarantee similar experiences on every corporate film you may encounter, but there are general rules and things to consider when entering this arena of filmmaking and performance.

Learning the script

Often on corporate films, the script will be part written by the client, or contain specific lines that are mandatory for legal reasons. Depending on the industry, there may be a whole new, esoteric language to learn. For instance, projects for the medical market will contain technical scientific terms with words that you'll need to practice pronouncing correctly. Educated audiences will know when a word is pronounced incorrectly and so will your director!

If possible, request a glossary of these specific phrases, including definitions and phonetic pronunciation. Even better, conduct your own research and write the phonetic spelling on your copy of the script. You could even record yourself saying the words correctly and listen to them back.

As with all film shoots, time is money. Whereas a director and producer will be happy to take more time than expected on creative projects, it's more likely they will be stricter on timing and schedules on corporate films. Knowing your lines is a fundamental expectation of an actor, which will be appreciated by everyone on set. Just remember, last minute changes are not uncommon with any script!

Punctuality and Flexibility

Arriving on time in the right place is another basic expectation of cast and crew on any job. With filming, the time of day might be crucial to the narrative and time may well be limited in certain locations. Therefore, punctuality is essential as the on screen talent. Being ready to get in front of the camera when you arrive is also an advantage. However, if hair, make-up and costume fitting time is required, it's even more important you arrive in plenty of time.

Never be afraid to ask questions of a producer regarding call times, when you're expected to be on set and if you can arrive in advance of scheduled times for preparation. Even shoots projected to last only half a day can overrun, so try to avoid making other plans for later on a shoot day, as your availability may need to change by the hour. If you do have something important to get to after the shoot, make sure you let the producer know. Your flexibility will always be grateful appreciated and remembered by producers and directors alike.

Similarly, film shoots often overrun due to any number of technical or creative reasons. Patience is an essential quality every actor needs, in order to stave-off boredom during downtime and tantrums when you're working longer hours than expected. If the schedule does go out the window, remember your producer and director will be experiencing enough problems already, without actors adding to their headaches.

Dressing Correctly

Even though it isn't going to be broadcast on television, you still need to make sure your costume is suitable and accurate for the role you're playing. If you've been cast as a radiologist in a medical training film, the last thing you want to do is turn-up wearing an old t-shirt, jeans and sandals (true story!) Again, your director should provide guidelines, but always dress smart-casual as a rule, and bring alternative options for less formal attire if required. It's always easier to make smart look scruffy than scruffy look smart.

You won't be expected to provide your own industry specific costume – boiler suit, soldier fatigues, lab coat etc – but always know your measurements and sizes and be prepared to be flexible thereon. If you know how to sew, stitch and carry-out basic sartorial repairs, these skills could come in handy. Boys should always bring a belt and girls prepared to wear hair up or down.

If you know part of the shoot is happening outdoors, bring sensible shoes and a warm waterproof coat just in case of bad weather. Even the classic British summertime can provide some meteorological surprises and you don't want to get caught short in a quick shower or blustery wind at any time of the year.

Hospitality & Travel

The size and scale of film shoots can vary dramatically, depending on the budget. If the client has provided enough funds to support a full shoot correctly, then the producers should be able to provide modest catering and refreshments for cast and crew. Sometimes accommodation may be required, so always ask about such arrangements if you have a particularly early start or late finish in a location away from home.

However, don't expect five star treatment when on the road. You're most likely to be staying in a standard chain hotel, especially if there's a big cast and crew to support. It's unlikely you'd be asked to share a room, so you will at least have some privacy. Don't stay-up all night in the bar drinking, but don't be afraid to mingle with your new colleagues. Whether you're staying on site or at home, always get plenty of sleep the night before a shoot and leave adequate time to travel. Always expect there to be delays! No actor ever got fired for arriving too early.

Any expenses you incur when travelling to and from a shoot should be reimbursed to you, so always keep any tickets and sales receipts for trains, buses, coaches or petrol. Likewise, if food isn't provided on set, keep records of your expenditure on refreshments, but stay within a reasonable limit. Taking a packed-lunch with you is always a good idea, especially if it contains snacks or small treats you could possibly share with your fellow cast members.

Getting Paid

The most attractive aspect of working on corporate films is that you should always get paid. Commercial productions like these have been paid for by the client and the budget must include sufficient sums to pay actors for their work. Whilst it may not always be union rate for a day's work, this is at least the guideline by which producers will work out the money required to employ the number of actors needed.

This chain of command does mean you can't expect payment to immediately follow your time in front of the camera. Firstly, the producers will have to invoice the client either before, or after the shoot is complete. Payment terms are generally 30 days, which is the least you should therefore have to wait before you're reimbursed. Always submit your own invoice that includes the total money you're owed, including the agreed rate of pay and your expenses, along with copies of receipts, tickets etc.

In some cases, the 30 day payment schedule could be as much as 60 days. Therefore, it's always best to ask, without sounding like you're just in it for the money. At the very least in such circumstances, your expenses should be covered before your full payment arrives, meaning you're not out of pocket for having fulfilled your half of the bargain.

Have fun

Very few production crew start with aspirations of making corporate films. Like actors, most will have dreams of working in the creative industry, most trained as creative film makers, and most continue this practice alongside their corporate work. In short, they got in to film making because they enjoy it.

A set should be a fun place to work. You should always come to set with a smile, ready to work hard and enjoy yourself doing it. Remember, you never know what the film makers are working on outside of the corporate world. A corporate project might just introduce you to the people who will help get you where you want to be.

Final thoughts

Overall, these rules may sound somewhat restrictive, but this advice comes from a director who has worked with many actors in corporate film and role-play scenarios. The professionalism of actors is always something memorable and we want it to be for all the right reasons!