Team Building Secrets From TV Commercial Crews

Most of my readers and social media contacts are probably unaware of the fact that, in addition to running my own team building and management consulting firm, I am a professional actress. Yes, I have an MBA and I have run my own business since 1996 but I’ve been acting for even longer than that. Like every other performer, I go on a lot of auditions and, every now and then I get booked for something. Sometimes you see me, sometimes you don’t.

Behind the Scenes on a TV Commercial Set

When shooting the It’s a Girl spot for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, I had a great conversation about team building with a member of the crew over the lunch break. This shoot was a little different. First of all, I didn’t audition for this spot. I was cast from my photo and resume. This is only the second time this has happened to me. We were all picked up at a pre-arranged location in downtown Toronto and taken to a private residence in Oakville (if memory serves me correctly).

Here is the spot. I only appear briefly in this one.

It was a beautiful day. We had lunch in the garden. I shared a table with one of the crew members at lunch time and got into a great conversation. He asked me what I did when I wasn’t acting and I told him that I run a team building company. I commented on how well crews always work together. “It feels you’ve been working together forever.” He said “Not at all.” Like actors, crew members work on a project basis. I asked him how everything came together so smoothly. He shared a couple of crew secrets with me and it’s not rocket science.

8 Key Ingredients of Crew (or Team) Success

On movie sets or shoots for TV series, have an opportunity to bond as sometimes they work together for a long time.

TV commercial shoots are very different but, by the time, the actors arrive on set, everything is organized and the crew feels like a cohesive unit.                                                                                                     Bob Bekian (Flickr)

Here’s why:

  1. Everything comes together by design, not by accident.
  2. Crew members understand their roles very clearly.
  3. They also understand the roles and responsibilities of  other crew members.
  4. There is an initial production meeting with the head of each area to clarify and sort out the specifics of each shoot.
  5. This vision is clearly communicated.
  6. Crew members arrive before the performers and they spend time setting up and getting everything organized.
  7. There is on-going communication during the shoot.
  8. A calm atmosphere is maintained and disagreements are sorted out in private.

As I listened, it reminded me of how airline crews worked together when I was a summer flight attendant for Air Canada back in university days. I previously blogged about this in Team Building: What we Can Learn From Excellent Airline Crews.

It got me thinking. The core ingredients that make teams effective remain the same regardless of the industry or the project. It’s the same ingredients that make teams effective whether they are shooting a commercial, taking care of passengers on a flight, playing on the polo or football field, or performing as a member of a ballet company.

Here is how it comes together.


The Pitfalls of a Thriving in Chaos Approach


Miranda Mylne (Flickr)

Yet, these ingredients are sometimes missing in business environments.Why? Often, the pace is so hectic that little time is carved out for planning and role clarification. It’s fly by the seat of your pants, react, and scramble at the last minute. This serves no one.

I remember going through a merger at a large organization. It was announced but no time was spent discussing and clarifying roles and responsibilities at an operational level.

After a while, it was evident that people really weren’t clear about the roles of other teams and individuals. There was a lot of duplication of effort. This caused anxiety and some employees feared they might get laid off.

A Proactive Approach Minimizes Chaos

Even teams that face real life and death situations (e.g. police, firefighters, military, medical first responders) take the time to confer regularly. The stakes are rarely that high for corporate teams.

I often wonder what happened to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time there should be planning  and things proceed smoothly. 20% of the time there will be unforeseen events that require the last minute adjustment of plans. Today, it’s the reverse and the 1/99 rule. Organizations have come to accept mad scrambling as “normal” and it is burning people out.

The next time teams or team members seem to be working at cross purposes, call a time out and determine which of the 8 key ingredients is missing and take time to correct it. Better yet, learn from TV commercial crews and be proactive about it.

By the way, you’ll see me  longer in this  commercial which was filmed at a movie theatre on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Toronto. Enjoy.

Viral Video DIY Incubator

Viral video is one of the most effective approaches to on-line marketing. Your team will create, crew and shoot a viral video. Then, we’ll debrief the whole experience to uncover important learnings for your team. 



Executive Oasis International has teamed up with the acting studio where our President trains to bring you this powerful new team building simulation in Toronto.

Give your team hands-on experience in team power. You’ll walk away with a toolkit to enhance team effectiveness when you return to work.

If you do it right, it will pay for itself!

One thought on “Team Building Secrets From TV Commercial Crews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s