I tend to repeat things. I repeat the important stuff. I repeat the stuff that you really should never, ever do. If you’ve been reading for a while you will be able to recite this line as I type it: Never audition for a job when you are unavailable for the shoot date. Period. I emphatically stand by this statement, but it has come to my attention that there could be different ideas of what “available” actually means.
Commercial actors should never lack an understanding of “availability.”
When you are unavailable to shoot a job, it means you have a commitment on the shoot date that you can’t/won’t get out of… even if someone offers you a role in a commercial. The commitment could be anything: a vacation, a wedding, your child’s fieldtrip, or a rehearsal. I’ve had an actor decline a booking because their child was having a big birthday party on the day of the shoot. This would have been FINE (honestly, the casting director doesn’t care about the reason for your non-availability) if she had disclosed that she was unavailable for that particular shoot date at the first call or even the callback. The first I heard of the conflict with the shoot was when I went to book her. That’s a gigantic problem. You have complete control of deciding what is important enough to you to “book out” on any particular day. The only reason casting could be distressed is if you fail to communicate this clearly. Your agent, on the other hand, may want to weigh in on your reasons to book out if it becomes excessive. Bottom line: don’t audition for a job that you are unavailable (plans you can’t/won’t change) to shoot.
I’ve heard rumors suggesting actors should go ahead and audition for a job that they aren’t actually available to shoot, with the hopes they will be liked so much the producers would change the shoot date. This may be possible for a student/indie film but it certainly doesn’t work for a commercial. Bad advice. The shoot day won’t be changed, be honest with your availability.
When a commercial has a span of potential shoot days, and you are unavailable for one of them, go ahead and go to the audition, but let casting know about the date you are unavailable from the get-go. As long as everyone knows every step of the way (and yes, you should reiterate the date at the callback, when put on avail, etc. etc.) you are in the clear.
Here’s where there may be some misunderstanding when it comes to availability for a shoot… when you are put ON AVAIL for a job, does it mean you are no longer available for the shoot on another job with the same shoot date? No. This is not what that means. When you are placed ON AVAIL for the 15th, you should absolutely continue to audition for jobs with the same shoot date. Why? Because you haven’t booked the job on the 15th… you are holding the date. You are still available for any job on the 15th until you book something on that day. It’s imperative that you communicate the fact that you are ON AVAIL for another job on the 15th when going out for other jobs, you can even accept another AVAIL for the same date as long as they know they are in the second position. You will be placed ON AVAIL many more times than you will actually book a job. Continue to go out for other jobs with the same shoot date with a clear conscience, as long as you communicate your AVAIL. Your agent will help you with this issue, no doubt. But you know how I feel, knowledge is power and whether you have an agent or not, you should be clear on this topic. For those without an agent, hopefully this has cleared up any availability questions you may have.