Commercial actors should never blow it after being called in as a request.
It will happen to you. Sooner or later, you’ll be called in as a “request” to attend an audition, or as a first call to callback… not from your agent submission via Casting Networks or your own self submission, but from a director, producer, or Ad agency creative that you know or have worked with in the past. This is a good thing. This is a really good thing. But I want to be sure that there is no chance of a good thing turning into a blazing bridge in your rear-view mirror. And there are definitely some less-than-perfect moves that can be made in this potentially tricky scenario. So, here are some things to consider ahead of time.
First of all, gather information. You may receive notice of the audition in a different way than you are used to. You may get a direct call from the casting director or you may get an email inquiring about your interest/availability. You could get a text for all I know, but it’s likely the contact won’t include all the very valuable information that normally accompanies an audition notice (project type, union status, usage, rate, shoot dates, etc. etc.) through a submission company. You should respond quickly (this is the case with everything in the commercial industry) and ask for the all-important basics. Why? Because you need to assess whether or not you can and will shoot the job, if it’s offered.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… NEVER audition for a job that you are unwilling to shoot, for any reason.
When you are a request for a SAG national network commercial, this isn’t a terribly hard decision to make. You will want to be sure you are avail for the shoot and aren’t holding a conflict, but there aren’t too many other reasons to turn the audition down. You stand to make some good money if you book the job and someone in the production already likes you. Score! But be sure to keep your agent in the know… or simply ask the casting director to channel the info through them. Easy. But what if the request is coming from a commercial director you’ve worked with, for a small role on a short deferred pay film he’s working on? Maybe it’s an Internet-only commercial that is holding a conflict. Those decisions may not be so clear. Do everything you can to gather enough information to know whether you could/would/should take the job if offered.
In general, I have a simple formula to help an actor decide whether he/she should take a job (or I’d say, accept an audition for the job):
Can you say yes to 2 of the following 3 questions?
-Does it pay well?
-Would it further your career?
-Would it be fun?
I love this formula, but I’d say that when you are a request, you might want to give additional, special consideration. Open your mind to taking a job you might not normally do, due to low pay, lame role… maybe there is another reason to audition and take the role if offered, even if you can’t answer yes to two of the three questions. Another reason: to thank the person for the favor (for lack of better word) of requesting you/hiring you in the past. That might be a legit reason in and of itself. A little goodwill in the universe never hurt anyone as far as I can tell.
Do you need more convincing? Do your research! Who are the players? Is a casting director you’ve never met before calling you in? Google them! They may be huge. Good reason to move forward. Who knows what that could mean for you in the future? Work begets work… I wholeheartedly believe this. Who will you meet on set? You’ll never know if you stop the process because the job is “beneath you” due to the pay or scope of the job/role.
When you are fortunate enough to be requested to come in for an audition, consider carefully (and quickly) as to whether you are willing and available to take the job. Talk to your agent! They will have an opinion and can help! If it’s a no go, decline the audition graciously and thankfully. Whatever you do, don’t attend the audition knowing you won’t accept the job… and the worry of a burned bridge will never be yours. And don’t forget to feel good about the request. Celebrate everything!