This month’s column is brought to you by the little blunders I observed (or lived through as the case may be) from my casting perch. These are seemingly little things that can turn into great big disasters under certain circumstances.
Commercial actors should never make the little goofs that can become a big bad deal.
Check your email. Let’s face it. A lot of us prefer texting. I’m completely guilty. Casting Networks is super cool to offer text notifications with an audition or callback. Hooray! But other important—actually the most important info—can come over email. Some other services only deliver audition notices via email. That’s right, we don’t even have the option to call/text you, if you have submitted yourself on a job. This was a bit shocking to me when I wanted to put a talent on AVAIL and had only one option of contact: email. So when I say check your email… I mean check your email every 30 minutes or so. Things move along at lightning speed in this industry and it’s only going to get faster and faster. If you check your email morning, noon and night, that could mean hours could go by before we hear back from you. And “hours” with an “s” is too long. For those of you who don’t like to be connected to your devices all the time… unfortunately I’m going to say you have to get over that in this industry. We are a connected bunch. The worst case scenario, for this seemingly minor thing… you make the casting director look bad and we move on to a different choice… meaning you don’t book the job. Gulp.
This may be a controversial suggestion, but consider including your personal phone number on your website, in addition to your agent’s info. When you have self-submitted to a casting director and we don’t have a phone number for you (again, this happens on other submission sites)… we really can’t call your agent. It doesn’t work that way. If your personal number on your website doesn’t sound good, let’s go back to my initial plea: check your email often.
Know where to find copy/sides and how to download them. I always have one or two actors email me who are unable to find the posted copy/sides. You should definitely know where to find them. Ask your agent or ask an actor friend. Not earth-shattering. But this means inconveniencing the casting director or coming in unprepared. Neither is great.
Ask questions at the avail stage instead of the booking stage of things. When things aren’t crystal clear at the first call, or even the callback, make sure your questions are answered when you are put on avail. There is a lot more secrecy around commercials these days. There are NDAs and code names and sometimes very little info about the job can be in print. But don’t wait until the time of booking. Sometimes a casting director is booking two talent… then it’s no big deal to have a 5-minute conversation with you/your agent about the job. But if we are booking 35, it’s a different story. Bookings always need to happen fast. Super fast. Get your questions answered before then. And heaven forbid you don’t like the answer to the questions… if there is a problem we need to know well in advance of booking time. Don’t give casting a reason to panic. Get your questions answered with plenty of time. And make sure you are asking questions that truly haven’t been answered in the breakdown. That’s a waste-of-time-bummer for us. Extra time isn’t anything a casting director has… pretty much ever.
Know your SAG AFTRA status. If you are a member, you should know if you are in good standing. If you book the job, and aren’t in good standing, take care of it immediately. If you are not a member, you should know where you are in the process. Have you had a Taft Hartley? Will you be an OK 30 or will you come up as a Must Join? I think they’ve changed the wording slightly (“must join” might mean “must pay”) but you all catch my drift. You cannot be hired on a job where you must join… and not be prepared (mentally, emotionally, and financially) to join. Some casting directors will remind you on lower paying SAG jobs (an industrial, for example) that if you are hired, and you come up as a must join, that you will indeed have to join… on a job with a paycheck much lower than the initiation fee, and some won’t. It isn’t our job to remind or warn you of this, so don’t count on it. Know your status. Being surprised that you have to join SAG AFTRA when you aren’t ready is a total disaster.
Last but not least, call times. You have been booked on a job, it shoots tomorrow, it’s 4:00 pm and you haven’t got your call time. This is not surprising. I’d start to be concerned at 8:00 pm and may send an email/make a call at 9:00 pm. Call times tend to go out in the evening, often late-ish evening for the next day. Don’t panic. And honestly the casting director has nothing to do with the call times going out… nor do they know when they will or what your time is. That is a question for production, but give them some time. They are working on it.
Ok, some of these are little things… and some are little things with BIG potential consequences. Now you know and you won’t be part of the problem. And sorry about having to check your email all the time. Believe me, I feel your pain.