Commercial actors should never be under-educated about taking time off.
Taking time off can be a tricky thing. I’m tempted to simply suggest never doing it and it would be the shortest, sweetest (well, depending on how you look at it) column ever. Don’t take time off. Missed opportunities are harmful to your career. Period. Duh. There are a few ridiculously committed (or crazy… again, depending on how you look at it) commercial actors out there who subscribe to this idea. I salute you. But for most of us… taking some time off every now and then is necessary. If not for your own sanity and burnout level, then out of obligation. Sometimes you need to book out and take off.
If you need to take time off, and have the luxury of some choice in the matter, you might as well be smart about it.
There are no “official” slower and busier months in commercials, but there sure are some trends. In general, January, February and March can be quite busy. If I were you, I would stay in town. Sometimes commercials start with a BANG right after New Year’s… and sometimes it takes until mid/end of January to really get busy. April tends to be a slower month. There has been speculation that it has something to do with taxes. Who knows, but April/May may be a good time to plan that spring trip to Europe. Summer in general is slower… but there are back-to-school ads to be made, so June/July typically has some stuff going on. August thru December tends to be pretty busy. There are plenty of holiday ads going on-and don’t forget about all the Super Bowl commercials. This is not an exact science by any means. From my perspective, this is general truth. Ask another industry professional, and they may have a variation or two.
You may feel like it is no big deal to book out a couple of days each month. I certainly wouldn’t say it is (although your agent may disagree) but you should know what “a couple of days” or a week really means. When you book yourself out for a handful of days, you may be taking yourself off the radar longer than you think. When casting a commercial, the talent (usually) need to be available for all dates in order to be seen… the first calls, the callbacks, and the shoot. If you’ve booked out for the callback date, you can’t be seen for the first calls. If you book out for one of multiple shoot days, most of the time production won’t want to take the chance that it will all work out. They’d rather see people totally, 100% available, so you won’t be called in. When you book out for a few days, you may notice that you don’t have many (if any) auditions the week prior, or even for a few days after returning home. I know an actor who says when they book out for a week; they mentally prepare themselves for three weeks of no auditions-the week before and the week after. It may be a slight exaggeration, but there’s definitely some truth to the statement.
How does one have a life AND a career in commercials? Well, you have to find your own balance. I tend to make mini getaways, within a few hours of LA and know that if push comes to shove and I get a job (which are usually very last-minute, similar to commercial audition turnaround) I cut my time short and boogie on home. I plan my bigger trips for slower months and mentally prepare to (worst case scenario) hop on a plane early.
When can you gamble and *almost* bank a handful of days that you can safely take off? Holidays. The 4th of July is a good example. The joke is that the 4th of July is one day… but production will take the entire week off. Same for Memorial Day, etc. A one-day holiday can mean several of the surrounding days will be quiet. When you want to ensure you are missing the fewest amount of opportunities when taking time off, look to escape around a holiday.
On a side note, interested in being a part of a smaller casting pool? Stay in town for the holidays! There’s always something being cast… with far less actors willing/available to work.
In the end, make informed decisions when taking time off, and enjoy.