An actor self-submitting has become a definite THING. And for the most part I think it’s a good thing. A good option, both for actors and for casting directors. But it’s also tricky. There are pitfalls galore, and I believe in a truly perfect world I would book all actors through agent submissions. Simply put, things tend be more efficient when booking goes though an agent. But this isn’t a perfect world so we should address the topic.
Commercial actors should never fail to know the etiquette of self-submission from the time of AVAILS to the booking.
Let’s face it, there are do’s and don’ts from the moment you submit yourself on a job until you are exiting the door of the casting studio post audition. I’ve covered this topic in previous columns. If you are interested, start sifting through the archives.
But what happens when you get a call or email saying that you are on AVAIL? What then? There seems to be a wide range of answers. Let me throw mine in the ring.
In theory, when you’ve submitted yourself on the project, gone to the audition, attended the callback, received the avail call…you should see the process all the way through – even the booking – yourself. This remains true, even if you have an agent. You started it, you should finish it. Just make sure you are communicating the info to your agent so there is no conflict with the jobs they are submitting you on. Communication is key, but YOU should be doing it, not the casting director. I’ve been asked from time to time, if I would start taking the info to the agent vs. the actor who submitted themselves on the project, at the point of them being put on avail. I personally don’t have a problem with this request. Other casting directors may not feel so accommodating. All I ask is that the actor bring the agent up to speed with all information that has been given and to have them contact me. This way, I don’t have to look up contact info for the agent or reiterate all the info. When I have to reiterate, it essentially means I’m doing twice the work and/or taking twice the time. This is when a casting director could get irritated.
Now, when you’ve requested that your agent take over communication with the casting director, this means you have removed yourself from the loop. You lose the option to contact the casting director, direct, because your agent is now doing that. ALL questions should now be directed at your agent. Are you still on avail? Has the job booked? Which day will you be shooting? What is your call time? Is there a wardrobe fitting? When would that be? What is the rate? Again, when the agent takes over, these questions are asked of them, not the casting director. Otherwise, the casting director is answering the same questions from the agent and the actor, creating twice the work. This is when a casting director could get irritated.
I’m guessing you are catching my drift at this point.
Then there’s the +20% (or 10%, 15%, whatever) agency fee. This is very tricky. In theory, if you have submitted yourself and handled the job all the way through the booking/shoot, there is no additional agency fee provided to your agent. They weren’t involved in the process. I’m not an expert in the agent/actor relationship, but if you have agreed to pay a certain percentage to the agent when you book a job (ANY paid job) and I believe most of you have, you owe them a check. But it isn’t the additional +20% listed on the breakdown. They didn’t handle the job. The 20% won’t be paid to them. That money comes out of your paycheck. You should never ask for the additional 20% hoping you can pocket the money yourself or even to pass it on to your agent. It’s simply not how it works. I’ve been asked. Don’t do it. Sometimes the agent can collect the agency fee if they take over the job at the point of callbacks or an avail. That’s a grey area and it likely depends on the job or the casting director as to whether that is acceptable or not. Some casting directors will refuse and even make a note of it on the breakdown. Tread carefully.
When you are handling a booking on your own, don’t ask questions of the casting director that you shouldn’t be asking. What are those? Any questions that are already answered on the breakdown, for starters. Make sure you have read the breakdown carefully before taking up the casting director’s time. You might also consider asking other actors or even searching the Internet for an answer to your question. Example: You need to submit an invoice the production company. What information does the invoice need to include? If an agent handling the booking would know the answer to the question, you should attempt to find the answer from some place other than the casting director. Ask an actor friend who has booked paying jobs solo in the past. Maybe a teacher or coach could be a good resource. Google it!
Booking a job on your own is tricky territory. In the end, when you are careful and thorough…and always respectful, you will likely be just fine.