Commercial actors should never forget it’s a numbers game.
For those of you that have been reading this column for years, I apologize for any minor injury I’ve caused as you have likely just fallen off your seat. There is a camp of industry folk that preach the notion that getting cast in a commercial is simply a numbers game. It irks me, as I wholeheartedly disagree. The implication is that the commercial world is a game of chance and as long as your number is entered enough times, you’ll eventually win. This takes every ounce of personal responsibility and craft/study/technique out of the equation of success. Let’s say that the “numbers game” scenario is my pet peeve myth in the education of commercial actors.
Why then would I suggest that it’s a numbers game? Well, I’m playing with you a bit. I have a handful of friends that I share stories of casting woe or frustration with, and every now and then one will say, “That should be the next topic for your column.” Now you know why I never run out of ideas.
So, the numbers of which I address today, are actually the number of actors I have called in vs. cancels, no shows, and no responses to a casting session. A very long time ago, when I was first being educated about the commercial industry, I was told that the #1 goal of a commercial casting director is to have a “full” day’s worth of appropriate and talented actors on tape to send to their clients. I agree. That’s our job in the most simplified nutshell. When casting, I need to have an appropriate amount of actors per role, per day to send to the person who hired me.
I believe the success of a commercial casting director has a lot to do with the schedule they write. This, unfortunately, means accurately predicting the cancels and no shows…
Let me give you some real-life numbers:
Kids. I’ve had a handful of jobs lately that consisted entirely of kids, or had kids in the mix. The dropout rate for kids is higher than the average adult casting session. Getting kids to show up in the summer is harder than getting them to show up during the school year. There are more no shows (kids that are confirmed, but just never arrive) than with most adult sessions. When I was telling my friend that I had to schedule roughly 30% more kids than I actually wanted to arrive at my session, to ensure a full day… she was flabbergasted. Hence, the topic.
Job # 1: 1800 submissions for 2 kid roles. 70 scheduled. 49 confirmed. 46 showed.
Job # 2: 2400 submissions for 4 kid roles. 120 scheduled in 2 days. 86 confirmed. 88 showed.
Adults. The dropout rate for adults is less than kids… but not always by much. There are factors that seem to influence these rates, but you may be surprised by the amount of adult actors who don’t come to an audition for whatever that reason may be.
Job #1: 17,000 submissions for 10 roles (ages 19-35. M&F). 290 scheduled. 237 confirmed. 233 showed.
Job #2: 1800 submissions for 1 adult role (age 35-40 F). 55 scheduled. 45 showed.
Very specialized roles: If you possess a very special skill… the numbers/your chances get much, much better. The cancel/flake factor is still there, like in other instances, but the competition is much less.
Job #1 200 submissions for 6 roles. 44 scheduled. 33 confirmed. 28 showed.
Job # 2 70 submissions for 2 kid roles. 27 scheduled. 25 showed.
Models/Beautiful people. Getting really beautiful people to show up to an audition is sometimes difficult. Getting them to show up at 10:30 in the morning is even more difficult. Again, as always, you are just getting my opinion (someone else may say something else)… but the prettier the woman, more handsome the man, the seemingly harder it is to get them to the studio, certainly at a designated time. It must be nice.
Job #1 1000 submissions for 1 role (age 25-28 F). 30 scheduled. 23 confirmed. 20 showed. 800 submissions for 1 role (25-29 M) 26 scheduled. 15 confirmed. 17 showed (2 unconfirmed decided to come).
Men/Women. In general, there are a higher number of submissions for female (both kids and adults) roles than men. In general, it can be harder to get women to come on time in the morning, especially if they need to come dressed/made up.
Type of job, time of year, weather (etc.) alter the numbers. There are many factors in how many submissions are received per role. The higher caliber the job, the more submissions will be received. The gender, age range, and ethnicity matters, certainly. The caliber of the job is a factor in actors confirming and showing up. As far as I can tell, it’s easier to blow off a non-union job with a buyout than a national network commercial. If there is a holiday in the horizon, the numbers of cancels/no shows will increase. When it rains, there are more cancels and no shows for sure.
Bottom line… you can’t book a job if you don’t show up for the audition. No matter what the job or role, you were selected from a zillion submissions. Let that fact boost your confidence and defeat your laziness and apathy. Confirm early. Arrive on time and be prepared. These are a few of the essential steps in booking a commercial… ok, maybe not the, “confirm early and arrive on time” part. That will just endear you to the casting office and make everyone’s life better. The showing up part… folks, you’ve gotta do that.