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Laurieby Casting Director, Laurie Records

…go without a solid understanding of the commercial process, and the “rules” that accompany it.

Last month, I challenged actors to increase their knowledge of the commercial process.  It may not be the most glamorous or exciting task in building your acting career, but I believe it to be essential.  Too often, actors breach basic industry etiquette or “break the rules” out of what I believe to be ignorance vs. mal intent.  When an actor breaks the rules, it can be annoying to a Casting Director.  It can also be earth shattering.  There is a time and place to bend the rules, but I say you have to know what they are before you break them.  No guessing, no winging it.  Your career, your DREAMS are too important and that’s what is at stake.  New things arise.  The commercial industry is ever evolving.  When you know the fundamentals of the process, and make it a point to stay current, you will make good decisions… and know when it’s appropriate to bend the rules.  I listed some resources to increase your knowledge of the ways of the industry, leaving the power and the responsibility exactly where it should be, in your hands.

Why the Cliffs Notes recap from last month?  Many of you contacted me after reading the article in hopes that I would LIST some of “the rules”.  I am more than happy to start you off, with the understanding that it will just begin to scratch the surface. 

Important to know from the get-go: In ridiculously simple terms, a Commercial Casting Director’s job (the portion that relates to the actor and is applicable here) is to provide a tape (more accurately, internet posting or DVD) of appropriate and talented actors for the clients to view, any of whom could later be booked and shoot the job.  Your goal should be to aid this process and not hinder it.

Here’s the set up:

The rule.

The way actors might “break the rules” and hinder the commercial process.

A possible bending of the rule.

*RULE* Submit on appropriate roles for you.

Actors sometimes submit on roles for which they are not appropriate.  There is a wide range of offenses in this category.  The most basic offense:  when you submit on a role that calls for the opposite sex or different ethnicity. Don’t submit on a role for an African American male when you are, in fact, an Asian female.  You may be tempted to do this in hopes of being considered for future work.  Please don’t.  It’s frustrating to deal with when the pace of commercials is what it is… CRAZY.  There is simply no time for inappropriate submissions.  Catch a CD on the wrong day (or any day if it’s their pet peeve) and they just might put a note on your account with a reminder to not call you in… ever, if they so choose.  This seemingly innocent act of submitting inappropriately could lead a Casting Director to question your discretion/judgment… and wonder how it might carry over to set, for example. Actors who make careless or poor choices in submitting, may make careless/poor choices on set. It isn’t a huge leap.

What is a worse offense in this realm?  Submitting on a role with a skill requirement that you do not have, or cannot do very well.  The CD will give you an audition (it’s Murphy’s Law) and you will either cancel (leaving a hole in their schedule) or you show up not being able to perform the skill to the necessary level needed… leaving them short on talent for the day and no time to call anyone else in.  What’s worse is when the client is actually sitting in the session witnessing it all happen.  It’s terribly embarrassing.  Casting Directors cannot look foolish in front of their client because they risk losing them.  Furthermore, misleading your Agent to believe you possess certain special skills is just as bad, if not worse.  You leave two instrumental people in your career upset with you when you stretch the truth.  When your Agent submits you, they are vouching to the CD that you have the necessary skill.  Their reputation is on the line and is damaged when you don’t.  When you have “broken the rules,” you will not always hear negative feedback.  Not getting yelled at doesn’t mean you got away with anything.  You may simply not be called in again.

An example of an informed decision to bend the rules:  When a CD is looking for someone with a special skill that you have, but you are slightly out of the age range.  You may want to submit with a note.

*RULE* Look like your headshot.

Actors walk into a casting NOT looking like their headshot far more often than one may think.  Commercially, this can be as serious as not having a skill.  An actor may have all the talent in the world, but if they don’t have the right look for the role, they can’t be put on tape.  The Casting Director’s “eye” (or lack thereof) would be brought into question, eventually leading to the loss of the client.  Old headshots can be a culprit, and so can the laziness of actors not wanting to get “dolled up” for the audition.  Again, when you do not look like your headshot, you risk leaving the Casting Director short on talent to send to their client, which is a big problem.  As stated before, when your Agent submits you to a Casting Director, they are vouching for you… in this case, that you look like your shots.  When you don’t, you leave both Agent and CD upset.

A possible rule bender:  If you know you need new headshots because yours no longer look like you… you could submit yourself with a note saying that your hair is now brown, 10 lbs heavier, mustache and beard, braces…. note the change.  Have an Agent?  Communicate the change(s) with them, until you can get new shots.

A side note:  Commercial Casting isn’t curing cancer or world peace… but it can be a high stakes, high-pressure job.  These seemingly crazy details actually DO matter and can have a big impact on a Casting Director’s job and relationship with their client. The loss of a client is a huge blow to a CD’s business.

*RULE* When submitting on a job, send your submission to the Casting Director.

Sometimes actors submit to the Producer, Executive Producer, Director, Ad agency, or Organization, and it is a serious breach of etiquette.  This is NOT the way to be creative and open new doors.  Submit to the Casting Director, only. Never research the name of one of these folks to come up with an email address (not to mention, phone number)… and shoot them your headshot/resume.  It makes the Casting Director look bad.  No harassing the Casting Director’s clients… and that is what you are doing.

Possible rule bender:  When you are a BFF of the Producer or Director… but if that’s the case, you will already be on their request list.  If your very good Producer or Director friend overlooked you, call them (they should be on speed dial) with a reminder.  That’s how well you need to know them.  Even then, consider very carefully before you do.  Dangerous territory.

Obviously there is too much to say in far too little time… just the tip of the iceberg.  When you put in the time and effort to be educated about the process, you will be more able to discern for yourself (in the moment!) what is appropriate, creative, risky, and horrendous.  Understanding the process = empowerment = confidence = making good choices.

If you find yourself wanting more of the “rules” spelled out in black and white, you may want to check out past articles.  There are plenty of gems regarding calling a casting office, arriving on time, conflicts, crashing auditions, etc., etc., etc.  For those who have been inquiring about a potential book, I kindly thank you for your interest and will surely keep you posted on the progress.  But, don’t wait on me.  Time spent learning the big picture of the commercial process will not fail you.  Make it a point to have the power of this knowledge firmly in your grasp.

Laurie Records, Casting Director