expect to be given a timeframe…
The art of scheduling a commercial audition session is a serious one. Shall I nutshell a Casting Director’s job in one stupidly simple sentence? To have a full day (or days) worth of talented and appropriate (in every way) actors on “tape” for the clients and director to view, callback, book and shoot the job. The initial casting sessions are essential to the process. All steps of the casting process ride on the success of the initial casting session(s). Selecting the right talent to come in is certainly wildly important… but the scheduling is also. I think of scheduling as a deceptively simple task that can go terribly wrong. Excessive use of the beloved “timeframe” is most certainly one of the culprits.
Commercial actors should never feel it is their right to be given a timeframe/change.
Some Casting Directors regularly give timeframes for commercial auditions. It could be something like: “We are seeing hero women 10:00-1:00 and the two brothers from 2:00-5:00. Use the timeframe if needed.” Some occasionally give them out depending on the needs involved in the casting, and some don’t give any at all. Sometimes, Casting Directors clearly state that no timeframes will be given.
I am a little surprised when I hear an actor talk about asking for a timeframe as if it is standard… as if it is on the “actor checklist” right alongside confirming the audition time, checking the wardrobe, location, etc. On a recent job, an actor asked me for a timeframe and when I said that I couldn’t accommodate it, he said, “Well, a guy has to ask, doesn’t he?” My simple, non-sugarcoated answer is no. No, you don’t have to ask casting (if you have submitted yourself on the job) or your Agent to get a timeframe/time change for you. You shouldn’t. It isn’t your right. It isn’t the standard. It should be requested on rare and special occasions.
What’s the big deal? One of my favorite phrases to give to actors is: Casting is not trying to torture you. When it comes to timeframes, it may seem that we are being inflexible. It may seem that we are unnecessarily exerting our power, simply because we can. I’m sure this happens from time to time, but I believe, in general casting will give a timeframe when they can. The trouble is… it can seriously “screw up” the schedule. You’ve all waited and waited in the lobby and wondered what the heck happened to create such a backup. Well, giving timeframes is one of the possibilities. Why is this bad for you? It’s inconvenient to have to wait and you are likely not given as much attention/explanation/redirection in the room, because there is a rush to get you out before being fined by SAG (the one hour audition rule). You have all been to a commercial audition where groups are being formed. It’s hard to build a family when you have multiple dads and kids waiting… and no moms present. Inevitably, all the moms come in at once and have no family to be seen with. Disaster. Timeframes will do that. The Casting Director wants to see you. They selected you out of thousands to come in, but it’s less risky to replace you (and have a smooth casting session with everyone arriving at their appointed time) than to have you come in at a different time.
So what’s the harm in asking if the Casting Director can simply say, “no”? Intern at a casting office for a day or two and you will be able to answer this question without me. Even in the day of online casting, the phone still rings off the hook. Timeframes/time changes usually require multiple phone calls to confirm. It gets hectic, I assure you. Answering individual emails/online requests for a timeframe/change is time consuming. If I may be so bold to speak on behalf of the Agents out there, it’s a huge pet peeve for the same reasons. I bet an Agent’s phone rings even more than at a casting office… they likely have more emails coming in as well. Commercials have the fastest paced casting process there is. There isn’t time… there just isn’t time. I don’t know how else to say it.
What is a legitimate reason to request a timeframe? You have a callback at the same time. Usually there is little to no flexibility with callback appointments. That would be a great time to ask for one. Juggling several auditions, an emergency, a one-time thing that can’t be rescheduled… all fine reasons to ASK. Non legitimate reasons to ask for a timeframe/change: you aren’t a morning person and it’s too early, your given time is during rush hour and across town, you are working at your day job, you will have to reschedule coffee with a friend, your parents are in town and you were going to go to the Getty Museum… There will always be a more convenient time than what you were given. It’s in your actor job description that you arrive at the scheduled time, on time (code for EARLY) for your audition.
I know I’m not exactly “Mary Sunshine” this month, perhaps next month Mary will return in all her upbeat glory. For now, I’ll leave you with the hard, cold facts: It’s the actor’s job to be flexible, not the casting office. It is possible for an actor to become known in the casting office (and certainly with your Agent) as the actor who always asks for a timeframe. That’s NOT the first thing you want casting to think of when they see your headshot… and I promise you, it happens. I can list a substantial list of “timeframe actors” off the top of my head from four years of casting. It’s just too easy for a Casting Director to avoid the inevitable “timeframe” phone call by calling in someone else instead. The ray of sunlight, when given an appointment that is less than convenient? You should feel so, so, so good that you have been chosen from literally thousands of submissions to come in. The Casting Director really does want to see you. They are excited to have you come in. Save the request for a timeframe/change for the times you really need it, to ensure you keep being invited back.