by Casting Director, Laurie Records
…fail to know the general timeline for avails and bookings to go out, after a callback.
You have had the commercial callback. You think it went pretty well, went horribly, you are positive you’ll book it or positive the actor who went in before you is the sure bet… or you have no idea. None of this matters, anyway. Talk to any commercial veteran and you will realize that your gut feeling seldom has anything to do with what actually happens when it comes to booking time. But it is nice to have a general idea of when/how avails and booking info typically comes out. Judging by the number of questions I get about this very subject, it could be safe to say you may not have this information.
Commercial actors should never fail to know the basic timeline from callbacks through the release of avails.
Of course you will have the wardrobe and shoot date(s) before you attend the callback, because you will have had to double check that you are free and clear to accept the booking. If this isn’t a part of your regular commercial routine, to double-check the wardrobe/shoot dates, it should be. Besides knowing the dates in order to keep them clear, they will give you clues as to whether your chances of booking are strong… or possibly waning as time goes along.
Avails: In general, the first choices and backups are chosen for each role directly after the callback session. Occasionally the casting director will be given them the next day when not all decision makers are able to attend the callback. When the callback ends at a reasonable time, avail calls can go out the same day before the 6:00PM end of business day deadline. I rarely attempt to put out avail calls after 6:00 or 6:30 because it becomes difficult to get an agent on the office phone, and generally, I don’t see an avail as an after hours conversation. When I am given avails after hours, I will put them out the next business day, starting around 10:00AM. I think this is normal. There are all sorts of scenarios where talent could be put on avail days after the callbacks. Anything is possible in commercials. But, in general, if you haven’t been put on avail by the end of the day after callbacks, you are likely not one of the initial selects.
Booking: In general, talent aren’t booked until the business day before the wardrobe fitting. There have been plenty of times I’ve booked talent the same day as their wardrobe appointment. This is rarely the goal and not the norm…. but absolutely possible and happens. Usually, the powers that be wait until all roles in the spot has been approved, possibly all spots approved before giving the OK to the casting director to book the talent. So, what’s taking so long? That could be it. Other times, talent could be booked several days ahead of the wardrobe/shoot. That happens, too.
If you are put on avail long after the callbacks or on wardrobe day—even at the beginning of a multiple day shoot—there may have been some sort of complication, but who cares? You are on avail! Bookings can still come in after the shoot has begun when there are multiple days. If you haven’t been released from your avail, you are still in the running, as long as the last shoot date hasn’t passed.
Release of avails: In general, avails are released after all roles have been booked and the actors have confirmed. I know it is a pet peeve of many when commercial casting directors fail to release avails. I’m sorry that happens. But if the final shoot date is upon you, and you haven’t received a call saying you are booked, you should consider yourself released from your avail. I don’t think casting directors are trying to torture you by not releasing; surely it just slips their mind from time to time.
Did you notice the words “in general” appear about a million times? That’s because this industry is crazy and anything can happen, really. But it’s always good to know what the norm is. Several days after the callback and you haven’t heard a peep? You probably aren’t in the mix. Could that change? Sure. But probably not. Hopefully this is a help to know when your hopes should remain high or when you might want to come to terms with not booking a job. When you felt good about a callback, don’t let a lack of avail change that. You should feel good and it’s highly likely you were good. I will never say that commercials are a numbers game. I by no means believe they are. But if you keep getting callbacks and keep getting avails, you are doing something tremendously right, and the bookings will come.
Laurie Records, Casting Director