To submit or not to submit, that is the question. Just when I think I’ve written/talked enough about the art of self-submitting in the commercial world, I have a casting session that makes me think there’s more to be said. Or that I need to say it again. Or I need to jump up and down and scream these things from the top of my lungs. I’ll refrain from the jumping up and down part. You wouldn’t see it anyway and there would be a lot of typos to decipher. But I will risk sounding like a Negative Nancy this month and give it to you in plain speak. Self-submitters: this one is for you.
Commercial actors should never fail to know when not to submit.
Once upon a time I heard stories that some actors choose to self-submit on every single job… for every single role. After seven years in commercial casting, I’m here to tell you, this is true (granted, on a very small scale), and this is idiotic. Ignoring gender, ethnicity and age range requests, is a strange move at best. Don’t do it. I’m not sure why someone would… I’m guessing to be noticed? Remembered? Well, you are, but not in the way you want to be. You won’t be called in and likely banned from ever doing so.
There are less offensive actors who submit based on gender, ethnicity and age range alone. Not a great choice, either. Read the description. There may be additional physical descriptions or skills required… or even certain training. Submit only if you fit the bill. If you’re tempted to submit when you don’t quite fit, but want to be seen or get on the casting director’s radar, shoot them an email instead.
So, you fit the role being cast. Is it ok to submit now? Not even close.
The next set of questions to ask yourself is whether or not you are available to do the job. This issue isn’t as easily answered as you may think. Start with the audition. Are you available for that? I wouldn’t consider before 10:00 and after 5:30 available. Commercials are primarily cast during business hours. Are you really available? Don’t submit hoping the casting director will go an additional day (not listed) that you are available or that they’ll see you off hours. When there are multiple casting days listed, and you are available for some of them, leave a note! No need to hope you’ll get lucky and get an appointment you can actually make, just leave a note saying when you are and aren’t available to come in. Are you available for the callback? Wardrobe? Shoot? And when I ask, “Are you available for the shoot date(s)?” I mean, are you entirely, totally and completely available for the shoot date(s). Available until 5:00 on a shoot date is not available. When you have some minor limitations, go ahead and submit, but make it known ASAP what the limitations are.
Now can you submit? Not quite yet.
This is a big one: Are you *willing* to accept the role? Commercials aren’t usually terribly controversial, but if you have moral issues with certain companies, with eating meat, with whatever… you need to work that out with yourself before you submit, NOT after you get the audition. Do you have a conflict? Don’t submit. That’s just black and white. Even a few non-union jobs will hold conflicts from time to time. Check that detail and be ok with it, if you choose to submit. Will you work for the rate? The rate issue is also a very important thing to decide before submitting, not after you’ve received an appointment time. Even some union jobs have some relatively low rates, depending on the usage. If your time is more valuable than the rate being offered, walk away…without submitting.
The goal should be to NEVER cancel/decline an audition. No kidding. For those of you in the habit of mass submitting on everything emailed to you (which is based ONLY on gender, age range and ethnicity) and sorting everything out after you are offered a precious audition appointment (like availability, rate, conflicts, etc.)… STOP. Stop doing that. Being an actor who cancels audition appointments (or WORSE, doesn’t respond at all) will land you in the “never call in” list, lickety split. Too many cancels/no responders create a nightmare scenario in any casting session.
Be the actor who is the solution, not the problem.
I know this wasn’t exactly Zen and the Art of the Self-Submission…but a little tough love is necessary from time to time. And I blow over-the-Internet kisses to the actors who, after reading, think every last detail of this month’s column is a no-brainer. To those who believe I’m off my rocker to write of such things… I love you guys.