by Casting Director, Laurie Records
Something magical happened the other day. I had a perfect casting session. Pretty much. And it wasn’t under the perfect circumstances. There were far too many roles to be properly cast in one day. It was a union job but the pay for the actors was truly minimal. I didn’t have enough time to prep and the pressure was on. This is a difficult scenario. I arrived the morning of the session sweating bullets. Why then, did it go so well? Let’s examine.
Commercial actors should never stop being a positive force for change in their commercial community.
More bad (interesting — amazing actually!) news: There were too many actors due to come in. When I write a schedule, I plan on a certain percentage of cancels/no responders. Therefore, I over-schedule to compensate for the cancellations. Crazy thing…everyone confirmed. Almost every single actor was confirmed by 6:00 pm the night before. This never happens. I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. I was thrilled, but panicked because the last thing I want is a lobby full of actors who are waiting for waaaay too long. This is not a scenario that produces great performances. This is of great concern to me.
My staff knew I was stressed. They were ready for an all work and no play day. We were going to get through it. The actors began to arrive. They were on time (aka a little early). They were in the proper, specific wardrobe. They read through the important material posted about the job. Sides were grabbed. The lobby was silent. Patient. We gave group explanations, and got the actors in and out. No actors were coming in out of category. No actors were asking questions that were answered in the written material. No actors had to be given an individual explanation after being given the group explanation. It was an A-game day for everyone.
At the end of the day, my assistant said that it was the smoothest job she had ever worked on. The actors were kind and respectful to her, and to each other, without exception. I received an exceptionally high number of thank you emails from actors who attended. Again I ask, what happened?
It was a theatrical job I was casting. That is the only explanation I can give. The ironic thing is I called all actors in through LA Casting, known for its commercial corner on the market. So, these were “commercial” actors attending the audition, or certainly actors who have been on plenty of commercial auditions. And yet, commercial auditions tend to go very differently, and unfortunately, typically it’s not for the better. For the life of me, I don’t know why. There seems to be a different culture in commercials than in film and television.
I love commercial actors and I love casting commercials. It’s how I make a living. It’s what I choose to do. I don’t want to change this. But I’ve heard enough from many of you to know that there is a certain level of UGH/unpleasantness attached to commercial auditions. Whether it’s due to the wait time, chaos, lobby mind games, volume, changing copy, the matching up of families or appropriate partners and there’s three moms and no dads, it can all be frustrating. Plenty of the responsibility lands in the lap of the casting office and production company. If the culture of commercials were to change, it would have to be a group effort. But the power to change the commercial audition experience is in your capable actor hands, as well. Imagine a commercial world where the lobby was busy but organized. Actors are dutifully signing in, gathering information and grabbing the copy (yes, the UPDATED copy that changed from what was put out the night before) and get seated/stand quietly. A reasonable number of actors are present. No crashers, no one out of category or walking in at their leisure, and no one complaining to the assistant or talking too loudly with the others they brought with them. A professional experience.
If you commit to setting the example, let’s just say the “theatrical” example in commercial lobbies everywhere…surely the goodness will spread, in time. It may be hard at first…it’s always hard to be the better person, to set the example when others may be behaving badly. But eventually the new kids will see how it works. The complainers will stick out like a sore thumb. The person coming in out of category will graciously come back five hours later, at their appointment time.
Again, the responsibility of the casting office as well as the production company in helping this scenario to work does not escape me. But I write thoughts for actors, not for my peers or the people who hire me. But you have MY casting team’s commitment to making the commercial audition experience the best I possibly can. How about you?
Laurie Records, Casting Director