I believe whenever possible, a casting director puts great care and consideration into building a project, otherwise known as a breakdown. A commercial breakdown is chock full of incredibly important information. Everything you need to know about a project should be right there, in black and white. Things like union status, audition dates, callbacks, shoot, rate, usage, and all kinds of other job terms are right there. Role descriptions, of course, are also found in the breakdown. Sometimes they are broad and other times the role descriptions may contain very specific requirements. Any requirements listed on a breakdown require attention and should be followed carefully.
Commercial actors should never ignore the MUST and MUST NOTs in a breakdown.
I know there are voices out there encouraging actors to do whatever you have to do to get in the room. After all, even if you don’t get the part, you can win over the office. I love the concept of being so good that the casting office is won over (which means you WILL be back)… even if you don’t book the job. I do not, however, support the idea of doing whatever you have to do to get into the room, if it involves lying. I’m also not into the encouragement of ignoring very clear mandates (I guess I’ll call them that) in a breakdown.
If a project says that you MUST be able to stand on your head for three minutes, you must be able to stand on your head for three minutes. I think we have talked about special skills enough to know that you REALLY must be able to do them, and do them VERY WELL when being seen for a role with that requirement. At some point you will have to prove it, and it won’t be pretty when you can’t. Resist the notion that getting into the room is the most important part, even if you can’t perform the necessary skill, because…? I’m not sure why actors do this. Because you won’t book this job, but the office will now know you and call you in for something else? That isn’t how it works. If you have wasted the casting office’s time by lying (let’s just call a spade a spade) about your abilities, then you won’t be asked to come back again.
But special skills aren’t the only things actors lie about or ignore. I’ve been a part of jobs where the actors were required to have taken a particular cancer medication to be eligible to audition. Usually, that the actor is asked to sign an affidavit. AND STILL, I’ve witnessed actors lie about this. I’m guessing that they never thought they’d be caught.
I just cited some big examples. But I can’t stress enough that the seemingly little tiny examples are just as important to the project at hand as the big examples are to the projects they belong to.
If a role requires you to be a certain height, you have to be that height. Exactly. It may not seem like a big deal to you to be an inch shorter or taller than the requirement… I get it. It probably wouldn’t seem like a big deal to me, either. Who cares? Well, I can assure you, someone does. And that someone is someone very important. And if it’s that important to that important person, it doesn’t matter how amazing you are, you won’t get the role. So ignoring the requirement…the statement that the actor MUST be 5’10-5’11” just to get into the room is a bad idea. You don’t win over the office with your professionalism and talent; you make them angry and frustrated.
Parents, I’m talking to you, too. When you receive an audition for your child and you see a requirement that your child does not fill, you cannot go to the audition. These could be things your agent might not know. Kids change every day. If there is a requirement that the kid have no missing teeth, then they can have no missing teeth. Their agent doesn’t get a daily check in from you about the minutiae of your child’s development, and nor should they. But you have to be honest and let them know! And for the love of Pete, don’t go to the audition. You look like a jerk and so does the agent, when you have blatantly ignored a mandate. If you want your kid to get audition experience, enroll them in a class. Having them attend an audition they aren’t appropriate for is always a bad idea—terrible, in fact.
You may never have the luxury of knowing why a casting director asks for the things they ask on a commercial breakdown. They may not even know. But you must believe that it is important, imperative and non-negotiable, no matter how insignificant the MUST or MUST NOT statement may seem. Don’t ignore, don’t misrepresent, and don’t lie. These seemingly little things become heinous crimes in a field where absolute perfection is required…and I’m talking about my job here. The casting director is held to a ridiculous level of perfection. Help them out by being truthful about the requirements listed in the breakdown. You are helping yourself out, too, I assure you.
You can make it into the room once, through deceit, and not book the job, and not be invited back. Or you can wait a little longer to be legitimately seen and have a lifetime of auditions, with all sorts of potential bookings at that office ahead of you. Seems like a clear choice to me.