Let’s face it; actors keep secrets, sometimes. They keep them from their agents as well as casting directors. It’s not hard to understand the reason…they don’t want to get in trouble. I’m sure I’m guilty of the same thing from time to time. If I were to guess, not booking out (for whatever reason: an out of town getaway, work…) would top the list. Why? You want/need to do what you want/need to do, but don’t want to be on the receiving end of frustration from your agent with your being unavailable. Actors get dropped for these sorts of things when it becomes excessive. I think another commonly kept secret is when an actor self-submits for jobs their agents have forbidden them to submit on. Need an example? A commercial agent gives their consent for self-submission on any project other than commercial jobs. And the actor does it anyway. Or, the actor self-submits on low pay jobs when the agent would prefer they wouldn’t. Plenty of actors JUST WANT TO WORK. But it’s a difficult conversation to have with your agent when the agent is more than aware that low pay jobs can get in the way of higher paid jobs. The easiest solution might be keeping these sorts of things on the “DL.”
Commercial actors should think twice before keeping secrets.
As far as the booking out scenario goes… I don’t have much to say about it, as it’s primarily an agent/actor interaction. I’ll leave the discussion of the importance and the “why” to an agent column. But I will say that in the end, the casting director is affected when there is a big ‘ole CANCEL marked by your audition appointment. You’ve heard me say countless times that the primary (only) goal of a casting director for their session is to get a proper amount of talented and appropriate actors for each role on tape. Your cancellation does NOT further that goal. In fact, it hinders it. As far as I’m concerned, you should religiously book out. I’d much rather never see your fabulous face in my submissions than schedule you and have you cancel because then I have to replace you on short notice, which can be less than easy.
There is a giant grey area in the next secret-keeping realm. Actors who self-submit. I have been on the winning and losing end of this particular secret. There are agents who forbid actors to self-submit, period. Others are comfortable with the self-submissions, as long as it isn’t in the realm of commercials. And still others are fine with self-submissions on lower pay jobs, and they cover the higher pay ones. When does self-submitting become dangerous? When the actor stops openly communicating (or never communicates anything at all) with their agent and starts keeping secrets.
When have I benefited? When a high-quality actor submitted, came in for the audition, booked and shot the job (that was maybe non-union, or union with internet or industrial usage…some sort of “lesser” job) with no hitch. They either communicated with their agent, or got away with it, I’m not sure which. When has it been rough? When the actor didn’t communicate and there were hitches.
An example: Actor self-submits, attends audition and callback, is placed on avail, confirms the avail… *then* 12 hours later the actor is placed on another avail for another job and has the agent contact me. The agent has none of the dates for my job (not surprisingly) because they are the SAME dates…and the actor was too scared (I’m guessing) to disclose the predicament, and left it to the agent to find it out on their own. Long story short, the talent books and accepts the other, better paying job and lives happily ever after…if you don’t take into account the numerous bridges burning in the rear-view mirror. Oh yeah, those.
If you buy into the theory that the acting profession is a marathon, not a sprint…and that there is nothing more valuable than the relationships you create in the process, then this is a no-brainer. I believe that many actors have good intentions and they JUST WANT TO WORK. So much so that they engage in risky behavior and start keeping the secrets while their fingers are crossed that everything will work out in the end. It doesn’t always. This is why agents have the self-submitting policies that they do. It’s a fine idea to say that you want the SAG national network auditions and bookings, and that you will do the small stuff on the side…because you just want to work. But the worlds will collide eventually, and the damage will be noticeable.
What’s an actor to do? Either trust (which will be monumental to most of you) that the big jobs will come in and leave the submitting to the agent, or submit with wild abandon and communicate thoroughly with your agent. No secrets. And if you go with the self-submitting option, know that in order to save your reputation, you may be stuck taking the lesser job you booked after finding out a bigger job wanted you. UGH. That sucks. But that’s when the big picture comes into play. When you back out of a confirmed avail or booking (yes, that happens too, rarely, but it happens) you cause a gigantic situation for the casting director. Which causes a gigantic situation for you and your agent as well. Whether you feel the brunt of it or not…that casting director is upset with you (to put it mildly) and possibly your agent for compromising his/her reputation with their client. And they will think twice to a million times before calling you in again. You have become a very risky proposition…and in a town where there are plentiful talented actors of all types, you are likely easily replaced.
Know that no decision is forever. If you are at the place where you are ready to take the “big jobs only” leap, or your agent doesn’t allow self-submissions…give that a shot. If the results are less than great, you can reevaluate and make a change of plans. Have a conversation with your agent and go back to self-submitting, but with parameters. And if that isn’t satisfactory, change the parameters. If you are passionate about self-submitting and your agent isn’t onboard, go with an agent who is.
Remember: Do not fail to look at the big picture. No burning bridges and reputations. And, no secrets. We learned this as kids, “If you have to keep a secret, it’s because you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” It certainly applies here.