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Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

Inside the Callback Process

How the Callback is Different from the First Call for the Casting Office

Happy 2015. I wish you health, joy, and prosperity for the coming year. What better way to start out 2015 than on the positive note of the callback. The callback day is different than the first call for both you, the actor and I, the casting director.

You know how the callback is different for you, but maybe knowing how it is different for me, the casting director, will give you some valuable insights.

For the casting director, the benefits of our creativity are reaped by happy clients giving us an abundance of callback names.  The stress of bringing our clients the right choices are over.

But now there are other stresses that occur.  Ever wonder why you get your callback time at 7:00PM the evening before the callback?  There are several reasons we may get select names late.  One is, there could be six or seven people at the ad agency who have to view all the casting sessions and give their selected choices to the production company.  The production company then has to organize the callback lists to prepare for casting.  Duplicate choices have to be eliminated and sometimes mixed up reference numbers have to be straightened out.  The production company organizes the names, characters and makes note of agency choices and director’s choices.  They then give us (casting) the list.  We sometimes get the lists late in the day.

The next step is we (the casting company) have to build complicated schedules on Casting Networks to post times out to you.  Putting the schedule together with many characters can take a couple of hours.  No wonder you don’t receive your callback time until 6:30 or 7:00PM that evening for the next day audition.

When there are many characters to cast, with budgets limiting the number of casting sessions, it is not unusual for one or two characters ending up with less choices.  For instances, recently we had two days to cast nineteen characters.  Do the math.  You can only see about thirteen choices per character.  That’s not a lot of choices to pick a principal character from.  Choices dwindle further if talent do not show up to the casting session.

To assure the clients solid choices, they ask us to bring in “some more” choices straight to callback, as they know there is no turn-around time.  It’s a little nerve-wracking as I (the casting director) am expected to bring in about ten new choices all on target.  By the time of the callback I have a very good feel for what the clients want.  However, there is always the question as I am making my selects as to whether I’m on the mark and going to hit a home run.

To keep our sessions solid on the first call, it is important for talent to cancel in time for us to fill the slot, and of course to show up on time.

The callback has a different feel.  It’s even more important that we get confirmations that you are coming.  You have been picked as a specific possibility by the client and they want you there.  Many times we have to hound the agents for confirmations.  We need all our confirmations and if you are not confirmed, we have to tell our client why you are not showing up.

You usually won’t find the presence of the casting director at the first audition because we are prepping for the following day and/or are on hand for many client needs.  I can watch the casting sessions remotely in my office.  We see how the session is going and feel very connected to the session that is being posted at the end of the day.

However, I am at the callback.  Everything is ready for the client’s arrival.  It’s like throwing a party.  We basically make sure they are happy all day long with food, right room temperature, and keep the session moving along in the pace they have specifically requested.  Most of the time I greet you outside of the room and bring you into the studio and announce who you are to the clients.  I then watch the auditions to get a specific feel for each person to have a firm grip on the entire session.  Watching the casting enables me to better know you, understand why they are picking whom they are picking, and keeps me involved in the entire process.  Being at the casting session is a great time for me to introduce myself to you and meet you in person.  Even though it could be just moments, it’s an important opportunity to connect.  It’s also a great time for me to connect with my clients.  Our communication has just been a bunch of emails, before working together that day.

I’m present all day long for the clients to answer their every need.  Sometimes scripts change and new copies have to be made and storyboards, etc.

Important Note:  After you leave the room, turn your cellphone back on.  Many times, as happened the other day in one of my callbacks, the director called me over and said can you ask so and so who just left to come back in, we want to talk to him about a different hair style.  Many times the talent do not turn their phones back on and we can’t reach them.

Selection Process Inside The Callback Room.

Selection Process Inside The Callback Room.

When the callback session is over the selection process starts.  The camera operator, casting director and the assistant stay around.  We fade into the background and are in the room to support the client’s needs.  They may need copies of size cards, want certain notes made, etc. etc. etc.  When selects are finished, we have to make sure their communication is clear as to how they want the exact organization of the posting.

The selection process can take hours.  Then a member of our team has to do the edits and posting.

It’s a great feeling when the client leave gushing with enthusiasm and pleasure over the great casting and the great cast they have picked.

We have to be on guard throughout the evening for any client communication.  It has happened that I’ve gotten a call at 5:30AM the following morning regarding a posting request for their client who are on the East Coast.

photo 2The callback process continues, the next morning we have to call your agents to make sure you are on avail.  The selection process has started and it would be a disaster if you were not available after approval from eight levels of creatives.

Finally, when the bookings come in from the production company there is the mad rush to gather your information for wardrobe the next morning, and usually the shoot follows the next day.  We also have to clear talent with the Union and get your agent all the signatory information on a union job and get the ad agency all the talent information for contracts.  We also have to get all the Exhibit E’s to the union and the ad agency in a timely manner.

When all is said and done, it’s extremely satisfying to book talent and have happy clients.  So here’s to going through this process an abundant number of times in 2015!

Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.

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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”