by Casting Director, Terry Berland
The avail. You know what the avail means to you, did you ever stop to think what it means to the Casting Director?
I thought it would be interesting to really look at what the avail (or first refusal for my East Coast readers) means to both parties involved. The Casting Director puts the Talent on avail, and the Talent receives the avail. To both parties the similarity is that it’s a good thing, but it also represents one major different meaning to Casting than Talent.
To actors it means you’ve done a good job and you are being recognized for consideration. Something is going right; you know your technique, you have good energy, and yes, you are fortunate. The gods are on your side. It’s a validation.
I do want to remind you, that you very well could have done a really good job but all the elements may not have fallen in place for you to be put on avail. As a casting director, I expect good auditions from everyone. I watch my on-camera casting sessions or listen to my voice-over sessions and expect to love each audition. I see or hear unique differences in everyone. I am pleased at the selections that my client will receive. Not every good actor gets put on avail. Those darn variables come into play that have nothing to do with your technique or performance
At the time of the casting session, you know the shoot dates for on-camera or record dates for voiceover and you are expected to be available for those dates. Since there are no callbacks (usually) for voiceover, at the time of the audition you had better be available for at least a couple of hours of the day that spot is scheduled to be recorded. A voice-over record is only a couple of hours, or less. For the on-camera, you need to be available the entire day (into the night) for the shoot.
The similarity of the meaning of the avail, for both the Talent and the Casting Director is a feel-good experience; a measured validation of performance. To the talent it is a validation of your acting; a great feeling of coming close to a possible booking. To me, the casting director, it is my validation that my casting “hit the mark.” Everything is going right. My clients are happy; they have their selections and they are getting ready to present their talent selections to their client.
Here is the big difference of the avail to me, the casting director. This final stage is all business, critical to either enabling this part of the process to work or causing the process to fall apart.
It would be disastrous if we booked the Talent and they were then not available. Seven people who are part of the selection process (Director, Producer, Writer, Art director, Creative Supervisor and possibly the Creative Director and Account Supervisor) have all agreed that YOU are the one they will present to their client for final approval for the particular character. If you are then not available, they do not have the very person they ALL picked. This selection process will then have to be gone through again, very quickly. I look like an idiot who has no control over the situation, not being available will have agitated a lot of people whom I have to deal with. Not to mention that time is money, and the talent not being available has just cost this production money!
As consummate professionals, talent and agents who know the importance of avails, enable the vital part of the business process to fall into place. I feel good for all the actors put on avail. I feel elated for the person who gets booked and I feel disappointed for the person who is released from their avail. When I release the talent, I am thankful for all the work you, the talent, put into the process. I have to let go of the momentary disappointment for the talent who did not book and switch gears to feeling positive that there will be the next casting, the next opportunity, and the next booking.
Thank you actors.
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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.”