What’s going on when you’re booked and the dates are still not nailed down? And…what is expected of you on the set?
Enter the danger zone. You are booked and we tell you, “it’s one day between such and such dates.” Now you have the stress of juggling all other business things in your life until you know which date you are actually booked. It’s nerve-racking on our end, too, to be in this limbo zone with your booking because something could go wrong. If you have several agents, for instance, your theatrical agent could lose track of the dates and book you on a TV show which also has variable dates. I urge my clients, “nail down the date as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the more possibility of something going wrong.” Luckily, I haven’t lost an actor during this limbo time period as of yet. I don’t know how all the different agents involved keep it together, but thank you very much for doing so.
The reason the date cannot be nailed down is because locations are being set. If there are several locations for different vignettes, the production team has to set their locations and only then do they know which date you will be working. As soon as we book you, even with variables dates, it is usual for your wardrobe call to be the next day, with the shoot starting a day or two after that. Imagine, the stylist has to prepare all those outfits in a matter of hours after the booking. Cheers to the stylists!!!! I also don’t know how they do it either.
It’s funny, there have been times I’m with others involved with the production and we all acknowledge we don’t know how each other does it; and that includes you, the actor. Kudos to you for being able to act so well, get to wardrobe, and then perform on a set all day doing what you do best.
When you are booked, your agent should receive the terms of agreement via email. If you have accepted a booking directly, you should also receive an email with the terms of agreement. The terms should include the run, whether the job is scale or, if it is non-union, how much you are being paid, how long the usage terms are for, and conflicts if there are any.
You will most likely be sent to a wardrobe fitting where you will receive copy, if copy is involved. If it is not given to you, make sure you ask to receive it ahead of time. As you have noticed, I am suggesting you should be receiving certain pieces of information, and if you don’t receive it you should ask. Your first reaction might be that you feel uncomfortable asking. You might feel like you are being a “pain” or crossing a line you should not be crossing. If that is the case, perhaps this will help you change your attitude. Treat yourself like an intelligent businessperson. It is your right to have everything in writing. If you receive resistance from production heed this as a warning sign of possible further unprofessionalism.
Finally you get to the set. What is that day like? First, never be late; arrive early. Expect long delays and a lot of wait time. The first thing you should receive is your contract or agreement whether the job is union or non-union. Look it over. Look for the contractual paperwork to match your booking agreement. If you are working on something non-union and you get some resistance to your “intelligent” requests stay calm and focus on your request.
If there are discrepancies politely say there seems to be a difference from the terms of the booking and the written agreement. Have your terms of agreement with you. Show them the email regarding the terms, and they should gladly change it. If they don’t, calmly and politely say you are calling your agent who will discuss the discrepancy with them. If you don’t have an agent, unfortunately you don’t have that advocate on your side. Always keep the attitude that you are two people working out details as opposed to feeling like you are adversaries. Stay calm and logical.
After everything is worked out the performance part of your day starts. Or rather the waiting game starts. Watch what is happening on the set and wait to be told what you should do. If there are other people in the scene they will probably have you all waiting together. Unless they tell you not to talk to each other for some reason, you should be talking to the others. This gives you time to get comfortable with each other. Many times the director is somewhat aware of the way you are all relating to each other and may use some of the relationship that he sees developing between you in the scene.
Certainly have things with you that can keep you busy during the wait time such as your smart phone and pads with reading material on it but don’t default to them. Stay away from your personal communication or entertainment items unless it is made very clear that you can do whatever you want to occupy or entertain yourself. This is not your paid day to get personal things done. Your attitude should be you are working. The time is not your own, even the downtime.
Don’t get upset or think you are doing anything wrong if you are asked to do take after take. It is the norm that you will be asked to do many takes for production to have every conceivable base covered for editing selections to meet the client’s needs.
The director should be the only one communicating with you. There will be many people on the set hovered around a monitor watching the shots. These people are the agency people and their clients. You will most likely see them talking away about what they are seeing. Don’t let any of this throw you. There are many variables going on. Stay focused doing the job you are there to do. You should be loving it. They are depending on you. It’s your time to shine.
I would suggest at some point before you really start seriously auditioning you get experience at least once as an extra on different types of sets. It’s a great opportunity to observe and become familiar with what goes on.
I personally have never had the experience of actors reporting having had a bad time on set with the director and the entire team. I’ve always gotten glowing reports from the actors saying how nice everyone was. I know it does happen once in a while where a director is mean or is a bad communicator. Sorry if it does happen to you. It’s very counterproductive. Stay focused to being the best actor you can be and you will come out on top.
Thank you actors! For FREE acting tips on how to give your commercial acting more connection, depth and texture go to www.berlandcasting.com “Just For 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.”