Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

Callbacks from a Casting Director Perspective

We know callbacks are a special experience to you. Perhaps having an inside glimpse at what they are to us can help you understand the process and give you a level of comfort which can ultimately help you give a good audition.

Everything has to be in order for the callbacks. The entire team who we have been casting for will be with us at the callback session. That includes the ad agency, most of whom we have never met. The very people who have a say in who will be booked will travel to our location to gather, meet the talent in person, and make their final picks. It’s our only chance to meet with our clients in person; other than that it’s almost all emails.

We receive our client picks via email and it’s very important that we don’t miss anyone on their lists. Lists are gone over twice, and requests for time changes, conflict problems and shoot day problems are watched over closely. Our radar is running on high alert.

I figure out, with the producer, how the times should be scheduled according to the way the director works. Some directors like to work fast, while others are known to work slower with talent. One thing for sure, the director would rather the talent be waiting to go in the room then he (and the other creatives) be waiting for talent to arrive. I can tell you the couple of times that has happened, the energy of the session falls flat on its face. The creative, obviously, also want to make the most of their time on their call back day. The trick is to schedule the session so it moves quickly, the director does not have to wait and we do not keep you (the talent) over an hour.

Before the clients arrive our (casting) office is busy preparing log sheets with your color photos on them, printing out and organizing your size cards and making sure the right snacks are put out for the client. The client arrives and the casting office is there to do whatever they say and give them whatever they want. It is their day.

The clients start arriving and settling in. The director, ad agency producer, writer and art director usually sit in the casting room to be with the talent and the production company producer is usually in an adjoining room on the computer. Most likely they are figuring out locations, connecting with the wardrobe stylist and taking care of many other details to do with the shoot.

I am introduced to all the agency creative people, and the games begin! I usually set up my lap top in the adjoining room so I can be close to the clients all day long. Just like it’s your time to have some time of personal contact to the elicit people involved in the process, it’s my time for that too. Other than the meeting at the callbacks, our communication is emails and the occasional phone call.

The session starts, and then of course there are the variables that could throw everything off. Now it’s OK to start smiling even before I mention the variables. Anyone ever experience the creative team arriving fifteen minutes after the session is due to start? (go ahead, smile). Another variable; the direction gets changed and the changes take more time. Or, instead of going in the room three at a time, they discover it’s better to audition you one at a time? (it’s OK, I don’t mind, keep smiling).

I like to bring you in the room and introduce you. It’s a great time for us to have a moment of face-to-face. I get to take a quick look at your resume and say “hi.” The creatives like to think I know everyone well who I bring in the room. I’m the authority figure to them…the quick moment with you, help me to connect with you.

As the day goes on I can literally see the commercial morph into a specific, solid direction. Each creative person in that room is making their notes; each person is getting closer to creating the short story they have conceived. As a side note, I must mention that even though the spot has not taken its direction in the beginning of the session, the actors who are first to come in have the same shot as the ones later in the day. And the ones later in the day have just as good a shot. It’s not true that the creatives get bored and tired and have made their picks by the end of the day. Everyone has an equal shot. These creatives have a lot of stamina, they are devoting their day to casting; they focus on casting until they find the person or combination of people they feel will be right to make the characters in their spot come alive.

The good thing is as each actor enters the room, the creatives are anticipating a good performance and they want everyone to do a good job. They want to have lots of choices.

Each creative in that room has put their picks on the call back list and you can be certain if you are one of those people who could not make it in, one of them is going to say “where is so and so? I don’t see him on the list.”

The morning ends, then there is a lunch break….and the day continues on. Arranging the timing of a lunch break is an art unto itself. We have to time the morning to end by lunch, time the lunch and time the afternoon start up. As you have experienced, sometimes there is no time for a lunch break and the creatives are eating in front of you. No one is comfortable with that situation.

After the last person comes in, the After Process of choosing begins. I have gone over that process in detail in a previous article or you can find the details in my book Breaking Into Commercials. After the choices are made they go over with the CD and the Session Director how they want their choices edited and sent to the levels of decision makers. Our Session Director edits everything with our tech people. After that, my office organizes everything for the morning calls of strong avails, finally we can leave for the evening.

Being with the clients is a long day and both elating and draining. I would compare it to entertaining for an entire day. Our energy has to be on point and fully present all day long to our client’s every need. More copies, more actors, more coffee, faster or slower. Whatever they want, they get.

Our clients leave very happy with their choices, and my staff and I leave very happy. The next morning we come back to continue avails, bookings and union clearances.

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


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.”

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