The commercial industry is a little bit hard right now. Generally, everything for commercial actors (and agents, and casting directors, producers… etc. etc.) is just a notch more difficult than it was, let’s say, pre-COVID. I’m all for a collective pat on the back for everyone who continues to move forward adjusting, being flexible, and giving it their all. Hooray for all of US!
I think it’s because everything is a notch more difficult that it pains me when I see simple or silly mistakes, because you’re handling the hard stuff so well! Today, let’s talk about callbacks.
Commercial actors should never lose their “smart actor minds” and break simple callback rules.
Callback Rule: Arrive (in person or virtually) in the same hair/wardrobe as the first call.
The Mistake: I think the same wardrobe thing is widely known (and if this is new to you, now you know!), so what’s happening? I think actors lose their “smart actor minds” when things are different. Even a small switch-up in the normal commercial way of doing things, like a self-tape audition to an in-person callback, can throw things off. Don’t forget the regular callback things. Put on the same wardrobe. When you have a virtual or in-person first call, you will need to make a note of what you wore. It can be tricky to remember. Some actors take selfies to document their wardrobe. When you’ve sent a self-tape, refer back to the self-tape!! No sharp mind required. Commercial wardrobe is wildly important. Hopefully you put plenty of thought into what you wore for the first round, so you’ll want it to be perfect for the callback as well.
Callback Rule: Arrive ready to deliver your best take from your (self- tape/virtual/in-person) first call.
The Mistake: Again, I think actors losing their “smart actor mind” is the culprit. When you’ve sent a self-tape, there’s zero excuse for not remembering what the action is for your callback. Refer back to your own tape! Watch it the night before and the minute before! In general, casting is printing out less scripts these days, likely for COVID reasons, if not to save the planet as well. So, bring your own script to the studio to keep it fresh in your memory or have it taped to your camera for your virtual callback.
Callback Rule: Arrive on time (in-person or virtually).
The Mistake: This has always been a thing. No one likes it when an actor is late to their audition; the aggravation increases when they are late to their callback, or at least there’s that potential. The interesting thing about the virtual audition is, it’s much harder for the casting office to cover for you. When the director/producer can see who is in the virtual waiting room, you are either there or not. They don’t always know why we “skipped” you when we are in-person. I think you’ve heard the stories, and they are true. When you are late to a callback, it can mean you are taken out of consideration for fear you might be flaky/late to set. I have witnessed the conversation, “If he/she can’t make it to his/her 10 a.m. callback on time, he/she certainly won’t be on set at 6 a.m.” Oof. Another reason to be on time? You want to be seen in category. Oftentimes, all the Hero Men are seen in one block, and the powers that be narrow down their YES pile before moving on to the next role/category. If you are allowed to be squeezed in at a different time, it’s possible the top choices have already been made.
Callback Rule: Confirm your AVAIL in a timely fashion.
The Mistake: Generally, avails are put out as quickly after the callback session as possible. Ideally, it’s the same day/evening/first thing the next morning. It’s a terrible time for the actor to be off the grid. Don’t turn off your phone or head to no-wifi-reception-land without giving anyone the heads up. When we can’t get a confirmation on your avail, it makes it dangerous territory to present you to the client. Really, we need to know, one last time, that you are indeed 100% available for all the dates. Just stay close to a device and in range that evening and the next morning.
Laurie Records (Casting Director, CCDA) has been working in the commercial realm since 2004. In 2009, Laurie launched her own company. While she casts all types of commercials, she has broadened her horizons to include casting web content for network television, television hosts, industrials, and dabbles in film from time to time. Recent commercial jobs include: Fancy Feast, Dyson, Snapchat, Toyota, and Mutual of Omaha. Over the last couple of years, she’s worked on “This Just In…” for the Cartoon Network. Laurie also cast the Movie Surfers for seasons 16-18, as well as online content for The Muppets & Muppets Now. Laurie teaches one-day online commercial classes almost every month and will go back to attending Los Angeles theatre as soon as humanly possible.