The commercial casting process shouldn’t be a mystery. While every job is unique, there is an underlying structure to the process that, in theory anyway, we’ve all committed to when casting commercials. Why? Because it works! When talking to actors, there seems to be a cloud around callbacks, specifically, what happens after the callback. The stakes are higher during callbacks and what happens after, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be as informed about this part of the process as you are about the rest. Because knowledge is power, let me shed some light on the process that ought to pierce the clouds of confusion and anxiety.
Say you had a terrific callback. But what the heck happens next? For you, not all that much. Just make sure you’re clear about the wardrobe and shoot dates and hang tight for an avail call.
What happens in the room with the director, casting and agency? A lot.
After the callback is finished, selects are generally made right then and there. There’s likely a YES pile of digital photos accumulated, and all the powers-that-be watch those auditions again because our brains are usually mush by then. Sometimes, it’s easy to make the selects, sometimes it’s not. There are times I’m asked to bring up the actor’s resume or to see additional photos with different facial hair or hair styles. Sometimes someone in the room will do an internet search of the actor to comb for more background info. On occasion, I’m asked if I know the actor and their work, and how they are to work with. None of these things are to be underestimated.
Having an updated resume and photos—including multiple photos featuring different facial hair and hairstyles—are essential when it comes to optimizing your odds of booking a job. And of course, being a fantastic and responsible actor with a great reputation is always, always imperative. Most often, a first-choice cast is picked with a backup cast. Sometimes, there are two backups. Depending on the comfort level with the choices and timeframe, there may be an additional callback. Those are becoming more and more common. Actors who were unable to attend the callback rarely make the selects list. Backup actors book the job fairly often.
Typically, avails are posted on the same day as the callback session or the following morning. If there were no callbacks at all, actors may never be put on avail, they may just book the job. You may have heard of casting directors putting all actors with a callback on avail with their callback appointment. That isn’t a great trend, but it’s happening, surely because the production company/casting director had been burned in the past by not getting an actor they wanted. Avails are put out by phone as well as email.
The choices are presented to the client the following day, usually. The timeline can vary depending on the amount of lead time available before the shoot. This is why it’s imperative that you confirm your avail asap.
It’s a disaster for the agency to present an actor who becomes unavailable for the shoot, because once the client approves said actor, it just makes everyone look foolish when that actor has to bail. The approved actors can be booked as soon as the afternoon after the callback or as late as several days into the shoot if there are multiple shoot days.
In the best of all worlds, you get word that you booked the job or that you’re released from your avail. I’ve heard many, many (understandable) complaints from actors that they are never released from their avails. I know this happens. Sometimes the casting director just doesn’t get around to it (I’m sorry), but other times, they give a general release of avails via Casting Networks and the agent isn’t aware, or the agent was notified but didn’t relay the message to you. Communicate with your agent. They can absolutely ask for an update from the casting director if they haven’t heard anything. Or you can usually assume that after the wardrobe date has passed, you didn’t book the job.
Hopefully, this parts a few of the post-callback clouds. Ultimately, all you can do as an actor is make sure you have a handle on the things in your power: Being prepared, nailing your performance, being capable of taking direction, having a positive attitude, keeping your headshots and resume updated, keeping your stats updated, maintaining a good industry reputation, and being clear on wardrobe and shoot dates. Once you’ve checked all the above boxes, you have the luxury of simply sitting back and letting it go.
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