7 Ways TV Commercials Can Help Build Your Television and Film Career

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  1. TV Commercials are the fastest way to get on national television, make great residual income and begin building a recognizable brand in the TV/Film casting community.
  1. The Actors Search! When you do a National Commercial, due to the hundreds of times it runs on television, the exposure can lead to a TV/Film Casting Director that is casting a project calling you in to audition because you fit the type they are looking for in one of the roles they are casting.
  1. Commercial Casting Directors that also cast films. Some Commercial Casting Directors also cast Independent and major Films. When you work well with commercial casting offices you can also get called in to audition for Films.
  1. Commercial Directors that also direct television shows. The Russo Brothers, Ridley Scott, Joe Pytka etc…are Television and Film Directors that also direct TV Commercials. When you work well on-set on a TV Commercial, you will be remembered and favored in casting offices, by Commercial Directors that also direct TV and Film.
  1. Commercials to put on your Theatrical Demo Reel! The “Slice of Life” TV commercial (the 30 second scene in a sitcom type of commercials) can be put on your Theatrical Demo Reel. Some Theatrical Agents even request it as it can help the Agent pitch you for certain TV/Film roles, especially when you don’t have a reel.
  1. On-Camera Audition Skill Building. Some of your TV/Film auditions will be recorded in the Casting Directors office and sent to the Director. Most Scene Study and Improv classes are not on-camera so the actor does not develop the skills needed to audition well at TV/Film castings when being recorded on-camera. All work in our 4 Week Course is done on-camera. Helping the actor build great audition technique skills that are necessary and helpful in TV/Film Casting Offices.
  1. The fastest way to become SAG/AFTRA and make all or most of the money back quickly to regain the dues you had to spend to join the Union (Guild). Moreover, most major TV/Film Casting Directors will not audition you for television shows and films if you are not SAG/AFTRA. Your major TV/Film career trajectory will accelerate when you become SAG/AFTRA. Commercials can help you get there faster!

mikepointer

Booking Coach Mike Pointer of Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! Has helped thousands of actors over the last 17 years book hundreds of national television commercials as well as television and film work. Coach Mike, a successful commercial actor for over 28 years himself, teaches outstanding, cutting edge strategies that has helped hundreds of actors quit their day jobs, and build a successful career in TV commercials. Coach Mike’s powerful on-camera techniques and outstanding business strategies has set a new standard and cutting edge approach in the on-camera commercial training industry. These classes are highly recommended by top commercial agencies as well as top Managers, and Casting Directors that also teach classes!

Commercials – A Slice Of Life

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Hundreds of years ago (well maybe it just seems that long ago) I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress and a singer. Like most people, I was told the way to become an actress and get a TV/film career was to start out in commercials. Well, in those years I did fit the qualifications for a young mom, a girl who loved pizza and someone who loved to be traveling on an airline. So I immediately went out and found a commercial agent who agreed that I had the perfect look. They even gave me a commercial copy to read – I don’t think I was very good at it but they traded my lack of knowledge for my bubbly personality.

I was a speech therapist during my early 20’s so after I taught I would go on these auditions where I would get to know all of the commercial actress’s in my category. In the beginning, it was intimidating as I recognized many of them from actual television commercials. The process was the same. I would get a call from my agent telling me to show up at a certain casting office. I would sign in and then be given the copy of the commercial. I was very nervous because all I did was read it over a few times and hope that I wouldn’t bomb in the audition! That did happen a lot but eventually I began to understand what they were looking for and started to book them. I did so well that I bought a house with the money that I had earned. It was a fun game. Run home to open the mailbox and guess how much money I made that month on a national commercial.

Looking back, the only thing I liked about commercials was the money. I didn’t have “Margie Haber” to teach me that a commercial is a small slice of life. The creation of one line, 2 lines, 2 paragraphs or 2 pages is the same for a commercial, a co-star or guest star, a series regular or a film. It is all about creating the life. All of the commercials I did would have been so much more awarding if I understood that premise. Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Formula 409 and Tang were opportunities to experience the life – to use my imagination and live it.   One commercial was Tang with Florence Henderson. In that commercial I had a child and went to visit my neighbor (Florence Henderson) and we sat on her patio drinking her Tang loving the taste of it. I didn’t know that I could actually create a life for my “character” rather than worry about my lines. I could have said,” I am this person living this life” – what was it like to have a child?  Did I watch her play sports or listen to her playing the piano? What was our ritual before I tucked her in bed? Create my relationship with my neighbor. How often did we come over on a hot summer and sit on the porch drinking Tang and sharing stories of our day – not trying to sell the drink Tang. If you want to see my commercials in the 70s and 80s they are on my “Stop acting” app that you can find on your iphone/ipad or vimeo on demand.

My advice – don’t be technical – create any life and enjoy the process!

 


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With 40 years of experience, Margie Haber is known as Hollywood’s top audition coach. What is it that Margie teaches? The answer to that question is within title of her book:  Margie teaches actorsHow to Get the Part Without Falling Apart.  Margie takes away the “three p’s”- Pain, Panic, and Performance Anxiety- from the cold-reading & audition process and gives back the “Big P” – POWER- to the actor.  She teaches actors her philosophy, “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life”, using her unique 10-step approach to breakdown the slice of life physically and emotionally, rather than intellectually.  Her revolutionary Haber Phrase Technique has helped thousands of actors use to use the page without losing the life, while supporting relationship and purpose. MargieHaber.com (310) 854-0870

Four Questions You Never Ask In An Agent Meeting

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1. “I’m looking for an agent to really work hard for me.”

Reason not to ask: The agent will more than likely believe that you have unrealistic expectations of how often you should be getting auditions, and will become a nuisance by calling and emailing them every day. The agent will also believe that you should assume that every agent would work hard for you as it’s the only way for both of you to make money.

2. “How many clients do you have?”

Reason not to ask: How many clients the agent has should not matter to you. Some actors are on an agents’ rosters but they are not active, being booked out, on maternity leave, sick, on tour,or just not getting auditions as often, because they are not getting enough callbacks per audition etc… The fact of the matter is that the agent is expressing interest in YOU by calling you in to a meeting to discuss representation. The agency is not going to reduce the number of their client roster to make you feel better about your position with them.

3. “What casting offices do you work with?”

Reason not to ask: The agent will more than likely say, “All of them.” Then, the agent may turn the question around and ask you, “Now, which casting offices are familiar with your work?” Possibly putting you in an uncomfortable position. If you do your homework properly and know who the top agents are to pursue, then you will know the agent you are meeting with has great relationships with major casting offices, eliminating this question.

4. “How many actors do you have that are my type?”

Reason not to ask: The reason you don’t ask this question is similar to the reason in question 2, but it’s a more specific question to you, so it needs to be addressed. If the agent is calling you in for a meeting, they are interested in possibly signing you. Whether they have plenty of your type or don’t have your type at all, there’s some need for your look at their agency. It’s even possible that they have three of your type already, but one has several national commercial conflicts. The other is always booking out for whatever reason, and another gets avails, but never actually books the job. How many of your type the agent has is irrelevant. What matters is their interest in you and the casting opportunities they provide you once you are signed.

 


 

mikepointer

Booking Coach Mike Pointer of Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! Has helped thousands of actors over the last 17 years book hundreds of national television commercials as well as television and film work. Coach Mike, a successful commercial actor for over 28 years himself, teaches outstanding, cutting edge strategies that has helped hundreds of actors quit their day jobs, and build a successful career in TV commercials. Coach Mike’s powerful on-camera techniques and outstanding business strategies has set a new standard and cutting edge approach in the on-camera commercial training industry. These classes are highly recommended by top commercial agencies as well as top Managers, and Casting Directors that also teach classes!

Tips For Kids To Win Auditions

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You know the expression “kids say the darndest things”? This is where the spontaneous, organic personality of the child can win them the job. Interview questions are almost always asked when a child auditions for a commercial, TV show or film. There is no copy for them to learn, no scene to play. You’re just asked random questions by the session director, casting director or director. The goal of this is to observe the child’s personality.

I dreaded this type of audition, and for years I never booked one. I focused obsessively on the questions, and agonized over my answers.

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One day, a session director told me that the director and clients often watch these auditions with the volume turned completely off. Immediately, I realized the purpose and potential of the random question. It’s all about our personality—how we come across on camera.

Using this nugget of information, I changed my whole approach to this audition.

Since it’s your personality that they are looking for, I needed something to talk about that turns me on, that I am passionate about, something I can discuss fluently without worrying or running out of specific details.

Now I always talk about one of three subjects that make my eyes and face light up: hiking, my son, or my dog, Sparky. To sail through the interview question audition with ease, you must approach it the same way: The child should have three things that he or she is passionate about, subjects that they can talk about easily and effortlessly and in detail. The details let’s the child’s personality shines through. Here are some ideas:

  • Your favorite game or at home activity
  • An anecdote about a family member
  • A story about your pet
  • Foods you love or hate

When asked a question, find a quick way to segue or transition to talking about one of your favorite subjects.

Keep your answers brief, but detailed and specific. The more details and specifics the child can add, the more the personality comes out! The truth is, they are just trying to see your personality on camera.

Beware of three taboo subjects—avoid this at all cost.

Acting

They want you to be an actor and a skilled one but do not want to hear about it. They secretly think they are discovering you in the local farmers’ market and putting you in their commercial campaign.

Politics

Politics are just too controversial and should be avoided at all costs. Even if you’re running for senate, leave it alone! This should not be a problem for most kids anyway.

Religion

Anything having to do with religion is generally taboo.

Kids who can relax and just get chatting about one of their subjects or a funny anecdote always are remembered, as being memorable is the key helping you get booked for jobs

The beauty about this technique is that you never have to think about the answer because you already know it.

Practice this technique with some of these commonly asked questions and see how it works for you:

  • What was your favorite vacation?
  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • Any plans for the summer?
  • What’s your favorite subject in school?
  • What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  • What do you do when you get home?
  • What kind of foods you love?
  • What kind of foods you hate?
  • Who is the most important person in your life?
  • What is your most treasured possession?
  • Which is your favorite TV show?
  • If you had a super power, what would it be?
  • If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

The answers should never sound prepared or rehearsed, but spontaneous and honest. Why? Because kids do say the darndest things!


Judy Kain has been a full-time actress for over 35 years, appearing in over 80 television and film roles and 375 commercials. Judy teaches her successful audition technique to thousands of students at her Los Angeles studio, Keep it Real Acting. Judy has won multiple awards, including Backstage Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Award for “Favorite Audition Teacher.”  Her latest book –  I Booked It!: The Commercial Actor’s Handbook – teaches readers practical techniques for booking acting jobs.  Available now at Amazon and through her website, keepitrealacting.com.

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Availability & The Working Actor

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Are you available? Wait. Before you answer, you might want to read the entire blog.

Every actor I meet tells me they are 100% available to audition and to work. But then when some of them get the call, they are either not available at all or need a reschedule. Sometimes this is possible but most of the time the casting director needs you when he or she makes the request. A lot of parts are cast in one session. And why look at tape when I have a dozen amazing choices standing right in front of me in the flesh? We can adjust them. We can pair them up. We can even mix and match. Most importantly, we can chat a little and get to know you for thirty seconds. Thirty very important seconds.

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You’re not available for my projects unless you live here. Here’s why.

I used to travel to Scottsdale, Arizona regularly to conduct classes and seminars. Each time I stood in front of the class they almost unanimously stated that they could be as easy to hire as actors from Los Angeles. That was a pretty unrealistic promise but since some of them worked for airlines I gave it a shot. Some of them actually showed up on time and were very professional. The trouble popped up when I needed them to come out two days later for the callback or two weeks later to read for another role in a different episode of my TV series. That first trip out was the charm but the L.A. actor shows up over and over without difficulty.

And then there is the issue of the holidays.

The problem of availability just came up on a feature I was producing last December. I needed to hire a couple of actors at the last minute. They wouldn’t need to audition. They just had to show up. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? But I was looking on December 18th for them to work on December 21st. I reached out to several actors and no one was available. They were either already out of town or would be by the work date. Of course I found my actors eventually, but I thought it was a shame that some actors missed out on a paying role in a union feature because they chose not to be available in December.

When producers or casting directors need you to show up on the set, the only response should be “where and when?” The actors I reach out to are the ones that have proven to be on call year-round. I’m not mad at the other actors, but I can’t hire them.

You are NOT available if you are in a play without understudies. I cannot hire you and guarantee a stop time. Why would I? I have thousands of actors who are available 24/7. Whether it’s a studio film, a network series or a tiny indie, you must be available or you are wasting our time coming in. This happens way too often and it damages relationships between actors and casting directors as well as those between casting directors and agents.

You are not available if you can’t be in my office in an hour. Many of you have jobs that aren’t as conducive to auditions as you want to believe. You have to rush to every audition. You are not at your best when you are there and you then rush back to work. If this is you, you need to find a new job asap or you made the trip out here for nothing.

You’re not available unless you bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. You cannot move home, move back to L.A., move back home and repeat the cycle over and over expecting this to work for an acting career. The majority of actors who leave L.A. do not return. The one thing they all have in common is that they are not working actors in film and television today. Move here. Stay here.

Don’t say you are available unless you are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. As I learn every time I cast a project, there are actors out there who just don’t seem to know their own availability.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

Are you Ready for your Audition?

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You’ve memorized your lines. Great. That is a very important step, but it is only one small step of a larger process. Don’t shortchange yourself by skipping the rest. Below is a guide to help you cover the bases of audition preparation and give your character the tools to live truthfully within any circumstance. In other words, this is a guide to help you do your homework.

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Know the Tone

What is the tone of the show and the world you will be living in? Do your research. If it’s TV, watch the show! If it’s a film, see if you can find something else by that writer or director. If none of these references are available, make logical choices based on the script. What is the atmosphere of the show and particularly, of your scene? What is the Tempo? Rhythm? Is it Drama? Comedy? Light? Dark? Do the characters power through their situations or does the show encourage long shots where the characters indulge their feelings? Know what world you are entering before you start!

Know your Role

Where do you, as your character, fit into this world? What purpose do you serve? What is revealed, discovered, or established in this scene that might be important to the story line and what role do you play in that? Look for moments of discovery within the scene. Is there a moment where something shifts? Is there a reveal? Make smart choices based on this information.

Know your Relationships

What is your relationship to the other character(s) in this scene? Be specific and in-depth with your answers. Saying, “He is my boss” is not enough. Saying, “He is my boss and the sight of him makes my blood boil. Nothing I do is ever good enough for him and I’m F-ing sick of it!” is much more helpful. Not just, “He is my husband” but, “He is my husband and even though we are supposed to be professional right now I can still smell his hair and feel his warmth from when we were in bed together 20 minutes ago.” Or “He is my husband, but I think he’s lying to me about something so every time he looks at me in earnest, I feel betrayed.” The point is, build a relationship rather than simply titling it. There is no way to overemphasize the importance of a clear relationship and strong points of view.

Establish Need and Approach

What do you need from your partners in the scene? Make strong choices. What will happen if you don’t get what you need? What will happen if you do? Use your talent and imagination to build circumstances for yourself that strengthen this need.

Why? Why do you need it? Why from this person/ these people? Why NOW? Why is it important?

How? What are you DOING to get what you need? This is where actions come in. DO SOMETHING to the other person to get what you want. Put your focus on your partner. Beg, convince, educate, mock, tease, belittle, guilt, befriend. Choose one or many things to DO. Acting is DOING. Try out different actions and see if they work. If they don’t… try new ones!

Test your choices

Rehearse! Once you are solid in your Given Circumstances and you are familiar with the script, REHEARSE. Keep working until everything you do/say/feel is inevitable for this character in this situation. Put your focus on your partner and go after what you need. Track their responses (these sometimes need to be created by you) and react in the moment. By this time, you know who this person is to you and what you need from them. GO AFTER THAT! Allow yourself to trust your choices and be alive in the moment. If something isn’t working, adjust one of your choices and try again. Do not skimp on your preparation!

Always consider it an honor to be given the chance to act and to reveal the humanity of any character. Take your job seriously in the way that you prepare. Then, in the room, LET GO. Learn to trust your preparation and live truthfully in the moment within the dramatic circumstances you have created. Trust yourself. Trust the work you’ve done. Trust your talent. Only when you put in the effort this work deserves can you be truly confident in what you have to offer… And if you are confident in what you have to offer… Others will be too! Now, go knock ‘em dead!

 


Suzanne SchmidtSuzanne Schmidt has spent her recent years acquiring a Masters in Acting while simultaneously teaching and coaching acting at Northern Illinois University. She has a background as an actress, director, singer, theatre company co-founder and producer. Before moving to Illinois, Suzanne spent years as a working actress in Los Angeles and you can see her in the upcoming season of Sons of Anarchy. Suzanne is trained in and thus her coaching is inspired by the methods of Constantine Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Michael Chekhov, Catherine Fitzmaurice and Lloyd Williamson. Suzanne’s goal is to help her students establish the truth within their character’s given circumstances while realizing the inevitability of the words and actions of their character.

 

Suzanne Teaches A to Z Theatrical and Theatrical Thursdays at Keep it Real Acting.

 

You’ve Won The Lotto (Part 3)

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From a financial perspective, a single day of work on a commercial can be more lucrative than two weeks of work on a major motion picture with a star-studded cast. SAG-AFTRA scale on a commercial is $627.75 for an eight-hour day, and use fees are paid according to how the commercial runs. If it plays on the internet, as most spots do these days, the move-over rate is $2,511.00 for one year of use. When a commercial airs on TV, the principal actors earn residuals, which are based on many things, such as whether it is running on a network or cable and in what markets it will air. For this reason, it is impossible to calculate how much an actor will make without knowing the exact media buy, and even then, it’s a complicated task better left to professional trackers and agency accounting departments. To keep things simple for our comparison, let’s say an actor shoots a commercial ($627.75), which runs only once in a single cable market (a whopping $10.55) and then moves over to run on the internet for a year ($2,511.00). For a single day of work on a commercial that hardly aired broadcast, an actor could make $3,149.30. Remember this number. The caveat to this paradigm is that an actor only receives the use fees when the commercial is used. This means that all an actor is ever guaranteed on a commercial is the initial session fee of $627.75, because a client could decide to pull the plug on a spot before it ever airs, eliminating any chance of future use fees.

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Getting back to Griffin’s situation, a spot like a Louisiana Lotto commercial is quite possibly non-union, meaning it would not adhere to the above scale rates. (IMDB doesn’t list whether Griffin is a SAG-AFTRA member.) We recently cast a non-union commercial for a state lottery, so it would be fair to surmise that the rates on Griffin’s Louisiana Lotto commercial were similar to the spot we cast. Inclusive of a 20% agent’s fee, the session fee was $600, and the use fee was $3,000, totaling $3,600 for a single day of work and one year of use on regional broadcast TV and internet.

Now let’s look at what Griffin made for his work on The Big Short. The current SAG-AFTRA Theatrical scale, as of 7/1/15, is $3,145 per week for actors hired on a weekly rate. (If he shot before July, he would’ve made a little less, but we’ll go with the current rate.) Griffin says in the article, “It went from a day to a week to two weeks.” Scale for a single day of work is $906, and there are no additional use fees on top of that rate. If Griffin had been hired for a single day on the movie, and if the Lotto commercial was non-union, he would have made roughly $2,694 less on the movie than the amount he would have made for a single day on the Lotto commercial. Because he was ultimately hired for two weeks, however, the non-union rates outlined above indicate that Griffin’s gamble paid off, as his two-week total would have been $6,290.00. But if the Lotto commercial was a SAG-AFTRA job, he probably would have made at least $3149.30 (see above), and would stand to make much more in residuals over the course of the spot’s life on TV.

Whether or not Griffin’s decision to back out of a commercial booking was the best one for his career as an actor remains to be seen. According to imdbpro.com, Griffin has worked on 16 commercials and 10 industrials, so maybe he had a close enough relationship with the casting director and producer that his good fortune and opportunity didn’t earn him a permanent note in their databases. Maybe it all ended amicably, and the casting director of the Louisiana Lotto commercial wished him well on his future feature film pursuits. He’s in a major motion picture with a star-studded cast, and he got to work closely with Ryan Gosling and director Adam McKay. Hopefully he forged strong relationships with each of them, as well as others he met on set, to help further his career and book bigger roles in future projects. Whether or not he has truly “won the Lotto” by taking this role, only time will tell. I’ll be looking out for Griffin in the movies. I’ll also be looking out for him in submissions on commercial projects. The article doesn’t say whether Griffin will be moving to LA, but I’m sure he’d do well in commercials while he’s striving for those bigger theatrical roles. If he’s ever faced with a similar situation, I hope he considers his decision carefully.


Justin Radley

Justin Radley is a partner ASG Casting where he contributes his familiarity with both the SAG-AFTRA and non-union talent pools to find the best talent for commercials, television, and web-based content. His understanding of the SAG Commercials Contract and the CoEd (Industrial) Contract allows him to provide clients with sound advice on both bidding and talent negotiations.  Camera Left / Stage Right — a part of ASG Casting — offers a number of acting classes throughout the year.

The Best Reasons You Didn’t Get The Part

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Can there ever be a good reason not to get the part? I know that you’re probably thinking “No!” Trust me, that’s the wrong answer.

I know that many actors walk into my office with one thing in mind, and one thing only: Booking that role! That’s a nice goal, but anyone who has worked in casting more than a couple of years will tell you, that should not be the goal on that day. Your goal every time you walk into a casting office is to deliver a strong enough audition for us to call you again in the future. Do that enough times and you will work. A lot.

 

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Actors that understand the long-term aspect of auditioning tend to be the ones that book over and over. It’s about booking the room so that we call you in for years for many of our future projects. We don’t look at it the same way as actors. If you deliver consistently in the room and you are the right look, I want to use you in the best way possible. I do not want to waste my time reading you for a part you aren’t going to get.

There are actually several great reasons why you didn’t get the part.

If the part went to a name, it is one of the best reasons you were not cast. It means that they had the money for a name and that name accepted. Nothing was going to get you that part if the name said “yes.” We often have offers out to names while we are seeing other actors. We might cast the role while you are sitting in the waiting room. If this seems harsh then you are forgetting the cardinal rule of casting. The project always comes first. Over you, over me and maybe even over the producer.

Another good reason you might not have booked is because we decided after reading you that we were going to hold off until something better came along. What a compliment that is! I have done this so many times. I read an actor for a small role. I had never met them before. They blew me away. But since they didn’t get a callback for that small role they assume I hate them. Oh, so wrong.

This happens in television every day. We assume we have 100 episodes to cast and how we use each actor matters because anyone can say one line, but only a small percentage can handle a strong guest-star role. Add to this equation actors with very specific looks and it can be a true shortage if the show lasts long enough. We want to cast you however it best benefits the project.

And here’s maybe the most important reason an actor didn’t get the part and it’s a beauty. You simply weren’t right for the part. Sure, you may have fit the general, physical description in the breakdown, but so did a thousand other actors. It doesn’t do you any favors to cast you when you’re not right for the part. There’s nothing worse than the wrong actor in a role. How many times have you seen this in films and on television? It ruins the entire project.

I know you would all like nothing more than to book the role. But it’s important to remember that on any given day, it may not happen, and that actually may be for the best.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

 

Actor, You’ve Just Won The Lotto (Part Two)

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The sexiest choice isn’t always the smartest choice.

The most frustrating thing for commercial casting directors is that there is very little recourse to hold an actor accountable for backing out of a booking. If we cancel an actor after he has been booked, the actor is entitled to a cancellation fee, which on SAG-AFTRA jobs is a full day’s pay for the number of days the actor was booked. If an actor accepts a booking and then later decides to back out of it, however, there is no reciprocal rule that says the actor must pay something back to production for the breach of contract. In theory, the actor could be sued and held accountable financially, but in practice, it makes much more sense to hire another actor and move on. The only thing we can really do is to put a permanent note on that actor in our database. I’ve never been a fan of the practice of black-balling an actor, but the lack of professionalism exhibited when an actor doesn’t honor a booking as a verbal contract is hard to ignore. Casting directors remember things like that. We always remember.

One time I had to tell a producer the day before a big car commercial that one of the principal actors decided she would rather do a table read for a film with Quincy Jones than work in the commercial. The producer screamed at me and threatened to sue the actress for the budget of the commercial shoot (somewhere in the mid six figures I think), which was ridiculous, because the twenty-something-year-old actress was about as likely to have that kind of money to pay for production as any other struggling artist or recent college graduate barely paying off student loans. Ultimately, we ended up hiring the backup, who turned out to be great. The director of that spot has gone on to use her in several other commercials since then. I never heard whether the first actress got the gig with Quincy Jones, but I do know one producer who made it abundantly clear that we are never, EVER supposed to call in that actress for a project she is producing… and that producer works on A LOT of commercials. I hope it was worth it. I bet Quincy’s really cool.


 

Justin Radley

Justin Radley is a partner ASG Casting where he contributes his familiarity with both the SAG-AFTRA and non-union talent pools to find the best talent for commercials, television, and web-based content. His understanding of the SAG Commercials Contract and the CoEd (Industrial) Contract allows him to provide clients with sound advice on both bidding and talent negotiations.  Camera Left / Stage Right — a part of ASG Casting — offers a number of acting classes throughout the year.

Actor: You’ve Just Won The Lotto (part one)

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A recent Variety article by Jenelle Riley details the fortuitous path fledgling actor Jeffry Griffin took to land on screen with Ryan Gosling in a number of scenes of the hit movie The Big Short. I love hearing success stories like this. It proves that if an actor positions himself in the right place at the right time, that ethereal dream of booking a role in a major motion picture with a star-studded cast is attainable – as long as the actor is prepared. According to the article, a PA on the film plucked Griffin “at random” from a pool of about a hundred background actors to play Gosling’s assistant. Although I’m skeptical the decision was as random as it may have appeared to Griffin at the time — actors rarely realize how much thought goes into casting — Griffin proved he could rise to the challenge and went on to have a great experience shooting a scene with Gosling.

While congratulations are certainly in order for Griffin, there was one part of Griffin’s success story that bugged me. It was this:

…he got a call two weeks later from Charlotte Gale in the casting department. She asked what he was doing the next day and he replied he was shooting a Louisiana Lotto commercial… “She said, ‘Cancel it. You’ve just won the Lotto.’”

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The article then goes on to explain that Gosling wanted Griffin back to play his assistant in additional scenes, and that a single day of work turned into two weeks of… Wait a second? Griffin was booked on a Lotto commercial and backed out of the booking the day before the shoot? I’d be interested to hear more about this little detail of the story that was glossed over as though backing out of a commercial booking is an acceptable practice. I certainly understand why Griffin made the decision he did. What actor in his right mind wouldn’t rather be in additional scenes of The Big Short with Ryan Gosling instead of hawking lottery tickets to the bayou? In Griffin’s case, his decision seems to have paid off. He ended up getting two weeks of work and, more importantly, gained notable screen time that might lead to future theatrical opportunities. Although it may have been a good move for Griffin, it could have backfired just as easily, and the ramifications of Griffin’s choice still aren’t fully realized. If he was booked as a principal on the Louisiana Lotto commercial, I can assure you he was not plucked at random by a PA, because that’s simply not how the casting process works in commercials. How difficult was it for the producer of the Louisiana Lotto commercial to replace Griffin less than a day before the shoot? Did they have a suitable backup for him? Did they have to spend thousands of dollars pulling together a last minute casting session to recast the role? Did they have to spend tens of thousands to push the shoot because they lost their lead actor in the spot?

It’s something that happens on occasion, and as someone who casts a lot of commercials, I’ve come to accept it as a reality of the business. It’s happened in our office several times over the course of my career, and I always have to explain to the justifiably livid producers that I’ve never met an actor who moved to Hollywood to star in commercials. (In Griffin’s case, he was in Louisiana, not LA… But I’ve never met an actor who moved to Louisiana to star in commercials either.)


Justin Radley

Justin Radley is a partner ASG Casting where he contributes his familiarity with both the SAG-AFTRA and non-union talent pools to find the best talent for commercials, television, and web-based content. His understanding of the SAG Commercials Contract and the CoEd (Industrial) Contract allows him to provide clients with sound advice on both bidding and talent negotiations.  Camera Left / Stage Right — a part of ASG Casting — offers a number of acting classes throughout the year.