Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

While it’s the exception to the rule, sometimes actors book jobs without returning for a callback audition. In this video, House of Cards casting director Erica Arvold and Lincoln actor and acting coach Richard Warner discuss some of the circumstances that contribute to this happening. Arvold says unless the shoot date has passed, actors who don’t receive a callback invitation still have a shot at the role. In fact, she says, “Things can change much of the time.”

Even though in Arvold’s experience eight out of ten actors book jobs after being called back to audition, that leaves wiggle room for first-call actors to be cast approximately 20-percent of the time. Sometimes the first-call audition tape demonstrates such a clear, good fit for the role that a callback is deemed unnecessary. Other times, a critical player in the casting process is unavailable to attend a callback, so the first call serves as sufficient. And with all the experts involved in selecting talent, sometimes a disagreement about who best represents the character compels the team to put aside the callback talent and give the larger pool of first-call actors a second look.

To illustrate the complexity of the casting process, Arvold recalls one of these examples:

“I recently had a situation where there were callbacks scheduled and there were about 300 actors considered in the first place and sent to my client. Then they narrowed it down to 21 actors for the callbacks. And in the callbacks, it was narrowed down to eight people. And they gave it to the client, and that client was not satisfied with the eight people, so they widened it up, and they went back and watched the tapes from the 21, and then they watched the tapes again from the 300 with the client.”

For these reasons, Warner and Arvold encourage actors to give their best efforts during first calls. “That original audition is not a practice audition for the callback. That original audition could very well be the callback.” 

When an actor is called back for a role, of course, it’s encouraging as it means the actor is on the right track and casting wants to see more of him or her. And it’s especially important for actors to show up for commercial callbacks because that’s when the director, the ad agency creative team, and the client are present.

Additionally, Arvold shares a commercial callback tip pertaining to an actor’s appearance: Always wear the same exact outfit and hair style that you wore during the first call. This way, casting will have an easier time remembering you from the initial audition.

And for actors who chose to improvise during the initial audition, sometimes casting requests they improvise again during a callback. In such instances, Arnold recommends: “The improv structure or goal the second time around should be the same with the beginning, the middle, and the end. Or your goal of what you want in that improv should stay the same. But because the nature of improv is based on the yes-and philosophy and is meant to be different, I would trust your instinct, and truly improv and have a variation on that original goal.”

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