In episode 16 of Casting Frontier’s Bring It! series, the Action Casting team—casting veteran James Levine and session director/actor Charles Carpenter—answer the question: I’m receiving callbacks, so why am I not getting put on avail?” Levine and Carpenter share a certain tendency they see in the callback room and discuss why it prevents actors from advancing. And they advise actors on how they can get out of their own way and take their acting careers to the next level. 

But, first of all, let’s define what it means to be “on avail.” When an actor is put on avail, it signifies a casting director or producer is officially reserving a performer’s availability to play a role during the shoot days of a production. The status notifies actors that casting is strongly considering hiring them even if it means they might need to wait days or weeks to find out if they actually booked the job. Keep in mind, multiple actors may have likewise been put on avail for the same part. 

But it’s important performers be forthcoming about the days they’re actually available to shoot. After all, producers are tasked with the challenging job of scheduling every cast and crew member as well as reserving locations, obtaining permits, and much more. Shoots cost a lot of money and there’s a lot of pressure to get everything lined up properly. Nobody wants to be the reason why a production ended up needing to be delayed. 

That being said, actors who are put on avail must both be ready to book the job (hooray!) or hear they didn’t land the part after all, which can be discouraging. But even if the job falls through, the fact that performers made it so far along in the process is certainly encouraging. It indicates they caught the attention of casting directors, making them a prospect for future roles. And it reveals to agents that the actors are showing promise. 

As Levine puts it,  thespians who are put on avail are “firmly in the mix.” However, to the actors who receive callbacks but don’t advance to being put on avail, he says, “You’re ‘almost’ doing this right. You have to examine what might be happening or not happening. In the end, you’re a professional direction taker; you have to respond to direction. The director is looking for your ability to be adjusted without any ego behind it—without any resistance.” 

Then he describes a certain pitfall he’s observed in the callback room. Levine continues, “A trap that an actor can fall into is they don’t want to be a bother, so they get a piece of direction, and then we say, ‘Do you got that?’ and they go, ‘Yeah, I think I got that.’ But you didn’t, and you wing it, and you didn’t clarify. And then you lose. There’s no way around that.”

For this reason, Levine states the importance of actors repeating back to casting what they believe is being asked of them. By doing so, casting can clarify any misunderstandings and set the actor on the right track. When performers forget this step, Levine ultimately attributes it to a lack of confidence. 

Carpenter asserts, “Remember this: [Casting professionals] are not doing you a favor by bringing you in. You are doing them a favor by showing up and being prepared and ready for work. So if you have a question that needs to be answered in order for you to do the job properly, make sure you ask.”

Determined to help actors cut through the mystery associated with the casting process, James Levine authored an enlightening book entitled Bring It! along with Charles Carpenter and Jim Martyka, which will be released digitally in the near future. In the book, Levine shares helpful audition information from the vantage point of a casting director as it relates to commercial, film, and television acting. The book’s chapters correspond to the Bring It! video series.

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