Monthly Archives: October 2015

Walking The Tightrope Between Being Booked Or Released

Are Avails Driving You Crazy?

We all know avails are a good thing. But are they driving you crazy?

Being put on avail is certainly a recognized indication that you’ve done a good job–and they bring you one step closer to booking the job. (I must take this moment to mention that not all great auditions will get you an avail.) Of course, you are then held on avail until the last minute, and if you are not booked, the only other option is you are released. The day or two (or more) that you are waiting to be booked or released is a combination of feelings ranging from excitement, trepidation, and anxiousness while you are wondering what’s going on behind the scenes that is determining your fate.

Simultaneous to the actor being put on avail, the booking process begins. The writers, producers, and directors make their choices and then the choices quickly go through a myriad of other people, including the creative supervisor and creative director, who weigh the determining factors. All their decisions are based on turning out a product that is creative and acceptable to final client approval.

Hoping to eliminate some stress and help you put some humor into the waiting process, I thought I would pull back the elusive curtain by sharing some inside information with you.

All the factors have one thing in common: they are subjective and you have no control over them after you give a good performance. The cold fact is you have to make strong choices because a neutral performance will get you no place. There may always be a margin of doubt about your choice; but when that thought comes up, stop, recognize it, smile at it, and say hello to it. Acting coaches who work with celebrities on their auditions for films are hired to figure out choices; certainly not to teach the celebrity how to act.  I know for a fact that even the most brilliant acting coaches who work with celebrities on these auditions sometimes are a bit nervous that perhaps they have given their client the wrong choice to play.

In a commercial audition, after the first big factor is determined of whether you make the character come alive, the following are some typical questions that come into play for the creative team in relation to the particular situation.

Does her essence fit the spirit of the character?

Does his character feel aspirational enough?

Does he feel approachable enough?

Is she funny enough?

Is she too funny where we won’t take her seriously?

Do we believe him?

Do we trust him?

Does his performance feel real or like a performance?

Does she feel too much like the other person we are booking?

Does he feel approachable enough?

Does he feel successful?

Are we pushing the client to far out of what we think is their comfort zone?

Knowing our client, will they “buy” him?

So folks, I rest my case. What more can you do other than give your best performance that feels very real, and let the process take its course. I wish you happy, successful auditioning with stress-free avails. #‎berlandcasting  #‎casting

The Art and Technique of Commercials

The AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) has an awards competition every year for the best commercials, divided into many categories.  It is called The Art and Technique of the American Commercial.  Putting aside the auditions where you slate and “tell us something about what you like to do other than acting” auditions, I really do agree that acting in commercials is fascinating and an art in itself.

What makes a good commercial audition?  Actors will ask “What makes one stand out”?  Thank goodness the “old school” mugging and over acting with broad facial expressions is far behind us.  Plain but not simple, the more honest and the more depth that you can reveal of your personality in this short format, the better the audition and the more you stand out.  A lot of awareness and choices go into preparation resulting in seemingly effortless transitions.

You need to stand on the mark that you are given and immediately let us know who you are and how you feel. I liken it to a short theatrical scene, the “under fives”. There is not much to grab on to; very little time with very few words.  And in that short amount of time, you need to connect to whatever the scene and character is.

You need to know where you are, what your relationships are, and most importantly, who you are.  Actors, sound familiar?

The words become secondary.  It is WHO is saying these words that the client is going to buy.  That is what makes your audition unique.  Even the same “types” have unique personalities.  The key to a strong individual audition is letting out your personality, which allows the creative team into some depth below the surface.

The client does not need you to sell anything.  They take care of the sell.  They are using you as a vehicle for their sell. You do, however, have to understand the sell. You, then, have to take the script (or the improv) and make that a vehicle to let out who you are and how you feel.

Understanding the space you are working in, knowing how to expand it, and being able to identify beats will give your performance in this little space texture and dimension.

I don’t believe in thinking of yourself in terms of specific characters that you can play.  I think it is limiting to categorize yourself as a lawyer, doctor, businessman, nurse, etc.  However, know your type.  What I mean by that is what qualities do you innately have?  For instance, do you have humor?  What kind of humor is it?  Are you grounded, flighty, upscale, blue collar?  Commercials happen so fast; there is no time to develop a character.  You hear many times it’s “how you look”.  Looks do play an important part in this venue because of the speed of the message.   Longer theatrical scenes are actually easier because you can dig your teeth into and develop the character.  In commercials, we drop right into the scene and within one minute, it’s over.  No time to develop, grow, mature or evolve.  You have to make a choice and be committed starting with the first word.  Commitment starts way before you come in to the audition.  During the selection process, I recently had the experience of looking at four photos of the same actor. The actor looked completely different in the last two photos, even as far as hair color. I asked myself “who is this person, who would show up?”  I felt confused and a lack of confidence in the message the actor was conveying. I ended up calling in an actor I felt certain about.

Commitment continues during the audition. The client is looking for a personality to make the character in their spot come alive.  You have to make a choice and then stay true to who you are.  To do this, your personality choices need to drive your performance and the words will take care of themselves. Don’t let the words drive your performance.

Choices are a concept to respect.  You cannot be everything to everyone.  Yes, you need to know your technique to make smart choices and then put your energy into confidently staying committed to that choice. Wondering what “they” want while performing is counterproductive.  If you understand their sell and know the space you are working in, you won’t do anything terribly wrong.  After that, you’ll be directed with a slight adjustment if need be.

Know your technique, make strong choices, be flexible to change as directed and enjoy the 60-second opportunity.

It’s an art to tell a story and act in 60 seconds.  Be the best artist you can be.#‎berlandcasting #‎casting

The Casting Process; “Inside The Casting Office”

You will quickly learn that the process takes a group effort with excellent people as part of the team.  I work hand in hand with my Casting Associate in a delicate dance of sharing responsibility and cross checking everything to avoid errors.  It is a day of MULTI-TASKING.

Before the casting session starts, Exhibit E’s are prepared, signs and directions prepared, printed and everything else gathered to prep the outside of the audition room.

Casting Director/Casting Associate (CD/CA) meet with Session Runner (the person running the outside of the room) to go over characters and the rhythm of the day.  The Session Director is shown the story boards and Director treatment.  Also, any ideas for props and blocking are discussed.  All technicalities of equipment are gone over by Session Director and any direct feed into CD’s office is checked.

The Casting Director has received their direction from the Director and must translate the direction to the Session Director.  At the start of the session, the Casting Director (CD) is in the room with the Session Director (SD) to direct the first couple of people for both CD and SD  to see how the direction is working out.  It could be a matter of a subtle glint in the eye of recognition as opposed to an “out there excitement” that makes the difference.  If the direction is wrong, the session is wrong. When the direction clicks in, the CD can then leave and go back to the office. The session is fed into the office on a monitor to be watched throughout the day by the Casting Director and the Casting Associate.

While the CD is in the room with the SD, the Casting Associate is in the office manning the phones for production company calls, talent cancellations, change of times and new jobs coming in.  The production company has an uncanny way of calling and changing things (like direction) at the last minute.  Other typical calls could be production company asking for an estimate for a new job they are bidding on.  These estimates can be simple or can get complicated, taking up to an hour to prepare.  The number of characters and ethnicities determines the number of casting days.  Sometimes the CD is asked by the production company Producer how many days it will take to cast, but in these times of tight budgets, the production company ultimately figures out how many days realistically fit into their competitive bid.

The storyboards and Director’s treatment are sent to the Casting Director beforehand, then when the job is actually awarded, the CD is included on a conference call with the production company and ad agency creative team where all the character details are gone over again in more realistic detail than the Director’s treatment.  Many times, details such as run and conflicts are missing and the CD then has to speak to the business manager at the ad agency to gather the final information to be able finally get the breakdown out. All the details are then entered on the preferred breakdown service of the Casting Director and finally sent out.  The casting session is usually prepped to be cast the following business day.

In the beginning of the session, we are acutely aware of who is coming in by going out to the reception area, in addition to watching our monitor to see that our choices have fulfilled the client’s needs.  Right from the beginning a tone is set.  On the rare occasion that something is  “off”, we  take a look at the rest of the session online to make sure we are on track.  Something will be off when we call in people who we don’t know well and they do not look like their photos. You can see why it is very important to look like your photo. We congratulate ourselves for putting together a good session because our choices can come from weeding through over a thousand submissions per character, with too many of them very off base.

The breakdown goes out and within a couple of minutes, submissions start coming in.  At times, we see from the submissions that our description has been misinterpreted and we then have to tweak the description to shape the in-coming submission more to our liking.  There  are times the production company adds more characters or changes the characters, and we add additional characters to our breakdown. Many times, you get your calls late in the day for the following day because of this arduous process.

When we start a job, it’s like surfing a wave. We change with the current and veer in certain directions to avoid errors that will protect ourselves, agents, actors and production.  Clear communication is key.

Other jobs that are finishing up need avails put out, bookings done, and clearance reports sent to the Union. Taft Hartley reports need to be taken care of, if needed; information received from Agents and letters written. Station 12’s have to be followed through to protect ourselves and the ad agency we are working to avoid fines.

WHILE ALL THIS IS GOING ON, YOU ARE AUDITIONING and we are watching our monitor to see that the direction has not gone off track.  We also take a visit out to the reception area to see that the session is running in a timely manner. It’s a good opportunity  to touch base with some actors, say hello and then go back into the office.

We also monitor the morning session and determine if we are sparse on any character due to many unexpected drop outs.  If so, we have to put more people in the afternoon.  This, of course, causes possible back logs.  But we have to come through for our client and bring them what is expected from us.  There is no time for another session and this is not a dress rehearsal for us.


Paper work is involved on every job.   Copies of Exhibit E’s having to be sent to the ad agency and original copies to the union.  We also take responsibility if the union is fining our client for a Taft.  We jump in and fight for our Taft to go through to avoid any fines to our ad agencies.


When the job is booked, we remove the avails from actors who are still holding. Bookings are put out and clearance reports sent to the Union. Terms of agreement and conflicts are gone over for the booking.


In the best of all worlds, a new job comes in and all the aforementioned steps take place and we are again sifting through thousands of photo submissions.

The production company and ad agency have to feel they are being taken care of.  It takes a good team that works well together to bring all the elements together both behind the scenes and at the audition room.  It takes organization and team work to complete one  to several jobs. In one day we are organizing, selecting and inviting as many as 275 people to come to the audition at 5 to 10 minute intervals.

Thank you all for coming to your appointments with such little notice and doing a good job for us.  And thank you for canceling when you know you can’t come in order to keep our numbers up and meet our obligation for our clients.

So the next time you walk in the reception area, you’ll be a little wiser knowing what it takes to put this casting session together. #‎berlandcasting #‎casting