Guest Post by: Claire Simon
Often times after a long day of auditions, I get to grab a quick second to check Facebook, and undoubtedly I’ll see a few postings by actors who’d commented on their audition that day. There are always comments about how well it went or conversely maybe they are contemplating poking their eye out after a really crumby one.
Side note, I keep looking for the one that says “I just couldn’t concentrate because the casting director was too stunningly beautiful”…but I digress.
What I’ve seen quite a bit lately, are angry posts about being put on hold or “check avail” time and time again, but never getting the booking, losing to another actor, or worse yet, losing out to someone from LA or NY when our show is shooting in Chicago.
I know how it feels to be an actor. I started out as one. Your reality is that you know so little of what goes on before and after your audition, and you’re left to fill in the blanks. All you know is what you do to prepare, how damn long it took to find parking for a two second audition, and whether or not you got the job. Nothing in between. So, frustrating as it may seem to be continually be put on hold for a role, only to have it go to someone else…let me assure you that it’s a good thing, a great thing, and something that should keep you positive and motivated to boot.
So for blog purposes, and so I don’t turn this in to a novel, let’s concentrate on a TV series and I’ll fill you in on what goes on when you leave the room. Usually the director and producer are in the room when I’m casting one of my series episodes, and I usually only bring in 5 actors per role. That’s because first of all sometimes I’m looking for upwards of 25 roles, and unless the audition day is going to morph into a pajama party, I need to make it as tight and time efficient as I can, so they can get back to their tech scout before they fall asleep.
Casting sessions can be long, and they count on me to bring in the best, so they don’t have to see 42 actors per role. So, if you are one of those five actors, that is a good thing to start off with right there.
After we finish seeing actors for a role, we take a beat and the director and producer confer and select their top two picks. This is when we call your agent, and put you on check avail, or hold. That means, you are one of the top two choices, and your audition is now in the universe on it’s way to the show runner, and writer/producers in LA for them to look at, at which time they will pick their number one choice. After they make their selection, it goes to Network for approval. This usually happens over a couple days, which I’m sure in actor time seems like a year and a half of waiting.
There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, guys, and sometimes decisions come down to hair color, or the fact that you are taller than the series lead and he doesn’t want someone bigger than him in the scene. It’s subjective.
Often times, when it’s a really large role, the series casting director in NY will also be looking as well, so there will be choices coming from him too. Being put on hold isn’t to torment you, it’s because you were great and the decision makers in the room think you’d be good for the role, it means you are close to snagging the job.
Now sometimes, actors are on hold for a week, and the reason is usually this…so everyone on the planet has now picked their number one choice, and bummer, this time is isn’t you….but you’re still on hold. This is because things change, actors forget they are getting married during the shoot dates, the play they are in doesn’t have an understudy ready to go on, they can’t afford to join SAG…stuff happens.
So we will keep an actor on hold until the booking is firm, and if something happens you are still available and we can give the job to you! Also, another important thing to keep in mind is that being put on hold doesn’t mean you give up other gigs, it simply means we’d like first dibs on you and if you get another offer, we’d like a call from your agent who will say, “time to make a decision or you’re going to lose her.”
My hope is that my little explanation will help to dispel the frustration that so many feel when they are being put on hold all the time, and maybe turn the perception around to a positive thing, which it is!
Last note, on one of my walls in my casting studio are the words “We’re on your side”. It’s true. Don’t forget it.
Now go soar.
Claire Simon is President and Director of Casting at Simon Casting. Currently, Claire has the distinct privilege of casting Empire, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and the upcoming series Sense8. An Artios winner for her work on Prison Break, she is also a national board member of CSA (Casting Society of America) board member of IPA and a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.