A multi part series for the not-so-established actor hoping to improve their career
When I started working in the commercial world a handful of years ago, one of the first things I heard from commercial actors was that you have to be on time for theatrical auditions, but you can pretty much show up whenever is convenient to a commercial audition. It's just a commercial, after all (!?).
Commercial actors should never assume that they can show up at a random time for their commercial audition.
In fact, there are countless reasons why showing up at the given time is important. In case you don't want to read my long-winded explanations, here's the short list:
*You may arrive during the lunch break.
*The session may be over.
*The casting director may have moved on to a different spot, and it is rarely acceptable to see talent out of category.
*You are often teamed up with other actors. Examples: part of a family, an office, or a couple. You catch my drift. When you don't arrive on time, your group is left incomplete.
*It doesn't take long to develop a reputation as an actor who doesn't show, or doesn't show up on time. (Often, if you are late or early, it is as bad as being a no-show because the casting director has moved on to a different category.)
For you folks who enjoy the pontification, simply like to know the "why" or want to hear examples, read on!
If you arrive for your audition during the lunch break, it is inconvenient for you because no one is around. If the casting director is moving on to a different spot/role after lunch, it is inconvenient for them. You may not be seen, and have possibly waited an hour for nothing. I don't recommend asking anyone who will listen if they could put you on tape during the lunch break. It makes you seem disrespectful of the few moments the staff has off. And I REALLY discourage having an attitude if you do ask for a favor. You are the one who showed up late/early. Don't forget: throwing a fit or being short doesn't make anyone want to do you a favor.
When the session has ended… it's over. There is a point of no return (finalizing the disc, etc.) and you may have arrived past it. Even if the staff wanted to put you on tape, they can't undo the process. It could also be that the staff is done for the day and they simply want to go home. Surely you can respect that. Some casting directors regularly go until 6:00, but some stop at 4:00. Even when you know a casting director's practices, the end time is never certain. If you come late, it is your loss. You can't get a job you were never seen for.
I recently heard of an incident where an actor was strongly suggesting (demanding) to be put on tape out of category because he was unavailable to come at his given time. He made it known that he had worked in casting for many years and knew an exception was possible. Huh. Well, if this is a myth that is being spread and believed out there, I beg to differ. Sometimes - and I am going to say rarely - an actor can be put on tape out of category. If this is the case, it is the exception to the rule and absolutely must be cleared with casting through your agent, not when you show up to the office. It isn't common, it isn't ideal, and it is a gift if it can be done for you. Why risk it?
There is an art to putting a session together when casting a commercial. Sometimes the scenarios are more elaborate than others. When a casting director is putting groups of actors together, there is time and thought put into it. It definitely makes things difficult in the casting day when the groups are incomplete or strange. In other words, it is hard to justify a family of Caucasians with a kid of a different ethnicity. Personally, I would love to see it in advertising, and that day may be coming. But 99% of the time, it isn't happening today. Come at your appointed time, please!
Lastly, you don't want to wreck your reputation with a casting director. I have said it before and I will say it again: the commercial nut is hard enough to crack when you have all of your ducks in a row. Can you really afford to handicap yourself? You will develop a poor reputation if you make a habit of coming in at a different time than was asked and you inconvenience the staff. Your reputation will be made immediately if you cause a scene on top of it. It seems crazy, but it so consistently happens I have to mention it. You cannot raise your voice or get excited when the casting office says they cannot see you… when you weren't on time. If you are in at the wrong time, a gracious apology is a much better choice.
A career in commercials isn't what the majority of you dreamt about when you decided you wanted to be an actor. But it is a fantastic gig when you can get it and my hunch is that you feel the same way, or you wouldn't take the time to read this. Respect should be paid to the audition, and certainly the casting director and staff. Show it! Come on! Come at your appointed time! I wholeheartedly believe the effort will be rewarded.