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The Working Actor

Such a Deal, Too Weary for Words

Such a Deal, Too Weary for Words
Dear Michael:

Not that I'll be offered one of these any time soon, but what exactly is a "holding deal"? I've heard that term several times recently in conversations, and I don't want to look like I don't know what it is.

—Just Curious, Culver City, Calif.

Dear Just Curious:

Hey, it never hurts to educate yourself, right? Better to have knowledge you don't need than to lack knowledge you do need.

According to, a holding deal is "a TV network paying an actor not to go elsewhere while they are trying to locate a project to star him. 'Kirsty got a wonderful holding deal from NBC.'"

According to, it's "an entertainment industry term for an agreement made between a studio or network (or other similar entity) and a person, such as an actor, producer, or writer, to hold the person to be exclusive to that entity for an agreed-upon period of time, usually one year or 'season,' for an agreed-upon amount of money."

According to WikiAnswers, it's "when an agency pays an entertainer while they are developing a movie/act/CD for him/her. The deal usually entails that the entertainer not sign or work with any other agencies."

And according to "Entourage":

Ari: Maybe they don't want to make a show with you, Drama.

Drama: They gave me a holding deal.

Ari: The guy who grills my hot dog at Carney's had a holding deal in 1978.

You get the gist. You can now nod knowingly next time someone mentions a holding deal. And if you're ever offered one, I'm sure your agent will be happy to explain the finer details.

Dear Michael:

Things have been going so well for me lately. I have been working and auditioning consistently. I booked seven gigs in August—not all high-paying jobs, but I'm working as an actor, which makes me happy and not depressed.

But today I went in to audition for a commercial. I did fine, but for some reason I just didn't have the "me" energy that I usually have. It might be because I haven't slept well the last few nights, and boy, if I don't get my sleep, it can really affect my performance, especially in a wordy spot like this one was. The casting director seemed fine with my performance, but I feel terrible because I work so hard and haven't had a bad audition in a long time. It's hard to let it go.

Any advice? Should I send the casting director an email apologizing?

—I Need a Nap, Los Angeles

Dear I Need a Nap:

Whatever you do, do not send the casting director a note apologizing. You will only be calling attention to something that by now is long forgotten on his or her end. I know what it's like to think you've completely blown it at an audition. From our point of view as actors, it feels like we've made an enormous, unforgivable screwup, so bad that the casting director is going to immediately add our name to some universal list of people who should never be invited to audition for anything ever again, and we'll be banished from show business. That sound about right? And in the moment, those concerns seem almost rational.

But rest assured, that isn't the case. Having an off day doesn't ruin your reputation or your career. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that casting directors don't always identify what you consider a terrible audition as such. Their focus is on casting the role. So, probably, they'll only note that you're not the right choice and move on to the next candidate. And it's important to get this: Not being right for the role isn't a failure in their eyes. It's simply the math: Most of the actors who audition won't be the right choice. That doesn't mean the casting person hates the work of those actors or never wants to audition them again. It only means they aren't getting hired this time around.

Here's my analogy: You're shopping for a new blouse, going down the rack, seeing what's available. Some of them will work for you; some of them won't. The ones that aren't quite right, you pass on. But here's the thing: Except in very rare cases, you're not thinking, "My God, what a horrible, terrible, stupid blouse! Who would design such a thing?" I mean, it would have to be reeaaaallly bad for that to happen. No, more likely your focus is on hunting down the right choice, and you're not giving the discards a second thought. They're just not for you.

And the fact is, we actors are, frankly, not the best evaluators of our own work. I can't tell you how many times I've done what I considered a terrible audition and then gotten a call from my agent saying I had a callback or a job. I've also had what I considered terrific auditions that led exactly nowhere.

I once heard a true story about an actor who did so badly at an audition that she took it as the final sign that she'd gone into the wrong profession. Tearfully, she drove straight to her agent's office and reported her decision, explaining that this audition had opened her eyes; she'd been kidding herself all along. She could see now that she had no talent and that it was time to quit. Mid-rant, the agent's phone rang. He briefly took the call, then returned to the conversation. "Go on," he said, adding, "By the way, that was the casting director calling to book you. So, you were saying?"

See what I mean? So consider the possibility that your audition didn't go as badly as you think. You said it yourself: The casting director seemed to feel fine about what you did. The only way he or she will have any residual negative thoughts about your work is if you call attention to your perceived shortcomings by sending an apology note. You have nothing to apologize for. The next time you're in front of this casting director, you have no reason not to come in friendly, upbeat, and ready to do your thing.

Besides, you're a busy, working actor. That puts you in a tiny category—tiny! So geez, if this audition wasn't up to your usual level, how about giving yourself a break and giving someone else a turn? The casting director has moved on. So should you.

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