The Casting List You Never Want to Be On

If you're lucky and you've been around a while, you'll invariably know a few casting directors who've become fans and call you in for auditions all the time. But what happens when the love ends? It can occur for any number of reasons, but the irony, according to the CDs I spoke with, is that most actors are oblivious to how their own actions can adversely affect a CD's day. And that behavior can get an actor blackballed from a casting office. I spoke with two commercial casting directors, one in Los Angeles and one in New York, with a combined 40 years of experience. They asked that their names not be used, so volatile is this subject. No actor wants to be blacklisted, obviously, and I suspect that few CDs want to be known as someone who keeps a blacklist. But some do, even if they don't call it that. My sources agreed that the chief offense that can get an actor blackballed is making the CD look bad in front of his or her clients—that means the ad agency, the director, or the production company. How is this accomplished? Here are the top three ways:

1. Accepting a job and then changing your mind. While this happens with regularity, most actors don't think about how it looks from the other side of the table. After days or weeks of auditions, callbacks, and reviewing tapes, plus thousands of dollars in casting expenses, a director finally chooses you for his commercial. You and your agent accept. You're booked. But before signing, you're offered an episode of CSI: Miami and pull out of the commercial. The result? The producers are livid, and they blame the CD. "He was so furious," says the L.A. casting director about a former casting boss. "He called the actor's agent and told him if his client did not take the commercial, he would not see any of his clients for a full year." The actor took the commercial. Extreme? Yes. But it happens.

"I had an actor in for a callback, one of our top three picks," says the New York CD. "He knew at the audition when the shooting dates were, said he was fine with it. Ten minutes after he leaves, his agent calls and tells us his client will be out of town for a golf tournament during the shoot dates. We were really angry."

2. Arriving late. If you think no one notices when you're late to a casting call, you're wrong. "I spend hours matching actors' heights, weights, and coloring so they'll have a good match for a wife or family," says New York. "I work hard for their benefit. I post sides ahead of time, leave adequate time for them to audition properly, only to get actors strolling in late, out of category, who don't know their copy and completely mess up a schedule I created in order to help them book a job."

3. Signing out after an audition. Of all the possible reasons an actor could get on a CD's shit list, this was the most hotly discussed. As actors, we have the right to sign out. Indeed, that's one of the purposes of the official Screen Actors Guild sign-in/sign-out sheet that's always present at a union audition. After spending an hour at a first or second audition, you are entitled to $35.45 per subsequent half-hour—or fraction thereof—of your time. That means you can claim that money even if you go just a single minute past one hour. But narrowly exercising your right can greatly exercise a CD.

"It's one thing when a director runs long on an audition or arrives late to a callback session, or we have technical problems that cause us to run late," says L.A. "But you have to factor in that the person who called you in is supporting your career, trying to put you in the best light and put you in front of the camera. I excuse actors for lateness, who come out of category, come on another day. We try to accommodate where we can. But it should be a reciprocal thing."

"It's your right to sign out," says New York. "But if you're hovering at, say, an hour and five minutes, let it slide. You don't have to take the rule to the letter. The actors who have been around hardly ever sign out. It's the cost of doing business."