Many actors don’t realize the dramatic impact canceling or not showing for an audition and booking can have on casting and production. Since I’ve seen a lot of actors canceling these days, I thought I’d take you on a quick tour behind the scenes when this happens.
Here’s the scenario: It’s 5 a.m. You wake up tired and with a headache. That background job you booked on a commercial today isn’t looking appealing anymore. You could take ibuprofen and head to set or you could cancel and spend the rest of the day on the couch. You decide it feels easier to just call out so you email production that you’re sick.
At 5:01 a.m., we (meaning the casting director or someone from the casting office) get an urgent call from a frantic assistant director (AD) who has just received your “Hi, I can’t make it to the shoot today” email. Turns out your role was the bus driver in the scene with the lead actor and now they can’t film the scene because there’s no one to drive the bus. We apologize profusely to the AD, telling them we’ll find someone to replace you ASAP.
Meanwhile, production has come to a screeching halt until we send them a replacement actor. Dozens—potentially hundreds—of crew people are on the clock waiting to film and hundreds of thousands of dollars are potentially on the line.
The next half hour (or longer) is spent scrambling to find someone who looks exactly like you, who’s awake, can get to set in 10 minutes, save the shoot, and keep the project from going over budget. Yes, every role has a direct impact on production.
Your role was run through an approval process before casting you in the part. When we were first considering submissions for the background roles, we sent your profile along with hundreds of others to production who in turn sent their selections to the ad agency who then sent their picks to the end client who finally approved you. Now, in the last-minute frenzy that resulted from an avoidable cancellation, we no longer have the time needed to make that casting decision process happen again so we have to find someone just like you to do the job within minutes.
Emergencies happen in life and we do understand. But canceling for a non-emergency is a big deal. If you submitted for a project, were selected, and have confirmed to casting or production, we expect you to be there when needed. In fact, we depend on you to be there.
I know, most people think when you have a background role, it’s just an extra person on set. Sure, there are extensive crowd scenes in bigger-scale productions that call for a large number of people to be cast. However, for many jobs, you could be one of just a few selected for the scene, hence the dramatic ripple effect on casting and production mentioned above.
What happens if we don’t find a replacement for the person calling out? My heart stops just thinking about it. Let’s just say everyone loses: casting, production, ad agency, and end client. To top it off, we could lose any potential work from these clients because we let them down.
But back to the scene. We miraculously finally find someone who looks like you and agrees to run out the door immediately to fill your shoes. We notify production, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and the commercial is a “go” again. That replacement actor is, quite frankly, a hero to all of us for having saved the day.
You, the actor, represent us (casting) when you’re booked for a job. Production loves to report when anything goes wrong with talent, so please don’t let that happen on your watch. I have a handful of actors who are always available, professional, reliable and have come to the rescue on many occasions. I treasure them and always reach out with more work because I know they’ll be there in a heartbeat if they’re available.
If you think there is any chance you won’t be able to do a booking after you confirm, please let us know immediately. The more lead time you can give us, the better. There are many other actors who would love the job and are available and interested, but it takes time to find them.
Also, please do everyone a favor and cover your bases ahead of time to avoid calling out. Trust me, we’ve heard every excuse: “I got a flat tire,” “My cell phone died,” “I forgot to set my alarm,” “I have to pick up my dry cleaning,” and my favorite, “I got lost so I turned around and went home.” Do your best to be the pro we know you are. Your role, no matter how small, can make or break the project!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.