Who Books Commercials and Why?

Once you have done your callback and leave that is when the director, agency execs, producer and maybe someone representing the client start the process of selecting who will book the job – whether they are in the room or via a video feed. I am sure you have wondered how the final selection is made: what is considered, the politics, who has the decision making power and what happens during those few days you are waiting to see if you booked the job.

Doing great auditions, unfortunately, doesn’t always get you cast. Actors often get and don’t get jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with their talent or audition technique. The powers that be, who usually have different opinions on the best actor for the role, have to agree. The final decision maker depends on the job and the “clout” of either the director, agency execs, producer and maybe someone representing the client.

These decision-makers will compare notes, examine pictures and resumes and review the video auditions then the discussions and often compromises go on for a few minutes or hours. They choose their top recommendations and present these “selects” on video to the client and the other decision-makers who were not present at the callback for the final approval. This can take a few hours, days or sometimes weeks.

The agents of the actors that are being strongly considered are informed to put their actors on “Hold” or “Strong Avail” for the shoot date(s). This means that the actors need to hold those dates to shoot the commercial. It also means that if the actor is offered another job for the date(s), his/her agent must inform the producer and the decision-makers must choose to hire that actor or let them take the other job. Once the final choice is made, the actor’s agent is informed and the actor is booked. Those who were on “Hold” or “Strong Avail” and were not book are usually (but not always) are informed and released.

Most of the time, the actors auditioning for a specific role fit a designated physical description; they are all the same age-range, ethnicity, gender, type, and build. Yet those getting the callback and booking have the look (along with the personality, essence and talent) that resonated stronger for the occupation/role being cast. It is a subjective decision of those doing the casting.

To demonstrate how this might work, the next time you are in a group of people whom you don’t know, play this game. Pretend you are casting roles in a commercial or film from the people you see. Cast the following characters:

  • Members of a wedding party: Who would be the bride or groom, maid/matron of honor, best man, members of the wedding party, various family members, eccentric relatives, photographer, caterer, wedding planner, etc.?
  • People in a business office: Who looks like they could be the boss, bookkeeper, human resources person, assistant, executive, computer technician, secretary, “creatives,” errand boy or girl, receptionist, etc.?
  • Those in a suburban neighborhood: Who looks like members of
the family who has lived there the longest, those new to the block, busybodies, problem neighbors, those on the welcoming committee, fast-food-delivery people, mail carrier, gardener, etc? Also, who could be the residents who have all the right products (sold in commercials) and those who don’t have them? 
You will see that most people physically fit a role or two in each scenario. Play along with a friend and compare how similarly you cast these strangers. Whether you know it or not, you have been conditioned by the media to see distinct physical types of people playing specific kinds of roles. This exercise will give you an insight into casting. Actors want to perform a range of parts, but those who are identifiable types are often more “castable” in commercials.

Many new actors resist the idea of being a type. They feel it is limiting to their talent. I believe it is necessary in order to start getting work. Knowing your type is not a limitation. It is a distinction that gives you parameters within which to play. There is only one of you and if you are a good actor, you can do all kinds of roles that are you.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/