It takes a lot of discernment to navigate this industry. There’s a fine line between tenacity/drive… and overstepping boundaries. On any given topic there are standard dos and don’ts (I’ve written about them for years) but there’s also an argument that rules are made to be broken. And perhaps sometimes they are. Surely you’ve heard a story or two of actors being richly rewarded for doing just that, breaking rules. Hooray! Taking the road less traveled can be rewarding… and risky. I’m all about the freedom to take the gamble. As long as you know you’re doing it.
Commercial actors should never gamble with their relationships… unknowingly.
The gamble topic du jour is “going over the casting director’s head.” What do I mean by that? Contacting anyone higher on the totem pole than the casting director about getting an audition. It’s an interesting one and I think it’s worthy of consideration. Weighing the pros and cons is big for this one. The rewards could be great and the consequences can be as well. The reward? Getting called in the room. The consequence? Damaging your relationship with the casting office AND the person you contacted.
First of all, have you reached out to the casting director? I NEVER suggest calling a casting office, but an email is a pretty non-controversial way of going the extra mile if you are sure you are right for a role. Submit on the role and follow up with an email. Make your case. There are options available to know if your email has been opened or not. So, pitch yourself! Ask your agent to pitch you! Sometimes it helps!
So, you’ve done some extra research and you know the production company, director, and/or the agency. It may be tempting to contact someone higher up the chain to cover all your bases. This is where things get a little dangerous. Do you know the person you are contacting? If you are contacting a stranger because you saw their name on the breakdown, I’d think twice. Or a million times. A casting director is hired so that no one higher up will be bothered. Really. I can’t say how many times a producer/director/agency producer has been contacted and they simply disregarded the email. I can, however, tell you that sometimes it really ticks people off. Because they call me, the casting director, and yell at me. Not fun. As a result, I’ve been ordered to ban the talent from the current job or any future job they are associated with. Yes, that’s how furious some people get when inappropriately contacted. You can imagine if the reaction is that strong toward the talent…they can’t feel much more favorable toward the casting director. I can tell you they don’t. So the high-up totem pole person is mad and the casting director is in trouble because of you. Not good.
What if you know the high-up person you are contacting? Well, that makes things a little more interesting. Less dangerous, possibly. The good news is you probably won’t be ticking off the higher-up pal of yours. Possibly inconveniencing them, but not likely angering them. But the casting director?? If it’s as simple as a shout out to your producer friend to give your name as a “request” for a commercial? No problem at all. Happens all the time. And you know them so they should be happy to do it. But if you are hitting up a creative at Nickelodeon or VP at Sony (for example) to get you in on a branded web series or any other theatrical leaning job… (There is plenty of crossover these days) and word trickles down through several levels to get to the casting director; the casting director may not feel so grand about the situation. Why? Because in a way, you are making them look bad… or at the very least it may seem like their judgment is being questioned. It’s entirely possible the high-up person has no idea what the breakdown is for the particular project. You pleaded your case that you are perfect for the job… well, then, why the heck hasn’t the casting director called you in? And every person contacted in the line to get to the casting director knows about it, too.
You were submitted on the job. You or your agent gave a pitch. Whether you heard back from the casting director or not… and most certainly when you DID get a, “NO” response, I’d strongly suggest that you let it go. Remember, the casting director wants you to be the solution. They want you to be right. But if you aren’t right and won’t be cast in the role, the time can’t be wasted. Not theirs and not yours.
Another thing to remember… you aren’t privy to every last conversation and the breakdown certainly wouldn’t reflect it. If you are convinced you are perfect for a role and the casting director is clearly giving you a NO, there is a reason. If you choose to go above their head you may get an audition. Best-case scenario, you book the job… but possibly at the expense of your relationship with the casting office that has years of projects ahead of them. When it’s worth the gamble, take it. But know all the possible rewards and consequences before rolling the dice.