by Casting Director, Laurie Records
… create any kind of trouble on set.
I’ve been hanging out in commercial casting land for a little over six years now. I can count on one hand how many reports I have received from set. Normally, once the actors are booked and cleared through station 12, exhibit E’s and any taft hartleys are mailed, and my invoice (can’t forget that) is sent… my job is done. Often times, that stuff is completed before the wardrobe fittings are complete. I *may* hear from the producer when I’m hired on the next job, that the previous shoot went well or perhaps socially at a party I get a positive report. And, I may get a thank you note or two from the booked actors. That’s about all that happens in my world, post casting a commercial. It’s a very quick process, and you move on to the next. Unless there was an actor who was, in whatever way, a problem on set. Then I get an email. Uh oh.
Commercial actors should never be the subject of a BAD report from set.
There is only one reason actors are hated (enough for the producer/director to spend their precious time to write me a complaint email) on set. UNPROFESSIONALISM. A big umbrella, yes, but I think it’s true. There’s no way I could list all of the unprofessional pitfalls one may fall into. We could brainstorm for a year and not have a complete list. For better or for worse, you must use your own best judgment in how to conduct yourself vs. carry a checklist a mile-long of do’s and don’ts. But instead of sending you off with the warning and a big ol’ “good luck with that,” I’d like to give you some things to think about, to guard against being the actor worthy of a bad set report. I guarantee you, ALL of the actors I’ve received complaints about, had no idea they were angering the production team left and right. It isn’t the producer’s job to scold you, correct you or educate you, so they don’t. There’s no time for that. Needless to say the consequences are severe. Scary, right? So, if you think this column isn’t for you… consider reading on.
Time is money… lots and lots of money on set. Under no circumstances can you cause production to waste time. Being on time is a given. Not going MIA is a given. But you should be very conscious, because I assure you everyone else is, that you are not bringing anything to a screeching halt on set. Save your jokes for the lunch break. Don’t slow the forward motion. Be über on task when things are moving… to keep things moving.
It’s not about you, it’s about the commercial. If you feel the pressure to do anything extra apart from your action in the commercial, drop it. All the stories are true. Directors like to work with the same fabulous actors over and over. You will achieve this coveted status by listening very carefully and doing exactly what you are asked to do, when you are supposed to do it, on the mark you were told to be at. It isn’t the time to be Joe Actor, the social butterfly, the networking wonder, or the hilarious one… Don’t think of it as your day to be noticed and recognized, think of it as your day to work really hard and be very good at your craft. As silly as it sounds, you are your character; the character is the important one on set… not you, even in commercials. Be inspired by Daniel Day Lewis if that helps.
Be careful when trying to make things fun. Although I hear plenty to the contrary (and I don’t believe you, btw), being on set can be long and boring. There is a lot of waiting around. Wanting to liven things up seems like a natural response. Actors are inherently charismatic people. Class clowns, perhaps. Out there, fun folks. Be your loveliest self when there’s work to be done. Be Mr./Ms. Charisma and Hilarity when the clock isn’t ticking.
Are you catching my drift? Humility looks good on an actor. Don’t invite a friend to set. Taking the spotlight when it isn’t yours to have is bad. Eating up valuable time with your charm isn’t going to get the production anywhere but behind. Be the most professional actor you can be, if that translates to “conservative” in your brain, so be it. Err on the side of caution when it comes to your behavior on set… and you will never, ever be the subject of a bad report.