Do’s and Don’ts of Casting

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You have an audition. Details are below, please confirm ASAP! Sound familiar? You have been selected out of hundreds of actors to audition for a specific role in a project. Congratulations!! Your agent has rallied on your behalf and gotten your foot in the door. The rest is up to you. 

Take note of the following Do’s and Don’ts to help you book your next project! This is directed to all newer actors but even our veterans should take a look.


Do arrive 10-15 minutes early. 
Do have your lines memorized (‘off book’ is the industry term
Do be polite, & cheerful; the second you walk into the building you should be ‘on’. You never know who could be watching the receptionist could be the CDs aunt, or the director might look like a student!
Do respect their time
Do be aware of noise levels (be quiet)
Do understand your character
Do wear audition appropriate clothing (no loud patterns, no overtly large jewellery)
Do take direction (even if you don’t agree with it, sometimes the director is just looking to see if you can follow instructions)
Do contact your agent regarding anything casting related
Do know your stuff! Project name, character name, scene/story line


Don’t give excuses, blame or complain. Traffic is always terrible, scripts are released when they are available to casting regardless of how much time you prefer to have.
Don’t treat the Director/Assistants as your besties. They’re working and so are you
Don’t arrive late; its unprofessional!
Don’t shake anyone’s hand that hasn’t offered it to you first, they see upwards of hundreds of people a day…that’s a lot of germs!
Don’t bring in props (unless specifically told to do so)
Don’t bring in multiple bags and bulky coats, leave them in the waiting room (or your car)
Don’t overact (keep your performance natural)
Don’t ever contact casting directly!! EVER! FOR ANY REASON!!!!!
Don’t schmooze, this is a job interview, not cocktail hour. Stay in character as there will be lots of time to get to know other actors on set.
Don’t attend if you know you are not available for filming or callbacks. This wastes castings time and increases your chances of never being auditioned again. With that being said, make sure to regret via your agent.
Don’t ask a million questions. It is an audition (job interview), not a workshop. Casting does not want to take their time explaining things to you other than the scene that they want you to act out. Asking a million questions only makes you appear un-knowledgeable and unseasoned. It paints a picture that production will have to field to many questions from you the day of the shoot which only drives them crazy! Your Agent will have specified everything important in the audition email. All other questions are irrelevant to the audition. i.e How do pay rates work? When will I know if I’m booked? All questions can be forwarded to your Agent after the audition.
Don’t ever recite your lines in a bizaar voice or accent that has not been requested. 
Don’t attempt to change their scene into something other than what is laid out in your script. If they wanted a British accent then it would be listed in your audition details.

Most of these guidelines are common sense, and that you already ‘know’ what to do/not to do….but sometimes a reminder can go a long way! 


CONFLICTS: For busy actors that are consistently booking you must READ the conflicts listed in the breakdown when confirming your audition. You cannot shoot for Honda if you have just shot for Toyota etc. Conflicts are listed in the breakdown to ensure that actors are not booking competitive projects at the same time. McDonalds/Tim Hortons, RBC/CIBC, BMW/Audi etc. Your Agent also keeps track of these but sometimes a project was submitted too prior to a new booking for a competitor. At times there are also requests made by casting for actors who were NOT submitted to a project by the Agent.
HOLDS: Casting will often (but not always) ask for a hold on certain actors who have auditioned. This is not a firm booking, they are simply holding the actor until the client makes their final decision. Whichever casting agency has first hold has first dibs on booking you. If a second hold or booking comes in, whoever had first hold is asked by your Agent to firm up with a booking asap or lose you to another client.
RECALLS: Bigger projects will recall the actors that their client is interested in after the first audition is complete. A recall means you are in the final running. You should always wear the same or similar attire and do not change your audition strategy as casting obviously liked what you did at the initial audition. Try to attend with similar clothing, hair styles, beards, etc.
OFF BOOK: Means MEMORIZED. If script is supplied to you ahead of the audition, casting expects that you have memorized it. You are not to be reading it off the page, you are to know your lines!! If casting hands you a script 2 minutes before your audition or while in the room then this is referred to as a cold read. You can read from the paper, adding your own expression etc.
SOC: Silent on Camera, no lines.
PRINCIPAL or PP: You have script, or your character is one of the featured characters in the spot.
ACTRA/UDA/SAG/AFTRA: Union divisions: ACTRA: Toronto union, UDA: French Union, SAG/AFTRA: U.S Union
BUYOUTS/USAGE: When a breakdown specifies that there is a buyout offered in addition to the session pay rate, this is only paid to the actors that are still visible in the campaign when final edits are complete. They are the actors that are shown in the commercial that is airing. Buyouts usually arrive AFTER session rate cheques and are NOT guaranteed to every actor that shoots. Your Agent will inform you if you made the final edit as production will always request an invoice for the buyout separate from the initial filming invoice for all talent who have made the cut.EG. Session rate $500, Buyout $4000. You are only guaranteed the session rate. Buyout is the rate they pay to use your face!! If they are not using your face in the end then they are not paying you the buyout!!

Payment scenarios:

Union cheques: All cheques MUST for forwarded to your Agent so that we can keep track of airing cycles, correct amounts etc. Union cheques arrive with-in 30 days. They are quick and easy and do not require an invoice from us. An Agent authorization form is always sent to ACTRA from the talent instructing them to forward ALL mail to your agency i.e T4’s, cheques, letters etc.
Non Union Cheques: Non-union is referred to as the wild west for a reason. 30-60 days is the norm, however production can take up to 90 days if they want to be difficult. After the 90 day mark we start to harass them if we still haven’t received the cheque. Please keep in mind that we want our payment as much as you want yours…we are both in the same boat. If you haven’t received payment, then we haven’t received OUR payment. We are at the mercy of production. If they want to with-hold until the last minute, there is nobody there to stop them as the union has not sanctioned their project.Rest assured your Agent will work with the Casting Director (who often has not been paid either) to get the payments issued asap…we all have our ways to put fire under production if needed. 
Actors are notified by accounting when a cheque is being released, usually 5 business days after receipt to give it time to clear. Union cheques are released upon arrival as we allow our talent to cash their own Union cheques to save them HST

Decoding The Self Tape

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Love them or Hate them, self tapes are increasingly requested by casting directors for many reasons. It saves them money in having to rent space, it cuts down your travel/commute, and as an actor, you are able to fit it in within your schedule. Being requested for a self tape audition is all types of awesome!
Whether it is your first self tape, or you have your own set up in your basement/kitchen/living room, knowing the lingo and requirements definitely help make the taping go smoothly.
Make sure to read the audition email. Multiple times, thoroughly before asking questions. 9/10 the answer is already there.
When asked to check your actors access account, please do so as the instructions, scripts etc are outlined in your actors access email.
Read all instructions, as every self tape is different. If casting requests certain info in your slate,  if they ask for certain camera angles, certain stats, certain reading instructions etc. They have put together this info for you very clearly, if you disregard it then they assume you cannot follow instructions.
Start off with the right tools:
Tripod – a camera stabilizing tool is a must if you do not have a reader or person taping you.
Reader– if given script to tape you MUST have a solid reader behind the camera reading the other lines to prompt yours.
Lighting – it doesn’t need to be professional, but make sure that there are no shadows cast across your face and that you’re not set up in front of a window.
Location – Make sure you choose a calm area in your house with a neutral wall or background. Nothing too busy (pictures, decorations etc), no noise in the background.
Terms you can and will come across via self tape requests:
Slate – State your name, agency and that you are reading for the role of “XXXXXX”. Never say your age unless you are specifically asked for it.
Tail Slate – The same as a slate! But this should only be added to the end of your audition tape instead of the standard introduction slate.
Landscape – The orientation of the camera. ALWAYS film in landscape (unless asked otherwise). Simply turn phone sideways to create a bigger screen.
Full Body Shot – This is a request to see your FULL body. Dont stand behind anything, and make sure the camera doesn’t have to move up and down to see your body. Zoom in for slate, zoom out for full body shot, zoom back in for script.
Close up – Frames a subject’s face and cuts off mid-neck, showing the face and entire head. The subject fills almost the entire frame capturing facial expressions and emotions. Zoom in.
Medium Close up – Frames a subject’s head and cuts off around mid-chest. The focus is on the subject. Reveals only a little of the surroundings.
Eco-Cast – another way to say self tape from actors access.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Do Edit your best take only.
Do Make sure to properly name your file ‘20181029456789321XVJ’  is going to get lost on someones harddrive. Always follow this format: YourName_YourRole_ProjectName
Do Film and save your work in preferred formats. Casting is not going to take the time to reformat a self tape when they have 75+ others to still watch. Make sure it is in a .MOV or MP4 format.
Do use a self tape app, it makes your life so much easier! Try MySelfTape App
Do Not send multiple takes (unless they are specifically requested).​
Do Not send your file as a dropbox link or Gmail link. Use a file sharing program if you need to (hightail or wetransfer)
ALWAYS MEET YOUR DEADLINE. Actually, send it in early! Casting is happy, your Agent is happy, and it looks good on you that you have made this project a priority instead of waiting to the last minute. If a due date and time is set for after business hours, you need to take into consideration that your Agents is not on call 24/7. Uploading your tape 5 minutes before it is due is NOT ENOUGH TIME for the system to notify your Agent that your tape is ready for review, and then for your Agent to preview it and submit it to casting. Your Agent is not going to run out of the movie theatre at 8pm on Friday night because you didn’t upload your tape before end of day (5pm). Contrary to what some may think, Agents have lives outside of the office and we cannot help you succeed if it is assumed we are on call at the drop of a hat.
WHEN TAPING WITH A PROFESSIONAL COACH OR STUDIO please make your coach aware that tapes are to uploaded to the casting systems that they came from and NOT sent to your agent direct. Actors Access was created for this reason, for actors to handle their own uploads, self tapes, and profiles. 
YOUR AGENT CANNOT SUBMIT PAST THE DEADLINE. I cannot stress this enough! Your Agent cannot submit anything once the computer has closed the invitation. NEVER WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! This is NOT OUR RULE. Just like an in-person audition, casting has a deadline. You cannot attend an in-person audition past your call time thus you cannot upload a self tape past the deadline stated.
Self tapes are the way of the future and can be challenging for older, less tech savvy, actors. Please be pro-active, practice self tapes before they are requested, learn the system, learn the myselftape app, learn the settings on your phone so that when you get an self tape audition you are not stressed.
You are all self employed as actors, practice makes perfect, please be prepared 🙂