Trust. It’s a big word. It’s widely known that the commercial industry is all about relationships. A casting office has relationships with agents as well as with individual actors and vice versa. While it’s always a plus to genuinely like the people you work with, what may be more important than liking people is trusting them. Earning and keeping trust is crucial to success and breaking that trust is quite simply disastrous.
Building trust is a process. As a commercial actor, there are small ways in which you can build trust with a commercial casting office. Some of these are so subtle, you might not even be aware of them even as you’re putting them in practice.
When you walk into the audition studio looking like your headshot, you are building trust. When the height and weight on your resume are correct, you are building trust. Confirming your audition in a timely fashion, arriving prepared, in wardrobe, and on time—all that builds trust. When you do this consistently, you are building trust.
Conversely, as you can imagine, you chip away at trust when you don’t confirm/cancel your audition appointment, you’re a no-show or you cancel your audition on the day it’s scheduled, or arrive unprepared/wearing inappropriate wardrobe. You break trust when your headshots, resume stats or training/skills are inaccurate or exaggerated.
While these “little” things are important, we’re all human, life is unpredictable, and no one mistake can make or break your chances. Casting directors make mistakes and so do agents and actors. Any once-in-a-blue-moon mistake can be forgiven. But when “emergencies” become strangely consistent and mistakes are made a few times too many, that’s when trust begins to break.
The trust stakes get higher when it comes to callbacks—especially when it comes to avails and bookings. When trust is broken there, it can be beyond repair. When there is no mention of a conflict with a wardrobe or shoot dates until the actor is put on avail or offered a booking, that will inevitably break down trust. The above conflicts need to be made clear during the first calls—or at the latest, the callbacks.
So, how do you keep the trust? Communicate clearly and completely any scheduling conflicts as soon as you are aware of them. As long as everyone is in the know, decisions can be made whether or not to accommodate a schedule conflict. But no one will hold it against you when you are honest and upfront.
Trust can also be broken when there is a breakdown in the avails process. When you’ve accepted an avail, you’ve committed to the potential dates for the job. By accepting, you’ve implied that you will keep the dates clear and accept the job if it’s offered to you. When you decide, for whatever reason, that you aren’t willing or able to do the job, you are breaking trust. Having that conflict exposed on-set or after the fact is even worse. Know your conflicts and be brutally honest with that information.
To follow protocol, you would need to ask for a book or release for the dates you are hoping to be freed from—and if the production company chooses to book you, in theory you would need to honor your commitment and let the other obligation go.
There will be times that the conflicting booking is the more lucrative or the more exciting, or you decide that your personal reasons are more important than honoring the avail. These are difficult decisions, and they’re yours alone to make. Just keep in mind that, once a bridge of trust is burned, they can rarely be repaired and rebuilt.
Taking too long to confirm a booking can also jeopardize trust. Things move swiftly in commercials, and you can cause a panic in the casting or production office when you are unreachable for extended periods of time. This is true especially when you’ve been put on avail and know the bookings will be put out in short order. It’s a bad time to disappear. Here’s an easy trust-saver: Be attentive and responsive.
Here’s another trust-breaker: Lying. Whether you’re stretching the truth in a verbal interview about your ability to perform a skill or you’re showing a misleading video of a skill or stunt you can rarely pull off is a lie that’ll be exposed when you are on set. This is a devastating scenario that you want no part of.
A trust booster, on the other hand, is complete honesty with your skill sets and allowing the production to make an informed decision.
The reasons why confirming a booking and then backing out breaks trust are obvious. Time is short between a commercial booking and the shoot. When a production loses an actor, there is a mad scramble to replace them. Not only do the director and producers need to agree on the second pick, but the new choice also needs to be approved by the client. This scenario tends to make the production team (not to mention the casting office) look unprofessional in front of the all-important client.
All the above situations cast a bad light on the casting office, often with lasting repercussions in the casting/production relationship. The casting director may never be hired by the production company again. The stakes are indeed high.
While forgiveness for an oversight or miscommunication is ideal, what comes to mind is the old adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” At some point, the casting office can’t take the risk of repeating a trust-breaking fiasco, no matter how talented or in-demand the actor.
The good news, though, is that keeping trust is simple, though not necessarily easy. Being honest, communicative, and committed throughout the casting process will not only keep the trust between you and casting, but it will also give you the leverage to continue building on it.