End of the Year

2019 has been the biggest work rollercoaster I have ever experienced in all the years I have been casting.

I have had less commercials to cast then ever before and so many of them with tighter budgets.  I still consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. It’s harder but I have managed to readjust and keep my business going.

I’ve seen the changes coming and kept hoping the commercial advertising business would see where things were going a few years ago and start to rethink things.

I’m not talking union versus nonunion. I’m talking about all the streaming services. They have offered up a different way to watch content and I’m finding that people under the age of 30 are getting rid of cable TV and just streaming. The millennial, Gen X’s and Gen Z’s have not realized what they’re missing by not seeing commercials and don’t seem to even consider watching Broadcast TV. Obviously older people are getting subscriptions to streaming services but I think they are watching all mediums.

I have found the quality of broadcast TV… episodic, sitcoms etc. are getting better and better but I still can’t convince my kids to give it a chance.

They seem to prefer streaming and binge watching.  It’s all they know. They see .06 sec ads on platforms like twitter and Instagram and I think they just blow through them. They need to learn the value of commercials.

At this point I hope we are moving in the direction of adding commercials on all the streaming services. It can be done in a way that doesn’t constantly interrupt shows.

I think people need product options so when they go to the supermarket, without even knowing it, they are drawn to products that they have seen ads for. I think it’s subliminal, but hasn’t that always been the idea.

If you see 4 different types of toilet paper at the store maybe something you have seen an ad for (without even realizing it) may help in making a decision.

Isn’t that sort of how it’s always been done?

We used to look to see what ad was better at getting attention. Now we need to figure out a way to get people’s attention at all.

I don’t have the answers. I can only relay what I’m experiencing and how badly it is affecting the business for casting directors, talent agents, managers and actors.

This same thing happened with the music industry. Napster and music streaming services started and artists were not selling music anymore. I have many friends in that business. It was a scary time for them and has taken a long time to right itself.

We have seen this coming for a long time and I hope this is rock bottom or we may not make it.

Products need to advertise, people need to see the commercials and I would think the streaming services could use the revenue from airing commercials.

This is easy for me to say because it would be my greatest wish and I truly hope this is something we are working towards.

There has to be a compromise and I don’t think that people would stop watching ‘The Crown” on Netflix if they had to watch 3 commercials.

Adding some commercials to streaming might even lower the cost of the services and people could get more then 1 or 2 of them.

It’s so expensive to have them all so people are being forced to choose. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could have them all and then it would become more like picking what network you wanted to watch at night?

I just know something drastic has to be done or so many people will  be out of business. Then how to you get your product known?

I have employees that only stream and never watch commercials. It drives me crazy, but we let it happen.

I get asked so many times a day “ What do you think it is?” I guess, maybe it’s the economy; maybe its social media or maybe I have no idea.

Slow times usually bounce back but this is different.  All my conversations now are leading back to streaming.

I love being a casting director. It’s the only job I’ve had for the last 30 years. I thought that all I would have to worrying about was doing a great job, building a great reputation and if I did that I would be fine. This situation has nothing to do with my reputation. My office puts its heart and soul in every job. We work hard on union, non-union, regular budgets and low budget jobs. Our work ethic hasn’t change and never will but if the phone doesn’t ring then there is nothing I can do.

My greatest pleasure is getting a job, executing it just as I was asked and then booking actors.

I still get excited every time I book an actor. Everyone that works for me feels the same passion.

I help employ so many people and not being able to do that weighs heavily on me.

BMC wants to change with the times. Union, non- union, real people… we do what we have to and we do it really well.

It’s scary times and I hope and pray that 2020 is a better year.

It has to be.

I’m trying to be positive, but it’s not usually my strong point….. 🙂

We all need to stay committed and HOPE .

If there is something I can do to help, I’m all ears.

Happy New Year from Beth Melsky Casting and we hope to see and talk to everyone next year

End of the Year

New SAG Commercial Contract


Details and a summary of the new commercial contract are posted on the Sag Website. For all SAG members it’s important that you vote. The first line is that there is a 6% rate increase on everything. That may be enough to make you vote yes.

I’m not sure how many actors are really aware of the ins and outs of the contract and the
changes in this one are very complicated. They have offered an alternative to the standard class A contract by offering buy-outs and different ways to bundle things. It will be up to the advertising agency to decide which way they want to go per project. It’s unclear if it’s for broadcast or if it will be used on the internet or social media. I believe if the bundles are chosen these are things you will know up front. I have no idea if this is better or worse but it’s movement. Movement is good. The pay raise of 6% goes into effect for anything that was shot after April 1st. I think my point is, like any contract negotiation there are good changes and not so good changes. If you really want to understand the changes before you vote, reach out to your agent or SAG. You don’t have a lot of time. I believe the votes have to be in by May 5th because the deadline is May 10th. Keep in mind that Sag/Aftra along with the JPC and the actors that are on the negotiating committee have agreed to this deal. If they hadn’t they would still be talking or at an impasse or on strike.

The commercial business is the worst I’ve seen it in 20 years. This has nothing to do
with union verses non union. The landscape of advertising has changed so fast because of the internet and social media. There is room for sooo much content, but the problem is how and where it’s being seen.  It’s an across the board money issue. How to spend it. What’s the most bang for your buck. CD’S have been cutting rates to match budgets when we have to. If we hold out for our full rate then they will just move on. I guess my point is that I don’t know what the result will be under the new contract but I do
think that the agencies that only do union work now have an option to give the their clients a way to save money…. Which could possibly result in shooting more broadcast content or even hire more actors. There are so many new bundling
options for class A, Internet, social media and OOT. Casting Directors are not part of any union and really have zero control on what an advertiser decides to do.
I can’t say that anyone who really cannot afford to shoot SAG work will now be able to, but for SAG members, compromises have to be made to keep advertising going. I have weeks that I wonder how anyone is going to sell any products anymore and I believe we
are knee deep in trying to re invent the commercial business.

So many changes so fast and there are weeks that I think I may go under. My business is at the mercy of things that I’m completed disconnected from. Streaming is huge and just getting bigger. If Netflix doesn’t advertise then how does anyone know about it or it’s deals and cross promotions because they don’t advertise on their streaming service. How will anyone know what kind of toilet paper to buy? This is stuff that is going to take time and it’s so much bigger than a union actors contract. I would never tell an actor which way to vote, but like in politics… VOTE.

I have a lot of friends in the music business and 10 years ago they said with streaming no artist will get rich unless they tour. I’m happy to say that they feel that they have come out on the other end and things are great again.

Let’s hope for the same thing for commercials.

Do not rely on the bits and pieces I’m giving you. Do your homework.

Beth Melsky

New SAG Commercial Contract

Clean up your social media

This is going to be a  blog with only one very important message- clean up your social media or make your accounts private or take it down.

With so much social media content available and products/companies/clients being afraid that they will hire an actor that has posted pictures that the product deems inappropriate, it could cost you a job. Colleges have been using it for years to help decide on who they are going to accept. Especially if two students are neck and neck, social media can help in making the final decision.

If you are an actor, especially commercial, union or nonunion, you need to present yourself as perfect.

No political views, no drinking pictures, no retweeting things you may feel strongly about …..nothing.

Pictures of food ( no logos or brand) just a picture of  great looking dinner. Pictures of flowers. Maybe a birthday cake.  That’s about it. Little things like taking a picture in a restaurant such as Taco bell with the logo showing and you audition for Chipotle …. Far fetched but why take the chance. Don’t promote products if you’re job is to get paid to help advertise and sell products.

You need to overthink everything. Every audition is like a job interview. Most companies, whether it’s a job as an accountant, school teacher or actor are running social media background checks. I’m not saying always, but with the amount of commercials I cast, it is happening more and more. When you are asked for your handles or account names that is what they are using it for.

When Beth Melsky Casting asks for that info we tell you exactly why. Nobody has ever refused because it’s hard to believe that a picture of you at a bachelor or bachelorette party holding dollars bills would matter to anyone, but sometimes it does.

A ton of pictures of you drinking can lead to the conclusion that you have a drinking problem or you party too much. If it’s available on the internet they want to make sure that you have an image that won’t tarnish their product, branding or image.

Whether it’s related to the product or not, sometimes doesn’t matter.

These data systems can find everything and we have no idea what might or might not bother them. If you really want some form of social media, contain it to close friends and family.

Is any of it worth it ?

You want to talk politics on twitter… don’t. These are frustrating times but you don’t know who’s reading or what their beliefs are. Try old fashion conversation. You can support causes and things that are important to you without retweeting everything. These are hard times and believe me, I spend so much time controlling myself. Vote, vote vote…. That’s a way to use that energy.

No director is looking at your social media to see if you can act. They are actually googling you instead. That is used constantly to see what you’ve done. You don’t want them to find things that could change their opinion, or be misunderstood. If you’ve played a murderer, or  have done a nude scene … too much info. Let them ask if they want to see something in particular. If you are doing commercials you need to think about what they see when they google you. It can work in your favor or against. I booked a girl recently because she needed to cry. She had a Vimeo video showing a great performance. Let them ask. Don’t offer too much and don’t put commercials up. Nobody wants actors that are over exposed in commercials. That’s what websites are for.  Another touchy thing, stand up comedians. If your act is too racy or political it may scare them. If I was a stand up and my act was working for me then make that your priority and hope for the best. You need to judge was most important and hope for the best.

Commercials are held to a very different standard since you are endorsing/selling a product.

We are in crazy times with no boundaries and no privacy.

As a casting director I worry that at some point a company hiring me might decide to do the same thing, look to see if I have ever said anything negative about them.

I have a business Instagram and a business Facebook and a business Twitter and it’s used as a casting tool. We only post things that are breakdown related or a gift we are sent as a thank you or …maybe a full waiting room if we have had a busy week.

All SAG commercials are automatically under an NDA. Meaning you cannot talk about the product or content of anything that went on at the union audition or if you book the job; on the shoot.

Actually not sure how many actors are aware of that rule. It was added in the last contract.

My advice, union or non union, go in to every audition regardless of what’s it’s for assuming you are under an NDA.

I can’t imagine why anything is worth the risk.

This has become a big issue and every time I have to run these checks I hold my breath.

You don’t realize how far back they can go and sometimes people don’t remember things from 2, 3 or 4 years ago.

It’s sad it’s come to this, but I can tell you first hand… companies have been caught with their pants down. Someone sees someone they know in a commercial and emails the company. Then the company checks their social media and finds something that causes them to take the commercial down. Believe it or not, I’ve been blamed along with the agent for not knowing.

Better to be safe and avoid. We lived forever without social media so we should be able to figure out a safe and non controversial way to enjoy it.

Always something… right ?  Unless you just want to live your life as an “influencer” stay off social media. No up side.

Beth Melsky ☺

Clean up your social media

I’m going to beg one last time.

I’m going to beg one last time.

New York casting is a disaster. I understand that actors that were once able to earn a steady income doing commercials no longer can.

The business has changed. We have union, non-union, real people and no way to navigate their careers.

Diversity requests are moving quicker than we can build the talent pool and with so much social media the ages are young and there are too many requests for “ influencers”.

That being said…. In the last 2 months we have done more SAG (and even network) work then we have seen in a long time. I’m one of a handful of NY casting directors that work for a bunch of “A” level directors that rely on experienced SAG actors that are well trained and help them make their work the quality they need to make those spots great.

I think the problem is actors have given up. Union actors want non-union work to go away, but you have no chance when you stop making the audition process a priority.

I get how frustrated everyone is.

I have gotten together with a bunch of talent agents and we have asked the union to help.

They send out letters to their members, but I was told very few members read letters that are sent out.

NY clearly has our slow times, but one thing that has been consistent for the 30+years that I have been doing this is that summer is busy.

Directors want to shoot in NY. They don’t want to travel to the west coast when the weather makes it possible to shoot on the east coast. They fight hard to bring their jobs here but when the casting sessions have only a 50 % turn out, they will lose their argument the next time.

NY has great actors but if they can’t find the level of actors they need they end up in LA. Those jobs aren’t going to go non-union… they will just cast someplace else.

You all know how frustrated the agents are because actors don’t think it matters if they inform their agents of their schedules. It shouldn’t matter if you haven’t had an audition in a month. The agents take the time to sign you and then submit you only to find out “you forgot to book out” or to let them know if you have booked something else or even planned a vacation.

Summer for actors does not mean vacation. Come October when you have no auditions and you call your agents to see what’s going on, the answer will be “where were you in May, June and especially July?” If we are lucky enough to work then July and August will be the best chance. Nothing is waiting.

I have to cast a job July 5th with a callback on the 7th. Yes, Saturday in the summer and right after July 4th.

I have no idea when a holiday (1 day) on a Wednesday has now started on Friday, June 29th. Agents and actors have decided on “summer Fridays”. I have never had a Friday off in the summer. Take fall Fridays. For 4th of July this year union agents have decided to close ½ day Tuesday all the way through Monday July 9th. My clients would push if they could, but jobs book late. Casting never has much turn around time and because of some decision that I believe started with the talent agents- the actors have gotten into a terrible habit. Don’t you want the work when it’s here? The non-union agents never close the way the union agents close. I guess they are hungrier and often we need to dip into that pool because we can’t fill casting sessions.

I pay rent 365 days a year. I have to be available to work all the time.

For the life of me I don’t understand why so many actors take vacation in July along with Fridays off and sometimes not even coming back from wherever they go until Monday night.

I’m begging you to give this one more summer. We need to show advertising agencies and directors that we can give them great casting on July 2,3 5,6,7.

LA has a 6-day work week. When I try and do a casting session on a Saturday in summer, everyone is out of town.

I know actors are frustrated, angry and have given up, but maybe you need to commit the time to see if your commitment will help bring the business back to NY. So far May and June were great months and more than 50% of the work was SAG.


Please, please, take your vacation in the fall.

Please, please stop deciding that Fridays in the summer are not a work day.

And agents, please, please stop closing at the drop of a hat. You are not trying to bring business back. You are giving up. What happened to a great work ethic?

Before giving up please devote this summer to help us all earn a living and restore faith to the business.

If I’m wrong, I’m sorry but without trying… it’s game over.

I’ll ask I more thing…



It would be nice to stop being so upset over politics that maybe we can get back to our jobs.

None of this is going to fix itself and giving up something we all need and love without trying will be terrible.


Thank you for listening,

Beth Melsky

Beth Melsky Casting

I’m going to beg one last time.

Can’t Find the Curve

It’s Friday afternoon. The second to last Friday in March. March came in like a storm and is leaving with a whimper. Come January 1st I start to assess and compare my work flow and billing to the year before. I actually do it every month because if I don’t make a month, I get stressed. The business has become so inconsistent and so unpredictable that I can’t say, “we’ll wait until June because June is always great”. As a very established business the future is feeling a bit scary. There doesn’t seem to be any way to pinpoint why some weeks or months are better than others and since we need to make overhead every month I need to pay attention. Casting, especially when you have your own staff and space, used to provide a good living, but it is no longer a business that can make a profit. Staff has to be consistent and great and having a great space is important. Regardless of budget people come to me for a certain quality and that is not something that I will compromise. January is usually good because of Super bowl advertising. It barely existed for us this year. Disappointing month. Because February is such a short month, I hold my breath, but we got through it this year. Not enough to cover the loss from January, but enough to cover the month.

Here we are in March, and like I said, off to a great start, so much so that I thought I may have been able to catch up a bit. Not happening. Another month that I think I’ll come up short.

Some months I can have 20-22 jobs, but the budgets are so small (and I’m willing to try as hard as I can to take the good with the bad) that I barely make it. March was lucky because I had some big SAG jobs. I was hoping that those jobs, along with the really low budget work, would help end the month well. In this case, it looks like I may only do 16 jobs with really good casting budgets but I’ll still come up short. I’ve always said that we have to get used to working twice as hard for ½ the money.

I can live with that but it feels like another change is coming…less and less work across the board.

Where is advertising going? How are people advertising? Don’t we need advertising to sell products?

The change from every job being SAG – to so much non-union was something we had to adjust to. I’m not involved in how we got here. I just know it happened and casting directors have to pay their rent. There is no one for us to strike with, or stand tall with. We don’t have a union, or anyone to help us with medical or pensions. We just have to keep working.

The question is… Where is the work?

I live on a rollercoaster now. I have never had guarantees or stability, but I felt if my office did a great job, regardless of the budget, we would be okay.

For the first time in 30 years, I’m not sure.

Clearly with all these streaming services and so much digital work and even apps, there seems to be less demand and nobody wants to spend money when they claim nobody is watching.

I feel like Network TV is upping their game, but it may be too late.

I joked with my stockbroker and told him to buy me Netflix. I said that if I lost my investment on it then it would mean my business was ok. If my business were failing then maybe the stock would help. At the time I was joking. Not sure it’s so funny now.

I’m not a scared person, just a stressed out one. I always believed that advertising would be necessary… now I’m not so sure. I’ve become scared.

I think that most advertising now is for the internet and social media. The quality of that work can be done with non-union actors and companies that are all in house. From creating the advertising to pre production; including casting to production and post. It’s one stop shopping and good enough for 6 seconds on social media. What scares me is what would stop the business from continuing to go that way. Client direct. There is already so much of it.Spotify, Pepsi, etc.

What has happened to the advertising agency? How are they going to make the transition to creating content for low budget content? What happens to all the senior creatives and producers that can’t have their salaries covered anymore?

Bigger and bigger corporate clients are starting to ask the agencies to spend less. They want to know how other big companies are doing non-union to avoid what they consider to be crazy talent costs. Simply, they don’t think the pay out is worth the result. These agents can’t afford to work that way. I’m not sure they even know how.

I think we are all sitting back and waiting to see how the commercial business resolves itself, but one thing I do know- THE COMMERCIAL BUSINESS IS NO LONGER THE WAY IT WAS WHEN A LOT OF US STARTED AND IT NEVER WILL BE AGAIN.

I certainly hope that we can adjust with the changes and hope that the commercial business doesn’t become a dinosaur.

There are so many very well know actors that got their start doing commercials. It will be sad for so many of us if it’s no longer an option.

I’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve, to keep working and be successful. I just can’t seem to find the curve this time.

-Beth Melsky

Can’t Find the Curve


First, I would like to say thank you to all those agents and actors that have continued to read my blog and help restore some order to the casting process. The responsibility of actors being more diligent about their schedules so that agents can submit them knowing they are around and available for the job has increased quite a bit. It has helped casting directors prep their jobs without assuming we are going to lose and replace half the appointments. Agents would much rather know that the actors are not available than submit and find out they are not available. Casting directors also appreciate the work being done up front, that way we can do a solid prep without scrambling. Agents and casting directors appreciate the information more than you can imagine. There is one agent in particular that has a very large client list and when they lose so many people because actors haven’t booked out it’s possible that they will lose those appointments and have less of a chance of booking the job. It matters for so many reasons and casting directors will always remember that you did the right thing and will not hesitate for the next audition. Actors that have a history of not booking out consistently will find that casting directors will not only remember, but start to avoid them the next time. It’s far from perfect, but I have noticed a difference. There are a few agents that are trying hard, although still struggling. They need to figure out a way to reach out instead of waiting on the actors. That seems to be what’s helping in the union world. Union actors seem to be stepping up more and trying to be better about giving their agents their schedules, so thank you. I think they have started to realize how important it is to be responsible to the people that are trying to help get them out there. The more responsible you are with your agent the more comfortable they are submitting you. Non-union actors are not being nearly as diligent and therefore the prepping process for the casting director is very time-consuming and one job generally needs to be prepped multiple times. Just because you are non-union doesn’t make you or the process any less important and I think actors staying on top of it, even if they have multiple agents, would make things go smoother for everyone and become more professional.

It’s a split business, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. We don’t want to say, “it’s non-union so don’t expect it to be professional”. Let’s just keep at it and hope that commercials for any medium will continue to be produced. Casting directors cannot control whether a commercial is going to be union or non-union. There is nothing we can say to change anyone’s mind. It’s all budgets based and the budgets are locked in way before we are hired. This business has become challenging for a lot of people and for those of us that have rent, staff, etc.; we need to work. Times are changing quickly, but more money doesn’t seem to be where we are headed. I keep my office and every job as professional as possible regardless of budgets. I know there are a lot of very frustrated people out there and casting directors have also been effected by this change. We rarely get our rates anymore and many jobs are flat rate for casting. The expectations are the same, and we don’t work less hard. There is no battle for casting directors to win. As much as they want me to cast, they will move on to someone more affordable. It’s sad because I do think that BMC always works hard and because we have a great reputation sometimes we can get a higher level of actors. There are strong and real arguments on every side and I just have to go with the flow. Let’s keep trying. I’m not sure what will happen when the next commercial contract is up but as long as digital budgets stay low they can not afford the P&W, the 8-hour shoot days, the usage (they feel that they have nothing tangible to go on to decide how many people are seeing what they are doing) first class air fare etc… This January I did 5 more jobs than last January and billed $30k less. Agencies and production companies love to go to a nice casting office and get a great casting job, but I don’t think they have any perception on the fact that the cost of running a company with a great staff is very expensive and there are times that the casting budget being offered costs me money. I try to accommodate everyone … especially when they say the next one will be better, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

I’m very proud to say that I was lucky enough to cast a few Super Bowl commercials this year. It feels great when advertising still works and those directors doing them are a pleasure to work for. Those budgets are being effected also, but there’s only so much you can cut before you can no longer produce great quality advertising. I’m scared every day, but I just keep going and hope I can pay my bills. I love being a casting director and I hope there will be enough work, so I can do it for a very long time.

Now an important piece of advice to actors: Headshots. It’s so important to have updated headshots. Casting directors look at them- especially for non-union commercials. When they are 10 years out dated and look nothing like you everyone is wasting their time. I think if you are going to spend money on anything, that is the most important thing. We are trying to do quality casting whether it is union or non-union so anything actors can do to help us not waste time would be great. Adding a resume instead of a form is also important. Most of what I do is not just a look, and a lot of it is comedy improv, so a resume makes the difference in you getting an audition. I have to work hard, hope the phone rings and hope I can cover my costs by doing what we love.


Casting Couch

Casting couch. This is a term I have heard for 30 years. It is also a term that I have always thought was a thing people said when they didn’t really know what casting was. It’s not the 1950’s and I thought it was silly carry over from a different time. Most times I ignored the comment.

The majority of my work is commercials but I have done a bunch of films over the years.

Commercial casting works differently than film. They are fast with no time to wine and dine anyone. There are no promises to actors and the goal is to do the best casting sessions possible based on my expertise, relationship with the directors, production company producers, and advertising agencies. Regardless of who hires me, it needs to be done fast and efficiently. At the end of the process the agency’s client (product) have the final say, with recommendations from people they trust. From my perspective, it has always been business.

A talented casting director is talented regardless of what we are casting for. We see so many actors that have gone on to be stars and they are easy to spot early on. I auditioned Selma Blair many times and always thought that she was talented and would do very well. It breaks my heart to hear what she had to endure. She is very talented and that should have been enough.

I am a woman with my own business and maybe that made me naïve to things that went on. I just want to say that I am so sorry for any actors that were violated and felt no way out. I feel in all professions you should become successful based on your ability.

Hollywood and the film business had a reputation back in the 50’s and 60’s but I thought people had matured in their behavior and honestly would never have imagined that things went on to this degree. I am heartbroken for the actors that felt they needed to keep quiet. I am also sad for the actors that were scared and were not put in a position to trust their own talent.

It certainly has become a “who you know” business but that is to get in the door. I hope that the casting process can now work correctly and that actors get booked based on talent and nothing else. I just want to say I am sorry to anyone that was ever abused or assaulted.

One last note to all actors and agents: we cast up until 12/22 and even if your agent is silly enough to be closing, stick around. Super bowl commercials are cast up until 12/22. Casting companies will be opened and we will work until the end of that week. Thank you!


Beth Melsky

Casting Couch

Changing Times and We Are All Scared

This is a plea to actors. Please let’s figure out the future of the business before we give up. Let’s hope that when SAG asks casting directors what we truly think, they listen.

I have not written a blog post in a long time and to be honest, I was not sure I was going to write it anymore. I felt I was writing the same thing over and over and I was helping a   certain group of people learn the business but unable to reach the group that casting directors and agents need the most help from. That is the group of actors that have been doing this a long time. They are SAG members that seem to be so frustrated with SAG and the state of the business that they have given up.

The business right now is the most unpredictable that I have ever seen. Every month is a rollercoaster for casting and even worse for agents and actors. There is no consistency in any way for any of us. SAG commercial agent departments are getting smaller and smaller. As senior agents leave, they are not being replaced…supply and demand.

I have used the same calendar book for thirty years. I use it to write my daily schedule in it, what I prep and cast. My first diary book is dated 1984. It’s really amazing to look back at the “golden days,” the pages were filled. I can actually prove the flow and changes in the business better than anyone by going through those books. There is so much history there. The peak of my work and the network commercial work in NY was about fifteen years ago. Back then I used to say, “I am exhausted but I have to hope and pray that I am lucky enough to stay successful.” I couldn’t keep up with it. Every job paid my rate. Every job was SAG. If I had known then what I know now, I would have saved more money.

To tell you the truth, I have no idea where the advertising business is going now but I would like to have a conversation with somebody who does. The first big change I noticed was the addition of cable. That did not affect my work flow or getting my rates to cast. Actors were upset and went on strike. Casting directors do what we are hired to do. We have no union. That strike made my job twice as hard and I was glad when it was over.

I believe the union underestimated the amount of commercials that would be shot for cable and believed it was a passing phase. And here we go again. We have now entered the world of digital and social media. This is not going away and seems to be about 70% of the commercials being shot. These ads have very tiny budgets and most cannot afford to use SAG talent. Some of these play on things like Snap Chat. The 17% pension and welfare is what makes it impossible to use SAG talent. Casting Directors have had to agree to cut their rates by 2/3 and hope to cast twice the amount of work to pay our bills and stay in business.

This is the point I was trying to get to: It’s not the huge corporations shooting broadcast commercials and just wanting to do them non-union; I think everyone values great SAG actors but with the shooting budgets for digital, it is not affordable and the truth is that network TV is mostly watched for live sporting events, award shows, and specials.

We are all scared right now and network seems to be at an all time low, though SAG says that they are making more money than ever. The average actor can no longer afford medical and the chances are that they will never collect a pension.

I believe advertising will always be necessary. It actually works in introducing products and selling them. I have no idea how SAG said they had the best year ever. I know that the average actor struggles to pay their bills and have very little hope that things will change. This next contract needs to be thought out in a whole new way. Someone has to be on top of this digital situation and figure out a way that we can all stay working. I am on the ground as the case with most casting directors and we truly look for guidance and hope. There are no convincing low budgeted jobs to go SAG so or even try and buy up every actor in NYC. That is an old fashioned way of thinking and maybe it is time for new blood.

Changing Times and We Are All Scared

The Business Has Become a Catch-22


I have not written in a while because I’m not sure what to say. I have been lucky in that I stayed busy in January, February and March but come April…

As a matter of fact, I cast the same amount of jobs this March as last. The big difference is budgets. Production budgets are getting smaller and smaller and I have to hope for volume to reach my overhead dollars and hold on to my amazing staff. I will not cut corners on quality regardless of the budget. If the work comes in, my staff is willing to work as hard as they possibly can to keep our reputation and keep the doors open.

Owning your own business, being responsible for a staff, rent, and overhead can be a blessing and a curse. Since I don’t have to rent studios or always hire freelancers I am in a better position to cut rates. That fact sometimes makes the difference in me getting the calls versus someone else (not a good reason to hire not hire a casting director but it has become our reality. I’m asked on almost every job for a discount, but I am not sure that they always need it or are trying to hold money for other parts of the production.

Everyone wants and expects HD posting of casting tapes but do not want to pay for it. I pay for the equipment to allow us to provide it; it’s not free for me. Actually nothing is free for me. I do not pay less rent when I have a slow month. My rent is not adjusted based on my billing that month and I do not ask my employees to take a pay cut because I am discounting jobs.

Casting used to be a large part of production. We created our own rates because creatives understood that without actors or people there was nothing to shoot. Not all commercials need people but most do. Years ago it was all about the casting and therefore it was the last place that got cut. Also, production companies and ad agencies never settled for a less than great cast because of money. Now in the digital age, social media, streaming, and services like Netflix, the value of great creative advertising has changed. When people only had the option to watch network TV, and then even cable, networks knew how many viewers were watching and ad agencies worked hard to produce incredible ads.

Commercials have their version of the Oscars and it was everyone’s goal to win a Clio. Now it is a divided business, not unlike film. You have your Oscar-worthy movies that rarely make a ton of money and then you have blockbusters that make a ton. Commercials that can win a Clio usually cost a fortune to make and then you can shoot a small commercial for a .com company that will only run on social media and sell a product better than an award-winning commercial. Those big budget commercials with great SAG actors are few and far between.

In a business that never settled, it seems settling is very common. When it comes to casting, there is more non-union work than union. The casting rates are lower, even though it’s actually harder to prep and cast. It is taking time for people that have been in the business a long time to change their way of thinking and have huge, if not sometimes unrealistic, expectations. If nobody can prove that running a commercial on social media is actually seen more than a commercial that runs on network television, then budgets are going to get smaller and actors are going to make less and less.

I have jobs that the pay for the actors is so low and the rights and usage they want for what they are paying is crazy. I think sometimes they are of the mindset that non-union actors are happy to work and will work for close to nothing. Actors, union or non-union, need to pay their bills like everyone else. It is not the same as doing an independent film that will help their careers.  Because non-union rates can be so low, many actors have to take day jobs to pay their bills. You can only imagine how hard it is to set up casting sessions when so many actors need to supplement their incomes. That goes for SAG actors as well. The work used to be more consistent and actors could consider it their day job. Now even SAG actors cannot rely on that as a way to pay their bills and they have had to find other ways as well. This has made a casting directors job very difficult. I go to work every day hoping and waiting for the phone to ring. Actors cannot wait. I hope and pray every day that work will get busy and I’ll be able to employ actors like I used to.

Work was the slowest I have seen it in years in April. I think actors, more SAG than non-union have started to give up. When that happens, they no longer check in with their agents and the prepping process becomes a disaster. I put out a breakdown to the agents, get submissions and then schedule the actors that I would like to see. More than one third of the actors I have scheduled have not updated their schedules and; therefore, I have to prep and prep and prep again until I can set up a casting session with actors that I think are right for the job. I will never just throw people in to hit numbers. Setting up a quality casting session is getting harder and harder. I guess the expectations from non-union actors is less but not as far as I’m concerned. The non-union actor that is diligent and responsible goes a long way in my office and will constantly be scheduled. Being good at what you do and handling yourself professionally goes a long way. If you had a job at a bank and it didn’t seem busy that week would you just take off and not tell your boss?

I honestly do not have the answers and I get scared like the next person but we need to hope that this business figures itself out. Part of that is making it worth it to cast in New York. If we cannot produce great casting sessions, then why bother casting on both coasts? Why bother writing performance-driven commercials? Why bother writing commercials with people in them at all?

I think we all need to stay in one place for a while and make a commitment to be professional. Give ad agencies a reason to cast and shoot here. Eventually the union non-union thing will figure itself out, but on both sides, everyone should take the process seriously and allow casting directors to do their jobs well.

I believe that if we have a great product to offer, then there will be a demand for it.

In the last two weeks, work has picked up and I have had some great SAG jobs as well as a bunch of non-union work. I had an agent yell at me and tell me that I should tell my clients to cast SAG. Casting Directors have no say in how a job is cast. That is a decision made way before we are involved. And like I have said, casting SAG is no longer easier. I do not blame anyone. So much technology has changed many lives and not always for the better. One million hits on YouTube makes you more interesting and worth more than a talented actor?

I do know that without commercials how will I know which toilet to pick? This is what I do and I have done it for a long time. I change with the times but I stick with it and hope. It would be great if all actors would give it a chance.


Now, here’s that famous list of insane excuses:

I thought I would have had my baby by now.

I have a flight.

I missed my flight.

My flight got cancelled.

I forgot I have a flight (I’m actually regretting not owning any stock in the airlines. Last I checked, flying was expensive).

I forgot I’m getting married that weekend.

I forgot I’m moving to LA tomorrow.

I have decided to move to Florida.

I have decided not to be an actor any more.

Oh sorry, I scheduled a whole day of doctor’s appointments.

I have to go to the dentist

I don’t have anyone to watch my dog.


This is when I begin to believe that this has become more of a hobby for people.

It is a job for me.



The Business Has Become a Catch-22

Really Weird Times – You Are Not Alone

Times are strange. February is usually a slow month, especially after super bowl January. Some years I am lucky and get to work on many super bowl spots. This year was one of those years. Casting directors are freelance, just like anyone that owns a small business; we never know when the phone is going to ring.

Whenever it gets slow people ask me why? I have no idea. Maybe advertising agencies know or even production companies have theories. I try and look at the year before, but never come up with much consistency.

Winter in New York is cold so it’s hard to shoot outside. Though it does not seem to bother episodic as much (thank god). It seems that when it is cold out people like to get on a plane and go someplace warm to work. I know that shooting in New York is no bargain, unless you really need a location that you can only get on the east coast. I know that there were supposed to be great tax incentives to bring commercial production back to NY but it never seemed to happen.

As far as casting directors, you really need your own space to build up your business but the cost of real estate in New York is so high and the casting rates are getting lower and lower, so it’s impossible to rent your own office and build studios. Also the traffic that casting companies have makes it hard for buildings to want to rent to a casting company.

I was in my first place for 25 years. I went there when nobody was working that far downtown. I was scared to think that clients might not want to go down to 22nd street but over years the business slowly not only moved downtown but eventually I became up town to some of them.

I got very lucky when I rented my office on Madison and 27th street. The real estate market in New York, had crashed and my building needed a tenant, regardless of the type of business I was. The owner needed a lease fast and had to move quickly and I needed a place to move and fast. It’s a great location and I was in a great negotiating position. It has not been a love affair and once the market turned around and the owner was able to get partners and refinancing, he was ready to make the building legal and start major upgrades. I spent my first five years in my building in a huge legal battle. A lot of ups and downs but finally my space was finished correctly and legally and the landlord was on his way to making it a 70 dollar a square foot building. I only have 4 years left on my lease but even if they offered me a new lease I could never afford it unless the market takes a huge dive again. I guess anything is possible but highly unlikely. Just like when I took a chance in 1983 and paved a new way. That’s what I’ll be doing in four years. Will it be Brooklyn, Long Island City, Harlem, or even the South Street Seaport? I will have to take a chance and change the rules again.

Without a full up casting facility, I cannot do business the way I want. I am a full service company with studios, staff, and all the technology to be on the forefront of casting. I will always be hands on – prep my own jobs, pick the talent I want to see, meet new people and present great casting tapes. I do not rely on a computer services to prep my jobs, but having access to pictures, reels, and resumes is helpful. That brings me to a huge “must” in this industry – casting directors rely heavily on pictures that are very recent and look like you. There is nothing worse than a ten-year-old picture that looks nothing like you. You have wasted everyone’s time and add to the problem. Yes, sometimes it’s just a look so resume might not matter but if the picture you a are using does not look like you, then it could all be a waste of time. BMC does a ton of comedy and we look at resumes. There is a lot of non-union work that is searching for actors that have had training in improvisation but it is impossible to tell from a form that has “yes” checked off under every category.

Resumes are important to casting directors. Even if you do not have a lot of work on your resume, training and honesty about special skills could make the difference in getting an audition. It used to matter more for legit or theatrical, but it is now just as important commercially if you are newer to the business. Of course since I have been doing this for a long time I am familiar with many actors and I do not always have to look at pictures and resumes to set up actors for a session but there are many newer casting directors that rely on this for prepping. I promise by having these things up to date, it will increase your chances for auditions.

That brings me to the odd place the business is in right now – New York, Chicago, and LA have been slower from the beginning of February and still continuing. Union and non-union are very slow. Slow times have happened before but this is a longer stretch than I can ever remember. The commercial business feels like it is changing drastically. Budgets are tighter and we are all asked to work for way less than our rates. Why this is happening is not my battle but if I refuse, I won’t be able to pay my rent or staff.

I am willing to do this and change with the times. I want to stay in business and I want to be a casting director. I truly have no idea where the commercial business is going but I have to hold on to hope that advertising will always be a necessity to sell products.

This is one of those unusually slow times that we can’t explain but we need to hope and wait for it to pass and figure out the changes and demands. We all have to be flexible and do what we can to keep working. I do not know if SAG work will have a big comeback. I do not know if there will be more and more non-union work. I do not know if the phone will ring tomorrow. I do not know if I will start to get phone calls that say we finally have a good budget. I clearly know nothing other than my landlord wants his rent in full every month and therefore I change with the times and continue to put out quality casting regardless of the challenges and hope things pick up…for all of us.


Really Weird Times – You Are Not Alone