Summer Casting and Puppy Mills

It has been a few months since I wrote my last blog. As I mentioned, my mom passed away suddenly and my world has changed. I have never experienced a loss so devastating that I feel I have no control or understanding of what I’m feeling. I find working is the best thing for me and I am so grateful that since mid-June, it has been very busy. She died June 8th. I had the time to do what I had to do to bury her and have my family and all of our friends come to my house and honor her. It was like Karma. The minute the third day of Shiva was over, I knew I had to get back to the office and work. One quiet week can slow down my cash flow and on top of being a casting director, I had to try and figure out what my mother had done with my business finances for over 20 years. I knew she was making every dollar stretch and letting me run a great casting company. She loved her job and did it the old fashioned way. She made me feel safe and that things would always be okay. Through busy times, slow times, things like Netflix, union, non-union, crazy low budgets, and so many changes over the last 20 years that she ran things, she stood by me.

Casting directors are freelance. Whether you own a company with your own space or you rent space, you have to work so hard to do an an incredible job, every time, regardless of how hard the casting spec is or how little we are getting paid, or even how underpaid the actors are. We do this to keep the business going for all of us.

There are jobs that I work on where the casting fee is more important than the quality they might get. I cut my rate often to try and gain new clients and to prove we are great at what we do and then maybe the next time they will find more money. I never undercut other casting directors to get a job. I do not even know what my competitors’ rates are. If that is what they care about, then they do not really care who is casting. I also think the process and the job of a casting director is not always understood. We add real value. Top directors and agencies understand the value of a good casting director – one that is well respected, that understands rules and the SAG contract, can be a huge asset. This knowledge and relationship with actors and agents can help in getting top quality talent.

I think that with all my focus on work right now I see things a bit differently. It has always been important to me to do a great job. It is just who I am but now I worry that casting could end up being eliminated. I believe that commercials are the only way to see products but the broadcast quality work is becoming less frequent. The chain of events that comes along with that is actors missing commercial auditions and being accountable for their schedules does not matter. We have had more SAG network work this summer than we have had in years. We can never quarantine what work is going to be like, but summer is always a safe bet for quality work in New York.

I do not know how to make actors understand this. I did a session for a great product and if an actor booked this, it could pay their bills for a year. I lost 25 people because they all took Friday off because it is summer. Really? I will not be given another chance. My client needed the session today. I have had multiple sessions every Friday for the last six weeks. I am not going to turn down the work because of this made up rule. Next time, they will just cast in LA. SAG actors that have been so frustrated with the amount of non-union work should not only notice what has been going on, but should rethink their schedules. If these issues are not thought about and addressed, then how can we move forward and try and keep things going?

I have family, employees, agents, and so many actors that depend on my hard work. Sometimes I feel the agents and actors are not doing their fair share to help fix things. I have a great understanding of family emergencies now more than ever, but that term is used very loosely…a dentist appointment, a therapy appointment, etc. Auditions come first. There are a lot of actors out there and you probably will not get another chance so before you have a crazy reason to not make an audition or ask for a time change, please think about how hard we are working to set up quality casting sessions. No, we never know, but we are always prepared. This is what I spend my time thinking about now. At times it feels hopeless.

One last thing that I would like to talk about: It has nothing to do with casting. I am a huge animal lover. I ride horses. I love horses. I love dogs and I have two of my own. My youngest son’s friend decided he wanted a dog. In this day and age, everyone knows that there are thousands of dogs that need to be rescued and adopted. He went to a pet store, thinking he was buying a pure bred from a breeder…makes no sense.

Well of course it turned out the puppy was from a puppy mill and everything he was told was a lie and all the paperwork was forged. And nothing about giving the dog back because then what? Puppy mills must be closed down and a good place to start is with pet shops. I will help in reporting this and having this store shut down. This is horrifying to me and would love to learn as much about putting an end to puppy mills as I can. Just putting it out there that I am interested in helping.

 

Summer Casting and Puppy Mills

Lets Move Forward

The SAG/AFTRA commercial contract was approved overwhelmingly. There is no reason to dwell. We need to move forward. As union members, it is important for you to understand the new rules.

There is a clause about NDA’S that I think everyone should understand. It seems it is automatic on every commercial job that you are under an NDA. You don’t have to sign an NDA for it to be enforced. Casting directors have been putting them out for years on jobs that are new concepts or have celebrity talent in them. We have, many times, not let actors know the name of the product, just the conflict area. Since social media has made it so easy to talk about things and publicize it, I think actors get excited to share things and clients do not want their new ideas shared in that way. They have competitors as well…remember?

I think when actors audition they need to assume every audition and the material are under that rule. Never ever take scripts with you. This has now become a SAG/AFTRA rule and it is not worth taking any chances on. It is so easy to find out where the leak came from and nobody needs trouble. Casting directors even sign them saying that we will not post scripts and, if we do, they will not have certain info on them, like product names or logos.

New York rarely posts scripts. Beth Melsky Casting rarely posts union breakdowns, unless we are looking for something very unusual. We are very old fashion and believe that verbal communication with agents helps them understand the creative and gives us the chance to talk about seasoned actors as well as new actors that they feel have great potential. The less that is posted, the less chance there is for problems. However, that is not why we choose to prep by communicating. We do it the old fashion way because, even though it might take more time, it is more effective in doing a great job.

If we are casting non-union, I think you should follow this rule as well. Our clients expect that from us and we will continue to put out NDA’S when requested on non-union jobs. Social media has changed this industry and you must be careful. If you were a stock broker, would you tell everyone what you did all day? This is a job.

Our casting process allows me to present my client with the pros, as well as working hard to add new and interesting choices. This is a very important balance. Again, Beth Melsky Casting does this across the board. We also respect and set up our casting sessions the same way. Everyone gets a time and we work hard to get actors in and out as fast as possible. For actors that are used to going to non-union auditions and thinking that “anytime works,” that is not the way we work. Please take your appointments seriously, take everything you are told seriously, and the audition process in my office will go very smoothly. Union or non-union, all sessions are important and all casting needs to be presented with quality. Actors are treated with respect and the actors need to respect the casting process. Non-union is not going away…so let’s present it the same and build a greater level of respect. I think, even with union casting, or the lack of, actors are being forced to put it lower on their list of priorities; therefore, union sessions can end up equally as hard to put together. I get both sides and I just ask that everybody (not just actors ) try harder.

I think actors need to assess their careers, decide their priorities, and choose what is best for them. Joining the union if you are able, staying non-union or even going financial core, none of us have a crystal ball so all you can do is decide what is the best path for you right now and how you might earn the most money in your near future. Going fi-core after you have become a union member is a big decision. Just as joining the union, if you have the opportunity, is a big decision. Going fi-core is easy but deciding to be union again is not so easy. While you are fi-core you cannot audition for union work. It’s not as if you can book something union and then pick up the phone and say, “I want to be SAG again.” It is a process that will take way longer then you would ever have in being able to do the job and will cause huge problems for the casting director and the signatory.

If you make a decision to be a member again then you must start the process before you audition for union work. You cannot do both. Actors that have worked non-stop non-union might very well see a big change in the amount of auditions you end up getting. Do your due diligence. You cannot let it figure itself out. Actors that have been union for many years decide to go financial core because being a union member is no longer helping their careers. You cannot use the option of fi-core as a way to toggle back and forth. If you make the choice to join and it does not work out for you, you can file to go fi-core. Just make sure that is what you will be happier with. Everyone’s career is different. I think there are times that actors should join and times they shouldn’t, but it is not up to me to advise you.

With the Internet and social media, advertising is a changed world. I know actors were hoping that this contract would help change the amount of non-union work, but unfortunately advertisers are not seeing enough of a return to increase budgets to cast union. This belief also greatly affects casting directors. We used to have day rates. Now we are being offered flat rates and it is hard for us as well. We work twice as hard for half the money, but I cannot let that affect my quality, staff, or services.

We all have to hope that with time and knowledge things will get better for all of us. Maybe it would have been great if the negotiations (since it seemed they were going well) were extended and took more time. That is easy for me to say. I do not know the process. I do know that things will hopefully continue along because products still have to be advertised and in three years when the commercial contract is up again, we will not only be more knowledgeable, but the future of the way things can and will work will be shown over that time.

In the meantime, everyone should do what he/she is doing. Pay attention to the flow and future of advertising and do not make rash decisions. Three years in our world is a short amount of time but a lot can been learned.

Like I have said before, knowledge is everything. We are all in the same position…and hope time helps for the next contract.

There are no easy answers. If I could turn the clock back twenty years, I would. Social media and technology are moving faster then we are and I do not see it slowing down. Maybe casting will become an app (haha). I do not think there were any clear winners here but a war is not the answer.

My personal opinion does not matter. I do not have a vote but it all affects my business. Something I very much have to keep going. Let’s work towards a future that can works best for everyone so actors can just think about acting. Beth Melsky Casting is here for everyone.

Lets Move Forward

My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

I’d like to talk about the new proposed SAG commercial contract. The commercial business is the worst it has ever been. It is affecting agents, actors, casting directors, directors, producers, and god knows how many other people. Non-union has become almost the norm and I was so hoping that with all the questions casting directors and agents were asked before the negotiations, that some of the concerns would be addressed.

The future, whether we like it or not, is digital – the internet, social media, etc. These mediums, for whatever reason, do not seem to warrant big budgets. Just paying pension and welfare makes it unaffordable to shoot on a SAG contract. The 8-hour shoot day makes it unaffordable and SAG is the last union to be doing it. Outside the zone makes it unaffordable, and still first class airfare for over 1,000 miles. You are talking about a plane ticket for $6,000. That rule is stopping clients from casting on both coasts and, once again, losing work for your members across the country. It is not the rates for the actors, it’s all the extras. Non-union work, for the most part, pays the actors very well.

Broadcast TV commercials paying residuals are becoming dinosaurs. Meanwhile that is where all the negotiating energy was put. The hope was to recognize where the future is and concentrate on that. Instead, there were huge increases in things that are becoming obsolete. Sometimes, you need to go backwards to move forward.

Now was the time to try and understand where we are in 2016 and deal with those issues so that SAG actors can continue to work. My fear is that this new deal is going to benefit the top level of commercial actors; but where is the benefit for young actors to want to join the union? I do not have the answers but I feel this negotiation will do nothing to help in getting more clients to shoot on a sag contract.

I urge all SAG members to do their due diligence. Ask your agents questions and make sure you understand how it will impact you. Cable is now up 13%, P&W 18%, and medical is almost impossible for actors to get. I have been doing this for 33 years.

When I started I never imagined that we would be doing so much non-union work.

I was hoping for HOPE and I don’t see it here. If you look back at the last strike, there was no reason for it. The biggest new problem back then was cable and I do not think the union thought it would be that be a deal. Why you didn’t want agents and even casting directors as part of the negotiation, I will never understand. We are on the front lines and understand what is going on better than anyone. The future in social media is moving so fast and it is only going to get worse. I truly think that it was pretty much ignored. So few people, especially the younger ones, do not watch network or even broadcast TV. Even cable shows can be watched on Netflix without any commercials. You got tremendous increases in things that barely exist and now even cable commercials will be done non-union.

Old ways of negotiating and ignoring the future mediums (that I don’t think are really understood) are not going to help the future of the existing membership. Does anyone realize that when a casting director gets a job, the first question is, “Is it union or non union?” Approximately 60% of all commercials cast are now non-union. Not sure anyone tried to figure out that number in order to help the negotiations.

How are agents going to survive? I certainly was hoping for so much more to help bridge this gap. We can’t change the reality but we can care enough about the up coming generation and the massive changes in the tech world to have tried harder on their behalf.

Casting directors have been left in a position to continue doing what we are doing because the door was not even opened enough to think things can change. I wish I understood why the majority of your membership would agree to this when there is not one drop of hope in there for them.

Pensions are like social security. Will these actors ever be able to work enough to collect? Maybe I am naive but you could have done so much better. I have never asked a union actor to work non-union and I never will. I respect the idea of the “union.” I just think you gave had years and hundreds of hours of meetings to then completely ignore the “real” issues.

I urge all actors to read and really understand this new deal.

It would have benefitted everyone if you had come closer. Where’s the incentive for non-union actors to become union? What could possibly turn things around under this deal? Everyone wants a union but a union that works for everyone – the big guy and the small guy.

I was really hoping for so much more. Extending the talks and trying to figure this out would have been better. You did it with cable and now it’s too late. You did it with internet and now it’s too late and now you are doing it with all social media platforms. Three years from now, I’m not sure where union shot commercials will be.

SOOOOOO FRUSTRATED, ALONG WITH ALL OTHER CASTING DIRECTORS, AGENTS, AND MANY ACTORS THAT NEED THE PROPER HELP.

Good luck.

My Thoughts on the New SAG Contract

A Bit About Beth

 

Saturday was my birthday. Year is not allowed to be discussed…haha. It was nice to have a stress free day knowing that I will have casting sessions set up for next week. I went horseback riding, which is my one non-work related passion. I am always so busy talking about the stress of setting up casting sessions and the struggle to get actors to be accountable to agents and managers that I have never explained the casting director side.

I do not have a staff job. Beth Melsky Casting is a freelance company. Just like actors wait for the phone to ring, I wait for the phone to ring. Every job with a client could be my last. That is why I treat EVERY job like my first. It does not matter how big or small. It does not matter if they are paying my rate or asking for a discount. A job is a job and we do them all 100%.

The excuse, “they are not paying me enough” is not an excuse to dial it in.

You also never know what the future could bring so I always do my best. Do actors half ass auditions because they are not getting paid enough?

I feel this work ethic has served my company and I well. Favors are usually not forgotten and ending on a positive note could lead to future business.

When I started, you only needed a handful of directors/clients that understood the positives of a great casting director (once you proved to be talented), especially in New York, where most ad agencies and production companies were based. There was a lot of top-level work being done. Relationships were about my taste in actors as well as my relationship with talent agents to help provide me the option for the best actors. Every director is different and has different ideas and ways of explaining what they are looking for. Two directors could want the same type of talent but say if very differently. It is my job to understand that and if I don’t, I ask questions. Assumptions are out of the question. Understanding a director should be the number one reason a director considers you his/her casting director. These relationships mean a lot to me. I am always searching and digging to present new actors but I still understand what the director wants. My job is to understand the director or ad agency and give them what they want based on taste and understanding.

My opinion is not the point in commercials. Films are a whole other animal. You MUST have a great relationship with a director and totally get in their heads. Directors are always open to suggestions as long as you can back them up.

The thing about film that I think people miss is that we see, meet, and use these actors way before they get on the radar of independent films and then studios. They could really learn a lot from top commercial casting directors about people that are going to break. The “money” cast may already be set but the hope, especially in an independent film, is to introduce them to those actors that will break by the time their movie gets released.

I was never interested in casting sitcoms and have always been interested in casting independent films with great scripts or great people behind them. I just do not think they have the same faith in us that we have in casting their projects.

We did a pretty great job with Tony Kaye and his last film Detachment. It was a great film with a great cast. It was an independent film that many celebrities worked on at scale because of the material and the director. I have worked on many films and I am very proud of that one.

I love working on one film a year because my commercial work is very important and, most times, fulfilling. I would not mind working on a great episodic, like Billions – a New York cast, great scripts, great regular characters that can be filled in with perfection, though I think the casting is great.

I have always stayed in commercials because I have been lucky enough to cover all areas of commercial casting by staffing up properly and understanding all union rules to protect signatories as well as understanding the demands of the non-union world. I try to get actors fare rates and fare deals.

Casting directors are not going to stop the non-union world. In order to stay working we need to be great and knowledgeable at both. We need for our clients to trust that we know what we are doing – getting the best for their budgets and protecting them. We also look out to protect actors. We never want anything coming back to us.

I hope that our diligence has kept us working and that we continue for the long haul. Change is happening very fast and we need to be ready. I have many people to support as well as animals, bills, rent and mortgages. This is what I do best and want to continue to have the phone ring. This is what I will always do and want to be the best at.

Any my last thought – I am not a mean person. I am a passionate person that wants to see everyone contribute to a get great end result. I actually always root for the underdog.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit About Beth

Respect Everyone’s Time

 

Since my last post, I have found that time is an issue for casting directors and actors. There has to be respect on both sides. Whether Beth Melsky Casting sessions are union or non-union, they are scheduled the same way. We do not do cattle calls. We follow the spec and script and then schedule accordingly.

We hate having actors wait too long. We cannot always control callbacks because we are dealing with a director and client but I do the best to anticipate what might happen.

As far as my first calls, I really want quality sessions that run smoothly. This is why my office is so strict about time changes or even losses.

There is a real reason why we cannot accommodate all time changes. I hate getting agent submissions with actors that I am excited to see, but to find out that they are not available because they have not booked out or updated their schedules with their agent. We are trying to make every session perfect. We need the right type at a specific time for many reasons.

I can be doing five characters in a day with small windows for each one. Letting actors walk in whenever they want makes for a sloppy casting session and makes it harder for the people watching to get a sense of what they have. That can lead to more casting or too many callbacks. Some auditions require multiple actors of different types to make a scene work. We need to re-create the storyboard or script as closely as possible when setting up a session. I try and anticipate how long an audition will take and leave enough time for the casting director to do a great job and give all actors a fair chance. If actors are running late or just cancel, it throws off the whole session. I have had actors waiting way beyond their time because of this. They get as frustrated as we do.

Again, there are two sides to everything. First calls out of Beth Melsky Casting are very important. Our directors and clients look very closely at casting sessions. They trust us to do a great job and to get them to callbacks. This is like putting together a puzzle. When one piece does not fit, or needs a time change, or didn’t book out, I have to keep re-doing the puzzle.

I think the point I am trying to make here is that it is not the casting director against the agent or actor. The business has changed so much for all of us. In this fast paced business, a lot of effort and attention to detail are required and, in order to keep working, we have to make these changes. Casting directors, agents, and actors have to work together to make this process go smoothly and keep the quality.

My office might have a reputation for being difficult and I just want everyone to know that it is because we want to put out great casting sessions that will keep the process going.

A quality casting session in New York on a job shooting in New York will make those clients cast the next job in New York.

I’m not sure the casting process has ever been explained clearly to actors so it is hard to understand our actions. I would like if agents and their assistants understood the way casting sessions worked. I have made the offer for them to spend a day in my office to learn, but nobody seemed to care enough. I think certain things could be explained to all actors in a way that they would be happy to make more of an effort. We are working together to not only keep a very unclear business going, but to show respect for everyone who is trying to get a job done right.

Respect Everyone’s Time

I’m Sorry, Actors

So, here we are at my second post of the New Year and I would like to say sorry to all the actors that were part of a large callback I recently did. Before I get to that, I would like to talk a bit about managers.

I still struggle with the involvement of managers because when we have last minute changes and agents are not allowed to talk to their actors directly, they are at the mercy of the manager. It is a step that makes the process slower. I understand that managers know the actors schedules but I believe the actor should also know their own schedule.

I wonder how often a manager changes an actor’s first refusals when a legit project comes along. I know that they do not verbally communicate with the agents. They send vague e-mails at night with reasons that are not always fair regarding an obligation they had accepted. Do managers get to make all choices? Lack of communication ruins relationships. Agents work hard. They cannot make money unless they book actors. I am not sure why any of this is ok. If an actor’s priority is legit work, then make that clear to the agent and give them a secondary.

I really wonder how often the actor is involved and if they realize that if this happens enough, the casting director will back off and not schedule them anymore. I understand that you do not become an actor to do commercials but they are great vehicles and the process needs to be respected. If you are booking lot of episodic, then take yourself out of commercials for a while and leave room for the actors that need and want those auditions.

As I said before, I want to apologize to the actors that were part of a large callback. It was a great spot – SAG and national network. These are the breakdowns that I love doing and I would think the actors love to do as well.

I schedule callbacks so that all actors get a fair shot without having to wait too long. I really want the audition experience at Beth Melsky Casting to be a good one. I had a director who was very nice, but very jetlagged at the callback. I was asked to tighten up the callback because he was moving quickly, so I did. After one round of time changes, I was asked to do it again. Three sets of time changes and we had moved the callback up by four hours. Some actors had to miss the audition and many others were rushed in and out so fast.

At one point, someone came out of the room and said to hurry up and make it like an assembly line. I was so embarrassed and I felt terrible. Respect and responsibility from both sides are so important.

I ask all actors to do exactly what I was not able to do. You need to keep your agents informed at all times and be responsible and honest. Things like time changes and last minute auditions happen all the time now. It is so much easier if an agent can call you direct.

I recently cast two Verizon spots. I got the job last Monday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), did a double session on Tuesday, and callbacks on Wednesday. Casting spec changed and I re-cast on Thursday. They shot on Friday. We are prepared to work that fast and you have get used to being available at the drop of a hat. It is a changing business every single day.

Again I am sorry if I made anyone feel bad. We work hard to hold up our end of the bargain.

I’m Sorry, Actors

New Year, Same Sh*t

 

It has been about a week since we have been back after the long vacation. I would have thought everyone would be back, excited, and ready to work. Nope. So many actors have decided to “extend their trips” (wish I could do that), or have not given their schedules to their agents (something I have begged for in my last 33 blogs), or everything just gets blamed on the managers.

I would like to talk about managers a bit. It seems that when I have actor avail issues, more than half the time I am told, “the manager said…”

Do managers not care about their actors doing commercials? Maybe managers do not understand how it works in commercials. It is so important that talent agents know actors’ schedules. Why can’t commercial agents have direct contact with actors?

It is hard enough when we are dealing actor to agent but then you add a manager into the mix and the communication is completely broken down. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “the manager didn’t tell me.” Maybe managers are being blamed unfairly…I just don’t know.

Either way, actors need to be responsible to manager or agent and if it is a manager, then managers should be considerate enough to inform the agent.

I am open to opinions on how to make this process work better since I don’t think I’ll make it through another year with giving myself a heart attack.

Next and BIG issue of the week: I ran a casting session before the holiday and warned all actors when the callback would be. If actors were not going to be available for a callback, they should not have come in for an audition. Of course a few people decided to extend their vacations, but the worst situation was an actress that decided to get on a plane an hour before the callbacks were scheduled. She was my clients’ first choice. She stayed in New York waiting for a possible callback and then, without checking in with anyone, got on a plane. I’m not even going to tell you why, but it was not a necessary trip. Her agent and I were very upset. I was able to contact her during her lay over and she made the decision to turn around and come back New York. Nobody insisted. She knew how frustrated we all were but she not only learned a lesson, she chose to come back.

Great news…it was worth her time. She booked the job. Commitment is huge. Another acting job is legit but just not being able to sit still and be patient is crazy. That’s the life of an actor. First blog of the year and my first cry for help.

New Year, Same Sh*t

Casting: Experience Goes a Long Way

This is my fourth try at writing a post about what a casting director’s job is. The biggest problem is getting to the point. It should be simple to explain. Many actors, especially those who are new to the business, and even clients (directors, producers, or anyone that hires a casting director) are not always sure what it is we do. The casting director title has become so watered down, especially in the commercial business. I think that with so much non-union work, where there are no set rules that have to be followed and so many low budget jobs, people can call themselves casting directors, offer very low rates to cast, throw a breakdown out on too many services, and then basically throw the casting against the wall and see what sticks. They have huge cattle calls, put out sloppy casting tapes, do their best to follow rates that have been used before, and make their way through it. Does it take them longer? Yes. Do they have the experience behind them? No, but it is easy to say, “It’s non-union so there is nothing I can do.” That is where the experienced and seasoned casting directors can help.

Beth Melsky Casting works as hard on non-union as union. We help set the rules and rates and very rarely have problems with follow through on bookings and contracts. Having an experienced casting director with a strong reputation gives us an edge in getting the job done faster and not struggling and fighting with agents/managers. We all want to keep great relationships.

I have a very hard time dealing with some of these issues as a seasoned casting director. I pride myself on knowing union rules and using that knowledge to help my clients. I also feel in non-union, we can produce the most professional casting possible, as well as being fair in recommending talent fees. We also work hard to make sure contracts are written correctly. Actors or clients can pick up the phone from the set where there might be a problem and get things straightened out very quickly.

We document everything and expect everyone to follow the rules that were well documented. A deal is a deal and I know how to settle it quickly. This is something that comes with time and respect that has been earned over many years. It is like insurance. Being a casting director is something you need to learn and train for. There are so many pop-up casting directors taking on jobs that they are really not trained for.

It has taken me years to gain the respect of top directors, ad agencies, and producers. They understand that the main purpose of our job is to find what they are looking for. We try our best to hand over incredible casting tapes without a lot of fluff. These actors were hand picked to audition. I am not wasting their time. There are no surprises here. I use great session casting directors that are well trained in how to direct the actors.

Some very low budget projects feel that they cannot afford an established casting director or casting company. We have all had to change with the times and are willing to work with these situations. Producers should not be afraid to call. It is a changing business and we are better equipped to change with it and make everyone look good.

Not only does Beth Melsky Casting and casting companies like us know how to do both union and non-union, we are always looking to build new relationships in the hope that one day it will pay off for everyone. We take so much pride in our work and always want to do a quality job. Not every job can be done the same but we know how to cut to the chase, get the best talent for the job, and help directors with the casting process.

We are clear about the actors that we can get for the budget and bring in the cream of the crop instead of stumbling on it by seeing quantity. My frustration is that I have been doing this for thirty years. I have gone through so many changes and can still do any job with quality. Reputation goes a long way and Beth Melsky Casting has not been around for so long for no reason.

When I started, I had to train for years with the best casting directors. The job of a casting director has not changed. We get the actors through the door. As an actor, you want to be recommended by us and have a chance to form a relationship.

On the production side, do not assume that a low budget means sloppy casting. Union or non-union, we have trained eyes for great actors, good actors, or actors that are right for the job.

Union casting or casting for top directors and clients require a respect for what casting is. Anyone can put a breakdown out on one of these many free services offered, rent a studio, and just tape hundreds of faces. That is not being a casting director. Just like a director, or a stylist, or an art director, we actually practice our craft. If we did not, film directors would not trust their casting directors so much.

Yes, now people can become casting directors but they should train with someone established and learn the craft properly. It is not as easy as it looks, even with tiny budgets. I just wish some productions at any budget, would take the value of experience into consideration. Just like in any business, experience goes a long way.

Casting: Experience Goes a Long Way

Goodbye Summer, Back to Work

This is my last blog of the summer…summer as New Yorkers know it. Summer is my favorite time of the year. I hate the cold weather and I love the long days with so many hours of light. It is also my most frustrating time of the year as a casting director. I love summer, but I do not take off any time. I have never taken a “summer vacation.” You want to know why? Casting is not like school. We do not close or slow up because schools are closed.

We do not usually get slow and, if anything, we hope for it to be very busy. More work is shot in New York because of the weather and clients like to travel to here when it’s warm. Production does not stop because it is summer.

Schedule is not determined by weather. It is determined based on events. We cast for back to school, football, new products, etc. There is no way for us to know the inner workings of advertising agencies and what they need to produce or why.

The ad business never stops. It may slow down at times, but we have no idea when new products are going to be launched. We can only stay open and wait. Actors have decided that August is a month off. My clients are shocked to hear many actors take off long periods of time and it makes it so hard for casting directors to do quality casting sessions.

This summer has been very busy with a large amount of last minute jobs coming up, especially in the voiceover/radio world. I get one day’s notice to put a great session together and this is the time actors should be waiting by their phones. Actors must have gotten a memo that I missed saying, “August is slow so take the month off.”

Give this some thought and ignore the memo next summer. For all the work Beth Melsky Casting has had, prepping quality casting sessions (union, non-union, voiceover, and radio) has been a painful process. This is not Europe. We do not shut down for the month of August.

Come October, actors will be calling their agents asking where all the work is. I hope their answer will be that it was all done in August. The only time actors can feel secure in not missing anything is the four days off for Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Years.

It seems if an actor sits with no auditions for a few days, they assume they can just pick up and leave. Eventually, you’re going to miss something. Short holidays have turned into ridiculous spans. My clients do not think about things like that. They have a job to shoot. They do not put it off because it is the Monday before Thanksgiving. My directors and producers cannot fathom what we go through and what we listen to on a daily basis. They need to cast and shoot. That is all that matters. They do not even care about a casting director’s struggle to provide quality casting.

If they could hear a tenth of the excuses I hear on a daily basis, I do not think they would believe it. They think actors become actors to act, not to take vacations. They are giving me an opportunity and would never believe what casting directors go through. Frankly, they shouldn’t have to care. They want the casting sessions done well, and that’s what matters.

Casting is a part of production. Without actors, it cannot happen, but they have so many other things to deal with to get the production done. Doing things without actors takes the struggle off the table. Don’t think for a minute, it couldn’t go that way. I think actors need to take a look at the business that you have chosen to be in and take time off when it makes sense. Nothing is waiting for you. Commercials are not unimportant. We make careers.

That brings me back to the same old problem. E-mail to update your agent or agents on your availability. That is what I am asking. I am sure you check your e-mails 50 times a day, but you won’t take 2 minutes to notify your agent about your schedule – personal or business. If you are not going to be available, you need to tell them. Again, even if you haven’t heard from them in three weeks doesn’t mean an audition couldn’t come up any second. They need to know. They want to know your schedule before they submit you to me. They look at an actor’s schedule and if it’s clear, they’ll submit the actor. The agent calls with the appointment only to finally get an e-mail response from the actor that they forgot to book out because they’re getting married that weekend, have to move out of their apartment, or forgot they’re going to California, or even having surgery. I could go on and on.

It does not matter why you are booking out. Hopefully, sometimes it is because you have an acting job. But you MUST book out. I get mad and your agent gets mad. I cannot do my job well and your agent cannot make money. You are actors. You should be of the mindset that every audition you get matters. Think about how many actors are not getting auditions and would die to be in your position.

I just thought I would point out the excuse I got the most in the month of August – “family emergency.” Now I am sure some are really family emergencies. I am also sure everyone’s idea of a family emergency is different but when someone tells me they have a family emergency and their emergency was going to Florida because it was their father’s birthday. Is that what an “emergency” is? Be careful how you want to cry wolf.

I had over 100 family emergency excuses last month and I’m sorry if I am a bit skeptical but it seems to be the safest excuse to go with. What agent would want to pry and ask what the “family emergency” is? At some point, I am going to notice actors using that excuse more than once. I also do not think it’s right to use the “family emergency” excuse because you have a hangover and want a later time.

I am also always surprised when actors know exactly when their family emergency will be over. Maybe it should be called a family issue instead. That is enough ranting about my busy and different August.

Next post I am going to teach non-union actors how to be responsible about their careers, especially when they have multiple agents. There are just as many rules that have to be followed. If you are going to say yes to everything, you are going to end up in a bad situation. There is a correct way to do it. Too many mistakes could end your career.

Goodbye Summer, Back to Work

Crazy Excuses of the Week

Just a few crazy excuses from the past week:

  1. Can I be late? I need to go to the post office.
  2. I cannot make my appointment. The weather is so nice that I decided to stay on Fire Island
  3. Oh…I forgot I was getting married.
  4. I can’t leave town, my wife is having a birthday (mind you, this was AFTER getting a callback).
  5. I forgot I had to close on my apartment.
  6. I have to go to the dentist (top ten).
  7. My girlfriend is in Russia and I HAVE to go visit her.

Are you acting as a profession or is it a hobby? Either way, the agent needs to know.

This is how I ended my week:

I booked a little girl on a job shooting out of town. It was a non-union job. Her father brought her to audition, then to the callback, and accepted the booking. She was signed to a great kids agent.

Much to my frustration then anger (and her agent’s), her father, after accepting the booking, decided that he did not want to leave Hilton Head in order for her to do the job…REALLY?!

I cannot blame the little girl, but I can blame her father. This was a little girl’s dream and, because of a selfish parent, she will not get to see come true. The agent, producer, and I have not heard from her father again on this matter. He told us he would think about it and call us back. Still thinking?

Crazy Excuses of the Week