Open letter to a casting director

Here is a little story … it involves a casting director from a fairly large and well known organisation and me … a humble actor, not a celeb, no one famous, but just a jobbing actor.

Now I am sure that I am sure I am not the only actor to whom this has happened – but it makes be mad!

On Wednesday morning an email pings into my inbox with details of a job: How exciting! It asks whether I am interested and available, gives me dates and rates. It’s an interesting job that is almost certainly going to lead to more work – and yes, I am available! I agree to the rate – and put the dates in my diary.

I email the casting director by return saying thank you, how nice to hear from you. Yes I am available/interested and can do the job within the deadline you specify – I ask a couple of technical questions – and she helpfully suggests, that since I’ve not worked with these guys before, it might be a good idea to chat to one of their tech guys regarding my queries. He is not available right now, so we arrange a time for me to talk to him the following afternoon. The tech person and I speak late in the afternoon of the next day. A very useful helpful conversation – and everything I was uncertain about is cleared up. I email again as soon as we have spoken (though I know they won’t pick up the email until Friday morning), to say all is now clear and I am happy to go ahead. 

I have a lovely weekend, happy in knowing that I have a job in the pipeline … and not just one, potentially a series of jobs. 

On Monday morning, I email the casting assistant again, just to confirm everything and to ask her to send me the scripts as soon as possible. It’s a big project … and as I have other work in the pipeline, plus I will be away for a couple of weeks before the delivery day, I’d actually like to begin doing my preparation as soon as possible, even though the deadline for completion is some way away.

The response comes by return … thank you, we have gone with a different voice! A male voice! 

Now, I have been around the block a few times and I know how casting works, and I know the final decision is not always down to the casting director – or even the producer; there is normally an end client who calls the shots. That’s quite normal and I accept it is part of the job.

My problem with this particular ‘offer’ that wasn’t an ‘offer’ was the wording of the email. Never once was it indicated to me that I was being ‘considered’; was being ‘asked to audition’; was being asked of my availability for a ‘possible’ job that might or might not happen. There is an enormous difference between ‘we have an upcoming project that we hope will interest you. Are you available between these dates to record it?’ and ‘would you be interested in being considered for a project within these dates? 

Perhaps it was just a fishing expedition to check whether I would work for the rates they were offering – not the greatest, but with the mention of this being an on-going project – yes, I would accept their rate on that basis, though perhaps not for a single job only. Perhaps they were just thoughtless.

So … a weekend spent on a high thinking I might have a lovely job popping into my inbox on Monday morning, giving me a couple of months work at least, has turned out to be a damp squib – a rotten tomato – a nothing! Plus the fact that I have cancelled several other jobs to make room for this one … the job that never happened! Thanks a bunch.

So casting people – I know you’re busy, I know you’re stressed and working to tight deadlines, just as I am … and I know the final decision is not likely to be yours, but I beg you, please consider the wording of your emails and how it reads to someone on the outside. Are you emailing with a firm job offer, or merely an availability. You know us actors … we’re often out of work; we’re often up against immense competition. We know the industry is vastly overcrowded and we know how busy you are. We also know it’s not you who makes the final decision. We know all that – and we accept it is just ‘part of the job’! But dear casting director, have you ever thought how it feels to receive an email that appears to be a firm job offer – only to have it pulled from under your feet? How such an event may not actually incline an actor to feel kindly towards the organisation you work for – and how actually, you’ve been totally unprofessional. 

We actors know we’re totally expendable, that there are a hundred others waiting to step into our empty shoes – but that is no excuse for not behaving professionally when checking availability or making job offers. 

Who knows, next time you want me to work with you, with a bit of luck and a following wind, I might just not be available.

Yours sincerely,
A jobbing actor!