Written for The Networker by Terry Berland @berlandcasting.
(Photo Credit: Shutterbug)
The actor union SAG-AFTRA was started, and exists, to protect actors from being taken advantage of. Actors who have been in the union long term end up with a pension, are eligible for health insurance along the way, and can proudly call acting their career.
The union gives commercial casting directors an update periodically on the meaning of the terms for us to communicate properly with talent. It dawned on me that it is important for you, the talent, to also know the latest reminder we have been given by the union regarding terms.
Below are a few reminder terms. It is a good time to remind you that it’s better to have representation as opposed to going through the auditioning and booking process yourself. Let your talent representative be the stickler for the rules. After all, you want to come off as the congenial, easy-to-work-with actor who shows up for the booking eager and ready to work.*
Availability (Avail) Verses Hold:
Casting has a system in place during the selection process, which involves putting talent on avail. An avail is when the producer is inquiring about the performer’s availability for a particular day or days. You give a handshake agreement that you would be available if you were booked, and the selection process proceeds. You are not yet booked.
If a casting director or a producer puts you on “hold”, technically they are actually booking you. Hence, the performer is due a cancellation fee if they do not use you. *Probably less awkward for your agent to bring this to the attention of the casting director who is getting their information from the producer.
Conflicts exist so a talent does not have another similar product spot running at the same time, i.e. two toothpastes, shampoos, detergents, cell phone companies, banks, etc.
So what is a competitive product? If the product you are being cast for is a detergent, the direct conflict is other detergents. If the producer asks for conflicts of detergents and whiteners, the whitener is a second separate (non-competitive) product conflict because this particular detergent is not also a whitener; there is nothing on the package that claims it is a whitener. However, there are certain detergents that are actually whiteners. In that case asking for a whitener would fall under one conflict.
In a union commercial, holding a talent exclusive for the first direct conflict is free, but for any additional non-competitive product areas the talent is paid additional. Two (2) to three (3) non-competitive products the actor will receive 150% of session and usage. Four (4) or more non-competitive services the talent is paid 200% of session and usage.
Talent gets paid for the time they work. Rehearsals are considered workdays, as you are not free that day to go out on other auditions or take any other kind of work.
Cancellation vs. Postponement:
Your time is valuable and you should get paid for it. When a performer is cancelled, they are due a session fee for each day they are booked. If the production is postponed, the performer is entitled to ½ of the session fee for each day they were booked. If the production does not occur within fifteen (15) working days, the performer is due another ½ session fee.
These are just a few of your rights as an actor under the union and there are many more. Stay up to date by going to the SAG-AFTRA website to stay informed. Even if you are non-union at the moment, keep alert and stay in communication with your fellow actors. Brainstorm about how you can keep your union alive for you to have a long-term thriving acting career.
If you want to sharpen up on your commercial acting technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Commercial Acting workshop.