Written for Casting Networks News by Terry Berland @berlandcasting.
Photo credit:
Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock.com

There has been an interesting and dangerous trend in commercial auditioning of talent claiming they are local hire, when in fact they are not. I believe this is an effect of boundaries altered and blurred due to the industry shift to self-taped auditions and Zoom callbacks. The ease of auditioning from anywhere with no requirements of showing up at the local casting studio seems to have led to a misguided perception by some talent of the definition of what local is.

Why is claiming you are a local hire when you are actually not a dangerous situation both for the talent and production? How can this get you into costly trouble fulfilling your booking commitment as well as putting the production in jeopardy?

Let’s start with what local hire is. Local hire, when stated on a breakdown, means the project is only looking to hire people who live close to the place of work. Traditionally, mentioning local hire signals the reference to union talent payment guidelines.

These commercial union guidelines were set up to protect talent from the cost of spending their own money on transportation, travel days, housing and even gas money for driving to a location. Distances were worked out based on specified “zones.” For non-union jobs, industry standards try to follow the general union rule of thumb for the protection of talent.

Working on the assumption that you are a talent who is respected, professional, reliable and shows up at a shoot when accepting a booking, let’s go further into the meaning and reasoning local hire is called for, even beyond payment guidelines.

Look at how many days, hours and dollars the travel is going to cost you when air travel is involved. Importantly, how will weather conditions and other technical complications out of your control affect the ability to get to the shoot, and how will the change of shoot days, possibly called by production, affect your arrival commitment?

Alarmingly, in recent castings, some talent are making up their own definition of what local hire is, or are not aware of the fact that local hire was called for on the breakdown. I am finding on Zoom callbacks that talent might casually mention a city where they live. However, their area of residence is clearly a plane ride away from the shoot location. They say this seemingly oblivious to the fact that, somehow, they would have to get to the location.

Then, there are the talent who purposely avoid mentioning where they live because they are looking to book anything. They consider themselves local hire because they are willing to fly themselves to the job and have a place to stay at their own expense in the city of the shoot. Folks, that is not local hire.

Why is this dangerous to yourself as an actor and to the production? As an actor, you don’t want to put a production in jeopardy. On a non-union production I was casting, I had an actor who had booked the job directly (no agent involved), email me that they were stuck at the airport for two days due to bad weather trying to get a flight to Los Angeles. Although they were sorry, it would not be possible for them to make it to the shoot.

Upon calling the distressed actor who was still at the airport explaining their failed efforts to me, they were still claiming they were local hire because they were paying their own way to the shoot and they had a place to stay at no cost to production.

Local hire is proclaimed on a breakdown, not only to announce that no travel expenses will be paid, but to protect talent and production by avoiding the myriad of travel difficulties, that no one has control of, that can get in the way of you getting to where you have to be, with the result of ruining a shoot. Production has set time schedules, commitments to hired crews, location permits and rental equipment that all have costs involved. Not to mention scheduling to meet editing and on-air deadlines for ad placement.

When talent accepts a booking, they are agreeing to be at the booking, on time. A seasoned actor knows there could always be changes in shoot dates as well as even added dates. An educated actor knows if they don’t fulfill their commitment and can’t show up for the shoot, their agent will drop them, the casting office will never audition them again and they could even be held liable for expenses incurred by the production.

Actors, make smart decisions for a long and successful career. The Casting and talent community is based on trust with talent knowing casting has their backs and that casting relies on talent who have a solid reputation and honor their commitments.

If you want to sharpen up on your commercial acting technique, follow this link to Terry Berland’s Commercial Acting workshop.