How to Piss-Off a Casting Director (Without Being Seen)

This week: Casting Casualties

I should be forthcoming that prior to my writing this I punched my printer. (It was one of those days.)

The device and its demise was only a semi-innocent player in the following; not an influence. Well, actually my printer slash scanner slash fax slash copier slash does-too-many-things-it-can’t-do-one-well may have been a well-deserved victim.

If the following has not happened to you imagine that it’s 5:45 PM and you receive a phone call from your agent or a casting person and you’re told that, “You have an audition tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. And oh… there are fourteen pages of sides to prepare. Enjoy!”


It’s 8:00 AM on the morning of that last-minute call to audition. You receive an e-mail from your agent or a casting person and they’re canceling your chance to present those 14 pages. The role was cast overnight (an actor who had been holding out on an offer finally accepted; but this is info you of course will not be told) and now you’re no longer wanted. Thank you very much. Next.

More than likely you’d be pissed-off in either scenario.

Now let’s turn the audition table.

It’s 5:45 PM on a Tuesday night (really it was, before I landed my right fist to my now deceased Hewlett-Packard-Hell). An agent called me about an actor who was given an appointment over two weeks prior (and confirmed) for the next morning. He’d changed his mind and was passing on the audition. He was one among many revisionists that day forcing me to turn my scheduling pencil onto its eraser head. Earlier, several other confirmed actors had beat the defecting actor to the punch by suddenly having a case of the “I don’t wanna’s” and dropped out from their scheduled appointments.

Did the project suck you ask? No. Was the weather forecast for the next day one that was a precursor to the Mayan cataclysm conjecture of December 21st, 2012? Unh-uh. Was there a sudden break out of swine flu among the rescinding thespians? (Don’t tempt my evil wishing.)

No. It was just actors being actors. Well, some actors who had talent reps and let their champion be the bearers of bad behavior. And those agents should have refused to give into their clients by ordering each to the audition. (Hold on before you get riled here… Let me finish.)

These ‘day before drop-outs’ happen. Often. More so than the scream-fest drama The Real Housewives of… which replays on Bravo nearly every hour of each day to assault our sensibilities. And like those whining women of wealth who require more perpetual attention than a temperamental printer the actors who bow out at the last minute are often high maintenance. And are almost always actors with representation. Actors who a week or two later bitch, whine and moan about not getting any audition appointments or work.

You may think I’m being overly critical or that this is hyperbole. I could begin naming names of the offenders but I still need those delinquents to call-in for future projects to have them once again screw-up two weeks of scheduling work. Sometimes, like children, we just never learn to keep our hands off of the hot stove burner. But hope for a different result from repeated practice is a taunting temptress of insanity.

When an actor pulls out of auditions on short notice holes are left. And those glaring gaps often cannot be filled as the clock tick-tocks its way to sessions.

Let’s do some math. (A boring proposition I know. I failed nearly all my academic arithmetic for lack of interest. What was the point of numbers in musical theater? Oops.)

For this exercise we’ll pretend the project is for a major regional production of a musical; basing nearly all expenditures upon the hour.

  • Studio rental: Forty dollars to two hundred dollars an hour dependent upon size required.
  • A reader: Twenty dollars per hour.
  • A pianist often profits at forty to fifty dollars an hour.
  • Casting salary: The casting director’s fee can range from work-for-food (been there, done that) to being employed at four hundred dollars an hour (rarely done, seldom there). For this fictitious project we’ll say the c.d. is getting one hundred-fifty dollars per hour.
  • Expenses: Nasty little necessities which make everything run smoothly (office supplies, copying, internet/telephone charges and other miscellaneous items). For some offices the average cost for staples that support a project which is casting a major regional musical production averages $2,500.

Now, let’s add all this up (based on one hour).

  • Studio (Mid-size) $65
  • Reader (per hour) $20
  • Pianist (per hour) $45
  • C.D. (per hour) $150
  • Additional
    audition site staff: $200
  • Expenses: $2,500 (I can’t break this down by hour so in it all goes)


  • Total $2, 980


O.K., now let’s find out what a gap of seven missing minutes would cost in cha-ching wasted by an actor who got cold feet.

Two thousand, nine hundred and eighty dollars divided by seven minutes of one actor gone rogue while people behind the audition table drum their fingers equals (drum roll):

$425.00 (and spare change).

That’s how much a canceling actor has just cost the producer.

Oh fuck. I didn’t include the salaries of the other artistic staff that may be behind said table (all the other creatives besides the casting director). Plus their expenses which includes transportation and accommodations. Also missing from the equation are their salaries. That would add… O.K. let’s see an artistic director earns anywhere from $65,000 to $100,000 annually. An SDC director gets about 10,000 per show… A choreographer $8,500… hotel and flight accommodations to get to NY… did they have to pay for an extra bag on the flight? Add these then divide by… Oh screw it.

See, math and numbers really do bore me. So let’s just say that four-hundred twenty-five dollars (and spare change) is rounded up to a much larger number and like most artists we’ll avoid reality. We’ll keep this manageable at four hundred twenty-five dollars (and spare change) per missing actor.

On average five actors pull themselves out of the schedule just hours prior to their audition. Four hundred and twenty-five dollars (minus the spare change) multiplied by five absent actors equals:


Look at that number. That’s real money gone. Dollars that cannot be retrieved. Producer investment wasted by actors who defer culpability through keyboard courage of an e-mail or by hiding behind their talent rep. All this leaves the producer wondering what the hell happened and why is he/she investing large amounts of cash in casting for little return?

Now your wheels may be spinning wildly in defense of your fellow artists; thinking that there are valid reasons to cancel out last minute prior to an audition. Yes there are. They include:

  • Booking a conflicting job
  • Family or personal emergency
  • Illness
  • Death (Yours. Not your best-friend’s ferret Bo-Bo.)

Yes, those are valid reasons. But often when I press agents for truth as to why their client has just buck shot my schedule I get the following:

  • “He reconsidered his life and its place in the universe.”
  • “She doesn’t feel prepared.” (Despite having the material for two or more weeks.)
  • “He’s tired.”
  • “She doesn’t like doing auditions on [insert any day of the week].”
  • “He doesn’t want to commute in from New Jersey.” (Oh, horror. Catastrophe appalling. I do it every fucking day.)

I’ll never understand a fraction of actors… no wait let’s expand this. People. Why  some people in general who want, want, want and then when offered what they desire they reject the presentation. But back to actors because civilians with their regimented lives often scare our unstable bliss.

Over the years I’ve learned to avoid holding auditions on a Tuesday. Why? Because often there are actors — who over the weekend prior — had some sort of revelation that they’d rather not participate in part of their job description which is; auditioning.

So before you accept and confirm your next appointment be damned sure that unless you’ve been granted the fortune of another job (or you can’t show up because you’re bound for burial) follow through by showing up to work. Imagine how you would feel if you arrived at your audition and none of us showed? You find an empty audition studio. Not very professional is it? How much of your money would be wasted?

As to my printer? It’s now on its way to a landfill. It, like a number of rude actors canceling out on the next day’s auditions, was misbehaving. Typical of all HP printers I’ve had and vowed to never swipe my debit card in exchange for one again. That last grey monster of plastic and petulance was my fourth to die after a year from purchase.

I now have a new, shiny, black printer slash scanner slash copier sitting on the shelf above my home-office desk. HP of course. Some people just never learn from past mistakes.

My Best,

HEADS UP!: Because actors have gotten agents (and more importantly) work; Access to Agents is back! Two versions are avail to you: Stage & Screen or Musical Theatre. You and I will work together on your audition and marketing skills, plus interview technique and then I’ll introduce you to a panel of agents for film, TV and Broadway who’ll give you feedback on your audition and potential as a client. Full details @ Access to Agents.

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit


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