As an ad agency that produces 500+ TV spots each year, we’ve heard plenty of horror stories about actors showing up on set the day of the TV shoot looking nothing like their headshots or TV reels.  That miscalculation could jeopardize the entire production, cost tens of thousands of dollars and even jobs.  That’s why we put together this guide to successful actor casting.

Follow these helpful hints and you’ll be a superstar producer in no time:  

  1. Think Through Demographics, Tone of Script: Make certain casting demographics have been well considered and defined: gender, age, etc.  Which actor is going to hold the most appeal for your target audience?  Does the script call for a dramatic delivery or comedic?  Those are key questions that will drive successful casting.  
  2. Hire a Talent Agency: Talent agencies are paid a small fee to find actors but it’s money well spent.  A good agency will have lists of talented actors on hand and be able to orchestrate auditions in a few hours.  If you’re having difficulty finding a talent agency, ask a local production house for some reputable names.  And one local talent agency should suffice as that will prevent arguments about which agency reps talent.  Truth is, most actors use multiple talent agencies.  If you’re in need of a national high end actor, that’s another league.  Email us for suggestions
  3. What to Expect to Pay An Actor:  Fees for local talent will vary by market and are negotiable.  Expect to pay each actor $500-$800 for a one day shoot, covering ads running in one major TV market for one year.  However, high end actors performing for national brands can cost big money:  Stephanie Courtney who plays “Flo” for Progressive Auto Insurance earns $1 million a year;  Jared Fogle, Subway’s former spokesman made $15 million before being sent to prison;  Paul Marcarelli, Verizon’s former “Can you hear me now?” guy was paid $10 million over ten years;  Jonathan Goldsmith, “the Most Interesting Man in the World” made millions appearing in Dos Equis commercials.  
  4. Headshots/Reels/Experience: Your talent agency will provide you with headshots and TV reels of actors corresponding to your demographic descriptions.  Once you have those, review for appropriate look, voice and acting talent.  But don’t stop there!  This is where things can veer off track big time.  The next step is probably the most important in this list!
  5. Conduct Iphone Auditions Using Real Scripts: It’s imperative that you conduct Iphone auditions.  Over the years, I’ve been amazed at how an actor’s appearance can change dramatically in a short period of time.  Provide the talent agency with a :30 script that you’re going to produce and ask for Iphone auditions.  Using a real script will provide you with a solid feel for an actor’s natural inflection and :30 will allow plenty of time to gauge their acting chops.  And Iphone auditions will ensure the actor’s appearance is consistent with headshots and reels, saving you from any shoot day surprises.  
  6. Choose Backups: We typically shoot 8-12 actors in a day.  All of our talent shows up because they’re pros we’ve worked with for years.  But If you haven’t worked with the talent before, it’s possible some will cancel.  That’s why it’s important to have backups ready to roll at least a couple weeks prior to the day of production.  

For more casting tips, visit our website.  And best of luck with your TV shoot!  We’ll see you at the ADDYs!