If you are posting a breakdown online, especially on Facebook, you should do your best to provide as much information as possible to attract the best – and most suitable – talent for your project’s needs. I realize that my sentiment seems rather obvious, but based on the casting calls I see on FB, some producers need a bit of help. If you are new to producing and casting, or if you just want to make your next breakdown stand out, read on!
In this article, I am going to talk a little about what I am seeing on PNW casting groups (Northwest Callboard, Film Collective Northwest, Seattle and PNW Open Castings, Film Crews and Actors of Seattle, etc.), and provide you with a downloadable template which I encourage you to use when you create your next breakdown.
This article is not written for professional casting directors in the PNW, who, for the most part, do an excellent job when posting breakdowns on Casting Networks, Casting Frontier, or on their own websites.
WHAT I AM SEEING ON FACEBOOK
Terrible looking casting calls (breakdowns).
With the occasional exception, almost all breakdowns put up on Facebook are incredibly incomplete, and lack vital information that actors need to make informed decisions about whether or not to submit to the breakdown.
My biggest complaint is when there is no rate information on the Original Post/Casting Call. In the filmmaking industry – Heck, in all industries – it’s bananas to post a job offer without disclosing the rate of pay. “DM me for rates” is absolutely not good enough. It’s a tremendous red flag when rate information is missing, and no actor should submit to a breakdown when clear and concise compensation details are missing.
Producers, please do better. Stop wasting our time. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a major labor movement going on in America, and, currently, SAG-AFTRA, is currently on strike. Workers are fighting for fair wages, and the war on workers is raging. It’s not only a bad practice to leave out compensation details, it’s disrespectful and cannot become the new normal.
Learn about the SAG-AFTRA strike here.
Oh, and while I am sure this is not an option for most low budget producers, when in doubt, hire a casting director. If you need suggestions, just reach out. I am happy to connect you with my professional network.
WHY ACTORS NEED DETAILS
Actors need information about your project so they can decide if it’s worth submitting to. Yes, of course, you are going to get submissions no matter what, but if you want talented, dedicated actors, and not just desperate newbies, you need to provide pertinent details that engage, excite, and motivate the “right” people to submit to your breakdown. Now, each individual has their own mind, but one of the most important details to include is your compensation details, which usually means Daily Rate of Pay.
And don’t just take my word for it, earlier this year in Washington state a law on posting the rate of pay with job listings was passed: “The pay transparency law makes Washington one of a handful of states that now require most employers to disclose wage scales or salary ranges in postings, rather than waiting until an offer is made.” Read more about that law here.
Rate of pay, in this industry, is often called a “day rate.” But, what does “day” mean, in hours? As far as I know, a “day” = 8 hours on SAG-AFTRA sets, and often, after those 8 hours, actors are paid overtime. On your project, I cannot tell you if you should or should not pay overtime, and I am not an expert on WA Employment Law, so I suggest, when you are posting your rate details, to be specific and state something like $175/10, which would mean $175 for 10 hours worked. Your specificity will really help when communicating your day rate.
Of course, not all roles for actors pay monetarily, but compensation needs to be spelled out on every single casting call/breakdown posted on Facebook. If you don’t have $$ to compensate your talent, please let us know what you will be providing. Typically, compensation of this type = Meals, craft services, IMDb credit (if a theatrical gig), and a copy of the finished project for actor reels.
If the job is commercial or corporate, actors should absolutely not work for anything other than good old fashioned American Dollars. I don’t care if it’s a mom and pop shop or a brand new business. If you are producing content/video that is helping a business thrive, and you are hiring actors, you need to pay a day rate. You should also be paying for Usage, but I am going to pick my battles here and not talk too much about that. Just know, savvy actors will expect that you know what Usage Fees are if you are casting a commercial or a corporate video.
It’s also very important to describe, with a few details, what kinds of people you are looking to cast. At the minimum this should include an age range, and any pertinent gender and ethnic identifiers. The more specific you are, the better matches you will get when actors submit to your project.
More information on how to write you next breakdown is below in the downloadable template.
Another thing to consider: When you post your call, provide an Email address rather than asking for DMs. Or, do both.
MORE ON RATES
Washington state minimum wage is $15.74. So, if you are hiring actors for an 8 hour day in 2023, your day rate should be at least $126/day, yeah? Now, are you breaking employment laws when you offer $100/day for your talent when they are hired as contractors and not employees? I don’t know. I am not an expert, but you should certainly consider the possibility that you are treading in murky legal waters.
Compensation with stipends is also common practice, but, again, look into all of this and consider your options before posting your next breakdown.
A FEW TIPS FOR ACTORS
Advocate for yourself and ask for details when they are not included on shabby looking breakdowns on Facebook. It’s up to us to demand respect and proper information before submitting, and, in many cases, volunteer Admins on various FB groups can’t keep up with the glut of crappy breakdowns on their boards. Actors must come together, demand better, and support each other for a better local industry.
Never “work for free” on any job that is for a brand (commercial) or company. This also goes for corporate videos. The only time to “work for free” is on theatrical projects (film/episodic), and you should be compensated in some fashion (see above).
When in doubt, ask for a contract. If you are offered a job from a FB breakdown, and you are a bit concerned that you might not get compensated, ask for a contract. Or, at the minimum, keep records (screenshots, emails, etc.) so you have a better shot at getting what’s owed if things get sticky after the project wraps.
A FEW TIPS FOR PRODUCERS/CASTING
When you post a job listing for actors – a breakdown – on Facebook, and you leave out important details, don’t be surprised when actors contact you looking for more information about your project. When actors do reach out with questions, please stay open. Sometimes, especially if you have not done a lot of casting, you may have left out such details by accident. Perhaps the gender of a role is not specified clearly. Maybe the synopsis indicates that the project is an action film filled with stunts, but there is no mention of safety or stunt coordinators in the listing. When important details are missing, savvy actors will want more information so they feel comfortable and informed moving forward.
These questions and concerns from actors may help you adjust and improve your breakdown. Go back to your original post and tweak it so you don’t have to spend more time answering questions and clearing up confusion. Clear communication is so important, and the more details your provide in your breakdown, the better actors you will see sending in their materials, because they will sense that you are organized, serious, and professional.
When a project is requiring an actor to handle weapons, perform stunts, or engage in intimate situations, the production should hire a stunt coordinator and an intimacy coordinator. Of course, many no/low budget projects will not have the resources to hire these professionals, so it is up to actors to protect themselves by communicating with the casting team about exactly what will be happening on set that involves either staged fighting or intimacy. The onus is on the casting team/production to, not only keep that actor safe, but to reassure them before they are hired so the actor can make an informed decision about whether or not to apply/accept the role.
And, actors, if you are offered a job that requires stunts or intimacy, you should absolutely ask to read the entire script before you accept the role.
BREAKDOWN TEMPLATE LINK
I’ve done a bit of research on Industry Standard breakdowns and have created a Google Doc that you can download here and modify before you post your next casting call.
I am an actor, producer, photographer, educator, and advocate for actors. And, yep, sometimes I find myself casting.
I have been in the acting industry since 2000, and have been working as on-camera talent since 2010. In 2012, I launched Mighty Tripod with my better half, Angela DiMarco. We teach the craft and business of acting from our Georgetown studio, and also virtually. We have helped thousands of actors over the years, and we are dedicated to continuing that mission.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you will take some of these suggestions to heart, for the good of the industry.
Producers, Happy Casting.
Actors, break a leg at your next audition!