The “avail” phenomenon in commercials

What is it with being put “on avail” in commercial casting?

 So has anyone else noticed the “avail” phenomenon of the last few years in the commercial world?  It used to be that when you were put “on avail” for a commercial, you booked it—90% of the time.  In the last few years that has changed.  Last summer I was on avail 6 times without a single booking.  Arrggh!  And I am not the only one—many of my fellow commercial actors are experiencing the same thing.   

Traditionally being put “on avail” after a callback meant that you had performed so well, or had such the “right” look, that you were put on a “short list” by the people who were present at the callback (director, ad exec, etc).  That short list, commonly about 2 people per role, then would get presented to the client (ie. the folks at Toyota or McDonalds, etc) who would make the final decision.  So why so many more “avails” without bookings?  What is different?

I asked around and what I found out is that more and more people are being put “on avail” for a single role, ie put on the not-as-short list.  Sometimes they are even given designations like “first avail” which means top choice, “second avail”, second choice and so on.  But first avail does not necessarily book the job—despite their availability—because there are so many decision-makers in the process now.  From the ad agency execs, client execs, director and production people, more and more people are getting a say in who gets hired.   Consequently, more and more people are being added to the “short list”. 

 My advice?  If you are put “on avail” for a commercial, feel good about your performance, look, etc.  You are definitely doing something right.   But don’t get your hopes up too high until you get that call telling you that the job is yours!    

Lilas Lane

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