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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez


Updated: Apr 22

There are dozens of places we might encounter potential auditions. With union projects, these details are required to be transparent, with fair compensation and usage clearly labeled. But in the world of non-union submitting, anything is possible. So how exactly do we cull through these casting calls and choose the right ones to submit to? What information do we need to know to make our decision? How do we know what auditions to submit to and which ones to decline?

Here are some questions to should ask before submitting to a casting call:


First consider the format, the type of content that is being produced: Is it a student film? A Short? A Feature? Documentary? Industrial? TV series? Commercial? Web series? The value of this footage for you as an actor are directly influenced by the media’s format.

The size and scope of the project will affect the time commitment required of you as a performer. Taking on a lead in a feature or web series means a longer time commitment-- and might not be something you can financially swing for 2+ months, if it’s a low-or-non-paying project. So you need to make sure you know what the project is and decide if it’s a worthwhile investment of your time.  

Lastly, watch for red flags.  In the world of non-union submitting, there are lots of amateur filmmakers who accidentally leave out information but there are also some filmmakers who bend the rules to their advantage. For example, if the breakdown says the project is a narrative film but it also mentions usage, in perpetuity, or internal use, those are all clues that they might have plans to release it as a commercial or industrial. Without the union double checking their paperwork, it’s up to you to seek out those inconsistencies.


Go to and check out the writer, producer(s), and director. Check out samples of their work, their trailers, posters, and credits. Get to know what it is these folks have done, and what they do. Make sure they are legitimate filmmakers with a pre-existing body of work that you’d feel safe getting involved with.  Unless they are student filmmakers, they should have more credits than you do. If you’ve got friends who’ve worked with them before, reach out, and ask them what their experience was like on set. If you can't find any of the production team online, that can sometimes be a red flag. Producers can't make a name for themselves in the film industry if they remain invisible online. Also take note of when and how the casting call is shared on-line. All contact information should direct you to an email. Avoid productions whose only point of content is Whatsapp, private messages, or craigslist.


A strong film will include a clear and specific casting breakdown. It is essential that you the actor have a clear picture of what this story will be about.

A well written casting breakdown will have:

  • A synopsis of the story

  • Type of Credit/billing for the role (Lead, Supporting, etc)

  • An in-depth character breakdown* including age range, ethnicities, and gender, and a non-physical description including adjectives that drive each character as humans

  • Look for red flags again. “Sexy” is not a really playable drive as an actor. Be sure the writers have taken the time to flush these characters out.

If any of this is missing, ask for more information. You can ask when submitting and strive to be 100% familiar and confident in the content before accepting any role.

*NDA scripts won’t give you as much information, but those are no longer considered Indie films, but are Studio productions (which you’ll only be able to submit through an agent, so while much of the content will be vague, it will be more well-vetted, and union standards will be upheld).


Compensation may include one or more of the following: copy of completed footage, IMDb credit, meals on set, a day rate, and/or travel reimbursement. All details of the project should be outlined in a contract. If you are unable to work with the given compensation, you should decline auditioning. 

Regardless of the compensation details, be sure to do your research. If you look up the filmmakers on IMDb, and you can’t find them, they may not be able to offer you one of those basic levels of compensation (IMDb credit). And if you can’t track down footage of their work, it might be an indicator that you might not ever receive that footage for your reel. 

If the casting call is written so haphazardly that they aren’t 100% transparent about all of this, they’ve given you an indication of how that production and on-set experience will be, which you can consider to be a red flag


Check out why these filmmakers are choosing to create this film. Get clear as an actor if the ‘why’ of this particular narrative aligns with you as storyteller. You should check in with yourself on what your why is and what the why is for this particular film. 

See if they can co-exist or if it’s going to be a battle to collaborate.  Do some investigating: is this propaganda? Is this just for fun? Does this have plans for political ads? For festivals? To spread awareness of a topical issue?  If you read the casting call and the language is sexist, racist, or otherwise indicates that these filmmakers are in the business for the wrong reasons— decline that audition.  

Remember: in film, your name and face are forever attached to this production. It’s okay to decline an audition if you feel like it doesn’t respect your boundaries or align with you as a storyteller. Conversely, even if you normally feel like you won’t do unpaid projects — if the message speaks to you or supports a good cause or demographic — that might be enough to nudge you into participating in something powerful. 


Be sure you’ve got the age range, skill set, physical make up, and willingness to perform the required content of the role*. If the role requires you to perform any sensitive content, nudity, drug use, or combat, it is essential that you feel comfortable with the on-set safety measures and your ability to perform those types of content. If the role requires an actor to be a certain height, age, gender, or race and those don’t describe you, you should pass on submitting. This includes union status. Even in a right-to-work state, the union rules apply: if you are SAG-AFTRA, you cannot work on a non-union set. So if you are in the union, find out if the film is going SAG-AFTRA ULB or New Media project. Otherwise, don’t submit. Don’t waste the CDs time by offering your submission if you don’t fit the requirements.

*NOTE: Sometimes smaller/ newer filmmakers are open to receiving submissions different than their character descriptions. Use your best judgment. But know it's a risk. If you can nail the role but are one inch off from the character height in the description, feel free to go for it. If you are the wrong race, and don't remotely have the vibe of the character in your wheelhouse, you risk looking like you can’t follow directions or worse, like you are trying to ‘pass’ as something you know you are not and wasting the directors time.


If you are unavailable for the shooting dates or you aren’t willing to work local hire in a distant city, forego submitting. As someone who's worked in casting, it’s a real pet peeve to find an actor you adore and have to recast because they just aren’t available for the shoot. Don't lie about your availability or local hire status, just decline the audition. Also remember, if you book it, you’ve got to be prepared to book out with your agent. 


Be sure you are clear on what the production wants you to send, where to send it, and by when.  Once you trust this production is legit, include everything they ask for in your submission package* If they require a reel — be sure you have one to include (if it’s a lower budget project that’s unpaid they might be willing to accept self tape footage, but don’t assume that. Ask). 

If there's no email address for the casting, we strongly recommend not submitting. By not including an email address, they are indicating all of your call times and scripts will be delivered via social media. How casting calls are written are an indication of how film productions will be run. And not including a dedicated email is, frankly, quite sloppy and amateur. 

*The quickest way to be cut from a casting submission is to send an incomplete one.


Regardless of union status, all actors deserve to be safe and protected on set. If it looks like a role might require nudity, or sexual encounters --or the film includes stunts, violence, or weaponry of any kind: make sure there are ample on-set safety measures. You deserve to know the film isn’t throwing you to the wolves to fend for yourself. Even stunt performers with decades of experience still have fight choreographers. 

Planning, creating and staging stunts or love scenes is an entirely different job than performing them as an actor.  Be clear in your physical boundaries as an actor. If the actor is a minor, an onset teacher is required to be present, and parents must be permitted to stay on location with their children. Decide if you are willing to be involved in the film based on that information. 


We should be excited to be a part of this film. Maybe it’s a cool director you’ve always wanted to work with, maybe this films on-location in Switzerland, maybe this role is just screaming your name and you're itching to play her. Whatever the reason, you should feel excited about the film. (It’s why knowing YOUR why is so important before ever submitting to a film). 

Only you know yourself. Maybe what sounds fun to you is getting that first film credit; maybe what sounds fun to you is acting for no money because you’ve not performed in 20 years. Maybe, what’s fun is getting some great footage for your reel. But it should be fun. You should feel excited to bite into this world and prepare this audition.  (Don’t get us wrong, acting is hard work, but if you aren’t getting some excited butterflies about the project — you might need to check your barometer of interest in submitting to this specific project at all).

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