13 Casting Terms You Should Know
The entertainment industry has a language all its own. Whether you’re trying to book a job or are on set, the lingo can be confusing, so we put together a list of some common casting terms to help you become a successful Background Actor.
Avail is short for availability and is often used in phrases like “checking your avail” and “first avail.” When a Casting Director is checking your avail, they want to know if you are available to work without time restrictions on a given day or set of days.
If you’re put on first avail, it’s often because a Casting Director has sent your photos to production or is waiting on additional role requirements before they can officially book you. If you have questions about avail messaging or just want a refresher, here are some tips on texting with a Casting Director.
In casting terms, your look refers to your appearance and your ability to portray a role without the help of wardrobe. Your look can depend on a variety of factors, including hairstyle, facial hair, piercings, and tattoos. If there are multiple looks you can portray, you can take additional photos to add to your profile at a Re-Registration and Updates session.
Your look determines the roles you can convincingly portray. In job posts, you’ll see phrases like “portrayable age” and “portrayable ethnicity.” That’s because Background Actors are cast based on how well their look fits with a production’s vision of a role. So even if you’re a lawyer in real life, you may not be able to portray a lawyer on every TV show.
4. 18tly (eighteen to look younger)
Someone who is 18tly is at least 18 years old, but can portray younger. Minors have strict limits for how long they are allowed to work, so productions may opt to hire adult actors who can portray younger ages.
5. Open registration
Open registrations are events outside of the normal registration schedule where we register people to become Background Actors with Central Casting. At these events, you’ll fill out paperwork and take a photo for our casting system. Open registrations can be held in one of our four offices, on location, or on weekends. These events are only for those who have never registered with Central Casting. If you’ve already registered, but want to take a new photo, you can come to one of your offices Re-Registration and Updates sessions. Check our calendar for upcoming open registrations near you.
6. Union and non-union
There are many unions and guilds in the entertainment industry, but as a Background Actor looking for work through Central Casting, the term “union” refers to the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Non-union Background Actors are those who are not members of SAG-AFTRA.
7. First five
When a Casting Director asks for your first five, they need the first five digits of your Social Security number so they can look you up in our casting system. Casting Directors will only ever ask for your first five over the phone; you should never send this information in an email or post it on social media.
A recall is when you work a day on set, then are booked to come back on another day. Recalls happen for a variety of reasons, including production needing more time to film or for reshoots.
9. Rush call
A rush call is a booking for same day work, which may require you to get to set as soon as possible. When booking rush calls, Casting Directors may use the After Hours Availability List, post to our Jobs page, or directly reach out to people who fit the look they’re casting.
When casting their projects, Casting Directors may seek submissions through our Jobs page. Their posts will have specific instructions on what they’re looking for, including portrayable age, portrayable ethnicity, and whether it’s SAG-AFTRA or non-union. They will also include submissions instructions, like whether they want you to call a number or submit via email. Please follow these instructions carefully to ensure you’re submitting the right way.
Getting booked means you’re officially cast in a role. At Central Casting, you are not booked until you accept an offer for work and receive details. There are many ways for you to book a job, from getting a text message to responding to a job post.
12. Call time
Your call time is when you are expected to be at your booking location, checked in, and ready to work. Your booking details will include Call Time Change Box information you can use to access your call time changes. Remember, call times often change throughout the night, so it’s important to check for updates before you go to bed, when you wake up in the morning, and before you leave for set.
You can find your location’s Call Time Change Box number in the how to get work section of the Talent page.
13. Details Blog
All the information you need for your booking, like wardrobe information and call location, will often be given to you in the form of a Details Blog. It’s extremely important to read your entire Details Blog carefully so you’re prepared when you get to set. For more information on what to look for and how to access your Details Blog, see our article 4 Things You Must Know About Your Details.