First Avail: Everything You Need to Know

APRIL 19, 2021
A woman adding her first avail dates to a calendar

You’ve likely seen the term “first avail” when messaging with a Casting Director or reading through our articles, but do you fully understand what it means? Knowing the difference between “checking your availability” and “first avail” and what to do when you are on first avail is a big part of being a Background Actor with Central Casting.

Availability checks and first avail

“Checking your availability” means that a Casting Director is preparing the look for a show for a future date and is checking if you are available to work that day. When Central Casting checks your availability, we are not offering or guaranteeing work, we are only asking if you can work without time restrictions on a specific date or date range. “Without time restrictions” means that there are no possible conflicts that would prevent you from working that day. When preparing for and booking their shows, Casting Directors may not know call times until they get additional information from production and those call times often change through the night and early morning. That’s why you need to have all day availability when responding as avail to these messages.

“First avail” means that you have confirmed your availability, but the Casting Director cannot book you right away. You are not booked unless you accept an offer for work and receive details. So when you are on first avail, you are not officially booked and are still able to look for other work. If you are offered another job or put on first avail for another job, please call the initial Casting Director you are on first avail for before accepting the offer; your first avail show may choose to hire you first. Also, if your availability changes while on first avail, please call our office as soon as possible to let us know you are no longer available to work.

How will Central Casting check my availability?

In most cases, Casting Directors will send a message through our online self-service platform to check your availability and ask additional questions related to the role. These messages will appear in your online profile and be sent to the email address on file. You may also receive a text with a link to view and reply to the message via our online platform.

Please answer your availability messages as soon as possible, even if the answer is no. If you’re on set and don’t have access to your phone, you can still answer after you’ve wrapped for the day. You never know, the Casting Director may still be booking or additional spots may have opened up.

For a detailed step-by-step guide on what to do when you receive a message from Central Casting, check out our article How to Respond to Central Casting Messages.

How do I know if I’m on first avail?

If you have confirmed your availability, the Casting Director will let you know if you’re put on first avail for a project, likely through a first avail message. Not becoming double booked (hired for multiple projects for the same work day) is your responsibility. We recommend keeping track of what days you’ve confirmed availability, are on first avail, or are booked for on a personal calendar so you’re always on top of your schedule.

Remember, communication is key! When you are on first avail, it’s important to contact your Casting Director as soon as possible if your availability changes or if you are offered other work. This gives them time to work with production to replace you if needed.

Online avail calendar

As a Central Casting Background Actor, you can now manage your availability in your online avail calendar. Keeping your calendar up to date lets Casting Directors know when you are available and interested in working. As a supplemental tool, your online avail calendar should be used as an addition to your own schedule keeping methods. You cannot change your response, first avail status, or cancel a booking by changing your availability in the calendar, you must call your Central Casting office.

There are many exciting features in your online profile. If you haven’t already, claiming is easy. Just click the “log in” button in our website menu, then choose “claim profile.” Then be sure to read through The Ultimate Photo Guide for Your Online Profile and 7 Opportunities to Update Your Online Profile.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

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