5 WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF A CALLBACK by Matt Newton and Brian O'Neill

From a recent article in Backstage

OK, actors. Pilot season is almost here, and the auditions will start rolling in. Represented or not, it’s a busy time for actors in New York City and Los Angeles—a time for last-minute auditions, same-day callbacks, screen tests, and frantically memorizing lines the day of and the night before.  

You race around to auditions, and you get that call saying they want to see you again. Congrats! You made both you and your agent (if you have one) look good! Most of an agent’s best clients get called back a lot and then don’t get the job. Most of the time. Why? Because only one actor can get the job and most of the time it isn’t going to be you. For one role on an episodic TV show, they might get 1,000 submissions, bring in 20 actors to pre-read, and maybe bring five back for producers. 

After years of coaching actors for auditions and callbacks, here are what we have come up with for the best ways to get the most out of that callback.

1. Focus on winning the room. This is about so much more than “getting the job.” It’s about making fans in the industry, and getting back in that room again, and maybe in a relatively short period of time. That’s how an actor’s reputation grows. If they keep bringing you back, you are doing your job. The casting director is trying to find the right part for you. The more casting directors you have on your side, the better. Getting callbacks means you are doing something right. 

2. Show them you take direction well. Be ready to play. For a TV callback session, the director and producers want to see that you can take direction on set, as time is very valuable. Do exactly what you did in the pre-read, wear exactly the same outfit, and then be open to change. Be ready for quick adjustments from the director or show runner. Being in a room with a few producers is one thing, being on set with 175 crew members trying to race through their shots is very different. They need to see that you can handle the stress.

3. Use it in your marketing. A callback? You betcha. If you’re freelancing, you can use it when staying in touch with other agents, through postcards or email. You have the right to do this, as you are not signed to anyone. We cannot think of anything an agent wants to know about you more than the casting directors who know you. And if you’ve gotten a callback, they probably like you. Also, if you drop a line to a casting director with this information, it tells them that their colleagues and peers are noticing you. It’s called “vetting” and it can be very powerful.   

4. Don’t brag on social media. Word of caution here: Wait on the “I got a callback for a soccer mom on ‘Constantine!’ ” post until you find out whether or not you have been cast, which happens quickly in the world of episodic television. Understandably, in today’s climate of “instant information,” many industry people don’t want it broadcast as to where a project is in the casting stages as the process is still unfolding. Some casting offices make you sign NDA agreements, as your callback sides carry confidential plot information.

5. Ask for feedback from your reps. At this point in the casting process, it’s down to a few people. Agents have different styles where getting feedback is concerned. Depending on the stakes and your overall track record, some will ask for it only when they think the information will be genuinely helpful to all concerned. Some believe in the old adage “Your feedback is you didn’t get the job.” If you were called back for a big role, there’s a specific reason you didn’t get it, and you have a right to ask your agent or manager. They may not be able to get that information, but it’s worth a shot. If it’s a series regular, it’s about charisma, likability, and bringing depth to the scenes. Feedback helps actors grow. If it’s something you can control—(“He didn’t hit the emotional beats,” for example)—then you have something to work on. If it’s out of your control—(“His hair was three shades too dark”)—then let it go.

Want to learn more?  Matt Newton and Brian O’Neil are teaching a special one-day seminar “10 Steps to Making Acting Your Business” on Sunday, Feb. 22. To learn more, visit