Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Avail

Oh, that word: on avail. Actually it's two words. Actually it's a word and a half, because "avail" is half of the word "available".

For those of you who are wise enough not to be in the entertainment industry, "on avail" means that you, the actor, have virtually booked the job, but you haven't YET, or you may not AT ALL.

Confused?, it's between you and another actor, and they want you, but not totally (because you might be the back-up choice) OR totally (because you could me the primary choice) OR you could be the back-up choice and they change their minds and make you the primary choice. Make sense?

As usual in biz, you are powerless in this choice, and you just have to wait for a call from your agent. You're on hold to actually book it. I think it should be changed from "on avail" to "limbo".

TELEPHONE limbo. You need the phone to ring, and to tell you that the avail has become a job. As usual with actors, you are powerless, and all you can do is wait for that PHONE to RING.

I am writing about this because today, I got a call from my agent telling me that I was an on avail for a commercial that I auditioned for yesterday.

When I first started to audition for commercials, I thought that getting an on avail was good news. Well, it IS good news. It's more than a callback. It means that you booked the job (but you haven't yet or you may not at all).

However, I have never had an on avail that has turned into a real booking. Every commercial that I've ever booked, I had the callback, and the next day or the day after, my agent called me and said, "You booked it!" they've never said, "You're on avail" and then I get the job. So perhaps it's just an illusion that has been created by my own experience, but an on avail doesn't excite me, because it's not a real booking.

A real booking. You know... me getting fitted by wardrobe... showing up on set... sitting in the makeup chair... killing time in my trailer... pigging out at the craft services table... shooting the actual commercial... waiting and waiting to shoot some more... shooting some more... and then hopefully in a month or so, I'll realize that I haven't been edited out of it, or that the spot has been dropped... rather, I'll discover that it had aired, with me in it, and, the grand hope of all, that it airs nationally.

I have had many on avails, and my agent gives me the avail date, which, hopefully, is not too far off in the future, so that you won't be left hanging and hoping for too long.

I'm lucky. My avail date for this most recent on avail is May 28. That's tomorrow. At least I won't be in limbo for long.

I'm not remotely thinking that I will actually film this commercial. I'm not the only one who feels this way...

Last night I was at a protest march in West Hollywood with my friends Jana and Matt, both actors. I told them that earlier in the day I had had an audition which was a callback, and Matt, who has booked many commercials, brought up on avails.

"Have you ever had an on avail, Larry?"

"Have *I* ever had an on avail? Uh, ya. Quite a few. Whoopee."

"They never become real bookings, EVER!"

"I knooooow!"

"You too? I've never had an on avail that meant me getting the job. Ever. I don't even care when I get them anymore."

"Matt, you're preaching to the choir. Believe me, if my agent calls me tomorrow and tells me that I'm on avail for this job, I won't get remotely excited. I'll be happy that I got it, but I won't get excited."

So imagine my surprise when my agent calls me today and tells me that I'm on avail. What a coincidence, after last night's conversation. And what excitement. Whoopee.

But please don't think that I'm bitching, or that I'm a "glass half empty" kind of guy. Even though I'm 98% sure that tomorrow I'll be released from avail with no job actually booked, I am glad that I got another on avail.

I'm happy because I got called in to read for this commercial by people at a casting office that I really like. I like the people that work there, because a dear friend of mine used to work there, and I've seen them socially, at parties outside of work, and they are really terrific people. The fact that THAT casting office called me in to read, and I got an on avail from it is great. I want them to be glad that they called me in to audition, because I have such a high regard for them.

An on avail also shows to my agent that I am auditioning well, and that's never bad.

So I'm happy. I'm just not excited. I think it's good that I'm not excited, because if tomorrow I discover that I actually booked it, it will be a pleasant surprise, and if I don't actually book it, it will not be a let down.


  1. I have a friend who lived for three years on the wages from shooting sitcom pilots that never got made, and if I ever find myself in LA, I'd like to make a sweet living writing screenplay scenarios. It's just too bad those avail things don't pay...

  2. So... in the end, how did it go? Did you end up booking it? Were you pleasantly surprised this time? Or was it just the good ol' "on avail curse" that never becomes a real job?