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Terminology for Actors: Terms Every Actor Should Know


Like any other business, acting has its own terminology and language. The more fluent you are in the language, the easier it will be to understand everything around you. You will also appear more experienced to talent agencies, by being well versed in the language . The following are some terms that every actor should know, so when a casting director, talent agents, or producer uses these terms, you won't be left with a blank stare on your face. You will be confident and ready to take the action necessary.


Audition

The first time you go in for a job. You are called in for an audition, where you will read a script or do whatever the casting director asks for the role.


Callback

The second audition. You've already auditioned for this role, and now the director, producer, ad agency or others are present to see the best of the best.


Sides

The section of the script you will read. Casting directors choose specific pages in a script for actors to audition with. They may be consecutive scenes, one line, or sections from various parts of the full screenplay.


On Avail

It's a good sign! The casting director calls your agent or manager to ask if you are available for the specified shoot dates. The director then makes note of your availability and informs the person deciding who to cast.


On Hold

A very good sign! They've already asked if you're available for the shoot dates and now they are booking out your time. This doesn't mean you have the job yet, but they are paying you a holding fee to claim that day until they decide whether or not they want to cast you.


Booking

When you get the job. Every job you get is a booking.


Book Out

When you are unavailable to audition or work on projects for any reason (vacation, illness, other bookings). You need to inform your agent so they can book you out on their calendar and not submit you for work during that time.


Go See

A modeling audition. You go in, show a portfolio, they see you, and take a photo. Hence the name "go see."


Voice-Over

Work that involves voice recordings only. There is no on-camera work, therefore, it does not matter what you look like or how old you are, only what you sound like or what effects you can do with your voice.


Demo Reel

A compilation of clips of your work from commercials, television, film and more. This shows off your talent.


Headshot

A photo of you, usually consisting of your head and shoulders, or from the waist up (¾ shot).


Zed Card

A modeling card (similar to a headshot), but is double-sided with four to five pictures showcasing different looks.


The Board

The board posted at casting sessions that instructs you what to do and provides all the audition information needed.


Mark

An "X" marked by tape that indicates where you are to stand when you line up for the camera.


Slate

When you say your name, age, and show profiles of your face prior to beginning the actual audition.


Cold Read

When you are given a script and expected to perform without having time to study and prepare.


Scene Study

A class in breaking down scripts to discover what they really mean, character intentions, motivations and more.


Breakdown

The listing of characters and attributes. This includes ethnicity, age, personality traits and any restrictions or specifications a casting director will put together to send to agents in order to cast a project. Essentially a description of each character.


Principal

A main actor, or one whose face is seen on camera.


Extra

A background actor who has no spoken lines.


Regional

Refers to commercials. Commercials that are broadcast in a specified area of the country.


National

Refers to commercials. Commercials that are broadcast nationwide.


SAG

Screen Actors Guild. The main acting union which protects actor's wages and working conditions.


Taft Hartley

The fine a company must pay for using a non-union actor on a union job.


Non-Union

A project or actor that is not affiliated with or does not belong to an actors union, such as SAG or AFTRA.


Buy-Out

When an actor is paid a flat fee instead of residuals.


Residuals

Money paid to an actor each time a union job (commercial, television show, film) is broadcast.


Cable

Refers when something will run only on cable channels.


Wild Spot

Refers to when a project (mostly commercials) will run on both network and cable programming.


Scale

The minimum amount an actor can be paid for a job as set forth by the union.


Session Fee

Term sometimes used instead of scale. However, it can also refer to non-union work, where pay is a set amount per day or per week.


Non-Air

Something that is being produced as a test and will not air on television.


PSA

A public service announcement.


Pre-Read

When you are called in to read for a television show or other filmed project. It is not really an audition, more like a pre-audition. Pre-reads are usually very brief.


Sitcom

A half-hour comedy show.


MOW

A movie of the week, produced for television broadcast.


Screen Test

The final audition for a film or television series, as a regular cast member. This usually requires you go through hair and make-up, and perform a scene on camera, as you would on a regular work day in order for the producers to finalize casting.


Type

What you would be typecast as; such as girl next door, nerd, tough guy, rebel, funny one, best friend, etc.


Age Range

The range of ages which you can realistically play. For example 14-17, 20-30, and so forth.

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