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FROM THIS EPISODE

I Don-t Know, Can We?

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Say you-re a writer. And say you-re casting a pilot, and looking for a young leading man who can do comedy. It-s pilot season, so all over town, people are doing exactly that.

Your casting director will come to you with the name of a young actor of whom you may or may not have heard. Probably not, if you-re over 35 (and you are, for the purposes of this exercise). The conversation will go this way: CASTING DIRECTOR
This guy is perfect for you. He-s funny, he-s the right age, he-s available and interested in television. He-d be a home run.

YOU
Great. Let-s bring him in to read for us.

CASTING DIRECTOR
(chuckling) Oh, he won-t read. He-s too big. He-ll meet. He-ll come in and meet.

YOU
Umm, okay. Then why don-t we get him a script and see if he-s interested in the part, and if he is, then let-s meet.

CASTING DIRECTOR
Are you offering him the part?

YOU
How can we offer him the part if we haven-t even met him yet? You ask, logically. CASTING DIRECTOR
(in a bored monotone) He won-t meet unless he reads the script and he won-t read the script unless you offer him the part first. He-s offer only. You-re getting irritated. YOU
So I have to offer him a role just to meet him? What if in the meeting it-s obvious that he-s wrong for it, or insane?

CASTING DIRECTOR
(trying to be patient) Then the offer is rescinded. The offer is subject to a meeting.

YOU
So I offer him the role to get him to read the script and come in for a meeting, after which I can suddenly pull the offer? How is that not an audition?

CASTING DIRECTOR
In an audition, the actor reads the script for you. This guy won-t. He-s...

YOU
Offer only. I get it. What about some guys who aren-t offer only?

CASTING DIRECTOR
You don-t want them. Trust me. Anyone worth casting won-t read the script, won-t audition, and actually probably isn-t interested. The problem, as always, is money. It-s in the long term interests of the studio to keep costs -- and the financial risk -- down. But since it-s in their short-term interest, unfortunately, to supply the buying network with a dazzling product, it-s a good idea to cast big stars in the show. Big, expensive stars. Occasionally, for a big star -- or what we call a major piece of talent -- the network will agree to kick in a little money. But only as a last resort. And they-ll never tell you until the very last minute.

The result is something like two cheapskates trying to avoid picking up the tab for dinner. The casting meeting goes like this. Someone brings up the name of an expensive actor. NETWORK PRESIDENT
I like him a lot.

NETWORK VICE-PRESIDENT
Me too.

STUDIO PRESIDENT
But he-s expensive.

STUDIO VICE PRESIDENT
Very expensive.

NETWORK PRESIDENT
Is that a problem?

STUDIO PRESIDENT
I don-t know. Is it?

NETWORK VICE PRESIDENT
For an important project like this, we should be prepared to pay top dollar, right?

STUDIO VICE PRESIDENT
We?

NETWORK PRESIDENT
Whoever.

STUDIO PRESIDENT
The point is, can we afford him?

NETWORK PRESIDENT
I don-t know. Can we?

STUDIO PRESIDENT
I don-t know. Can we? In the end of course, they can, and they do. Which is why, if you have to be an actor, you want to be an offer only actor. And if you have to be a writer, you want to be...well, an offer only actor too.
That-s it for this week. Next week, we-ll have a drink. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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