When the Producers decide that they want to take you over to read for the Studio Executives, you first have to make a “test” deal before you are allowed to read for them. This happens because the Studio wants to know how much you will cost before they “buy” you. The Casting Director calls your Agent for “quotes”. Your quotes are the amount of money you have earned for individual acting jobs, but when negotiating a series deal, the only quotes that really apply are if you have booked a pilot or series before, or if you have “tested” for a pilot before. (Example: If you have tested for a pilot before and negotiated the contract to be $30 thousand for the pilot and $15 thousand an episode, your quotes will be 30/15. It is normal for your episodic price to be half the money you made on the pilot.) If you have never “tested” before, you probably have “no quotes”.
The Business Affairs lawyers at the Studio will be making your deal with your Agent, Manager or Lawyer. Technically, a Manager is not allowed to negotiate, so if you only have a Manager you will need to bring on a Lawyer or Agent to close the deal. They will have to structure a contract that includes your pilot fee, your episodic fee if picked up for series, and what “bumps” you get in salary over probably a 5 to 7 year period. (Sometimes merchandising, size of trailer, loop days, etc will be negotiated here.)
The amount of money that the production has budgeted for each part will determine if they can afford you or save money on you, and it is your Agents job to get as much money for you as they can regardless of your quotes! This process can often be very contentious to say the least, so it is in the actors best interest to let your negotiators do their job. And the actor should concentrate on their job…being consistent in the next audition. The talk of money can lead to big dreams for the actor, and I have talked to many, many actors over the years who know they blew it in their read for the Studio because they were thinking…”If I get this job, I can buy that car!”. So it is imperative that you have your mental focus on the scene…not money.
When your deal is closed, you will go over to the Studio that is producing the pilot (Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, etc.) and read for the Head of the Studio for Television Programming, the Head of Casting, the VP’s of Comedy or Drama Development, among others. Along with your Producers, you could have 10 or more people in the room. You will see in the lobby the other actors who are “testing” for your part and possibly actors reading for other parts. It’s not uncommon to have you sign your contract right there in the lobby, so make sure you get there early so you can read it over and make sure it is correct. Then get into a corner and begin your concentration and focus on your job as an actor.
There is generally no chit chat when you walk into the Studio read…just “Hi”, read, “Bye”. Make sure you take a moment when in the room to locate who you will be reading with and take your 5 to 10 seconds to focus yourself before starting. When you leave the room make sure you don’t leave the building until told you can leave. It’s possible you could be “mixed and matched” with other actors reading other parts.
It is at this point that the Studio Executives and the Producers will decide if they want to take the final step of “testing” you at the Network.