Ask a Casting Director: What’s the difference between first refusal and a hold?

If you want to be cast to perform in NYC, it’s important to know what casting directors mean when they talk about a hold versus a first refusal. A casting director explains.

Q:  What’s the difference between first refusal and a hold?

A:  This question come up a great deal. Technically nothing. Many years ago SAG came up with a rule that we weren’t allowed to use the word “hold” unless we were just about to book someone. We needed to use the term “first refusal”. Anyone who used the word “hold” and didn’t book the talent was subject to a session fee if the talent didn’t get booked. Most Casting Directors will put all talent on first refusal when the callbacks are given to them because the advertising agencies only want to submit talent to the client if they know that they are available. However, “first refusal” is just a courtesy. Talent is allowed to accept other work even if they were on first refusal for another project. It will not make that Casting Director very happy but they do have that right. When talent is put on first refusal all that it really means is that you are still in the running. You may be the only one on first refusal for that role or there may be 50. Also if two different clients want to put you on first refusal for the same date, the proper thing to do is give the first one who calls a first refusal and the other one a second refusal. If the second client is ready to book, it is customary to do what is called a “book or release” which means that first client has to make a decision. One disclaimer…..rules change all the time but this is my understanding of the the rules.  It is not locked in stone.