Casting Director

  • Casting Director

Good casting is often the make-or-break ingredient between a box-office flop and a ratings hit. To put together that magic blend of actors and actresses, studios rely on the services of a casting director. Though big names like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney rarely have to go through the extensive casting process that unknowns endure, casting directors are responsible for casting every role from the lead to “Girl on Train” or a herd of extras.


Duties

After a film or television show has gotten the green light, the director and producers hire a casting company to find the right talent for the production. A casting director’s first step is to read the script and consult with the director and producers on their creative vision for the principal and supporting cast. The team brainstorms to build a wish list of leading stars, and “types” (comes up with a profile of desired appearance and other criteria) the additional roles. Wooing big stars is usually the task of the film’s director or a studio executive. Occasionally a celebrity’s agent will catch wind of a project and maneuver his client onto the short list.

With the directorial notes in mind, the casting director starts locating the right types for each part. This is a research-heavy task that requires scouring the available talent pool. To pull in the best, casting directors will employ assistants and associate casting directors to search databases for familiar faces and beat the pavement to discover new talent—attending small plays and comedy clubs, watching micro-budget and student films, and never fast-forwarding through the commercials are job requirements. Next the casting director will host a series of first-read auditions and callbacks. For lead and supporting roles, this process can require several sessions. For non-speaking or background roles (extras), a cattle call audition will be held and actors typed out based on how well their look matches the needs of the director. After the casting director has compiled a roster of candidates for each role, the list, accompanied by headshots and résumés or video reel, is discussed with the director. Further auditions and screen tests with the director and producers may be required before the director gives final approval. A casting director will generally stay onboard with a film through the end of shooting in the event that a role must be recast or additional characters are added. In the case of television, a casting director will typically work for the producers for the entire run of a series.

Skills & Education

There are no specific educational requirements to work in this field, but extensive experience in film, television, or theater is necessary. Many casting directors have a background in acting or a technical area of live entertainment production. Classes in acting and directing and workshops given by accomplished casting directors are a good way to learn the trademark skills of this position. A casting director must have a sharp eye for talent, a solid grasp of the business side of the film and television industry, and a constantly updated mental index of the talent pool in their area. Most important is a great ability to listen (so as to interpret a director’s vision) and a great capacity for building relationships with actors, as well as directors and producers.

What to Expect

Be patient and resilient. A casting director’s schedule will fluctuate rapidly; finding work can come in waves, with dry spells between projects. Also expect to spend several years working your way up from the bottom. A lengthy list of credits on successful projects is the best calling card for a casting director. To get there, look for jobs as a production assistant, internships within a casting firm, or opportunities to work as an assistant to an established casting director. Casting work on student films and low-budget independents can help build your skill set and résumé. Look for industry events and film festivals as opportunities to network. The best way to get a gig is to work your contacts and always, always keep your eyes—and your mind—open. Most of all, you must be a self-starter who’s ready to build a career one project at a time.

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