If you’ve always thought a casting director’s job is pretty easy, think again. If it was, there wouldn’t even be a need for a separate professional (and sometimes an assistant) responsible for casting in the first place. A casting director’s responsibilities extend beyond contacting actors and holding auditions. Here’s what they do.
The Many Duties of a Casting Director
1. Understand the project
The casting director meets with the producers, the director, and the writer to understand each of their creative visions. Note that the casting director is responsible for realizing the characters of the story, and their choice of actors for each role must not disappoint.
2. Ask about casting budget
Can the production afford actors such as Jennifer Lawrence? Brad Pitt? A casting director needs to keep the casting budget and the number of roles in mind when choosing actors. For this, they meet with the production accountant before proceeding with coming up with a possible list.
3. Read the script
In order to visualize the ideal actor for each role, a casting director has to read the script and make notes about each character’s speaking parts. Working closely with the director and the writer, the casting director also determines which lines define the characters’ personalities the best to be used for auditions.
4. Ask about schedules
The casting director then asks the line producer about the production schedule and target dates. This helps them verify whether actors in mind are available for this project before actually calling them or their agents. Also, they negotiate audition schedules with the line producer to ensure the casting procedure is organized and unhurried.
5. Create a tentative list of possible actors
A casting director is required to have up-to-date knowledge of available acting talent and, if possible, their current projects. They would then identify which actors are perfect for each role and list them down in preferred order, important parts first, taking into consideration rates, location, and abilities.
6. Contact actors or their agents
After coming up with the list of ideal actors, the casting director looks for their contact information to contact them or their agents. They let them know that they’re interested in casting the talent for an upcoming project on the scheduled dates. While speaking with the talent or the agent, they note down the talent’s dates of availability and prior commitments. This helps assistant directors appropriately prepare call sheets during the production phase.
7. Provide the list to the producers and director
The casting director then consults the producers and the director regarding the available and ideal actors they have in mind. Depending on the producers’ or director’s decision, lead actors may not be asked to audition. The director and the writer then identify which roles need other actors more suitable for it.
8. Prepare schedule for and list of supporting and minor actors
After actors for some of the main roles are set, the casting director then proceeds with creating another list for supporting and background actors. With the number of roles in mind, they schedule the date(s) for casting calls, correspondence, and auditions.
9. Make appointments with available actors
Meanwhile, the casting director contacts the available actors from the list to invite them to the scheduled auditions and cold readings.
10. Get the word out
Once it is clear which roles are filled and which are not, the casting director then informs talent agencies about available parts, often by utilizing an online casting service such as Voices (for voice-over), Casting Networks (for commercial work), or Breakdown Express (for film and television). If the production is huge, open casting calls may be necessary to attract more interested actors.
11. Conduct auditions
Finally, the casting director is at the casting panel to conduct interviews and auditions for each part. Together with the director, they make recommendations for each speaking part and at times ask the actors to do additional tasks to see each range of abilities. This requires a strong instinct for acting talent, an innate skill that can be fine-tuned and developed over time. In fact, starting as an actor can lead to a career as a casting director. Casting director Kim Petrosky notes in Tanja Crouch’s book 100 Careers in Film and Television that acting classes help casting directors understand the acting process and recognize talent.
12. Sort through submissions
Headshots, resumes, acting reels, and audition tapes are another part of the audition process. The casting director sorts through them all with the director, based on the number of roles necessary. Afterward, the casting director may need to hold callbacks to ensure that the actors are perfect for the job. The director and producers then make the final selections.
13. Negotiate contracts
Negotiation and organizational skills are also invaluable for agreeing actors’ fees and arranging the terms and conditions of their contracts. The casting director is in charge of offering each actor their appropriate fee to appear in the film. They then discuss this with the actors’ agents, keeping an eye on the casting budget.
14. Act as a liaison
The casting director relays all the details of the negotiation and contract to the producers and director. Should the producers arrange further negotiations, the casting director serves as the middleman between the agents or talents and the producers. Actors then finally sign a contract containing the terms and conditions agreed upon.
15. Find replacements when needed
During production, there may be actors unable to fulfill their contracts. This can prove to be very troublesome to casting directors, but their job entails looking for replacements should the need arise. They may have to conduct auditions for the specific role, and the replacement has to be as ideal as the actor who left.