It’s true, casting directors are the unsung heroes of every production. They’re the backbone of every production. While the job is oftentimes rewarding, the casting process can be a challenge. From understanding the script to get to know the characters to finding the right actor for the role, it takes more than just basic knowledge about the industry to be a good casting director.
Lucky for you, the industry is now home to casting directors who have polished their skills and are ready to guide the newer ones to be better at what they do. One of them is Ellen Chenoweth.
Casting Tips from Ellen Chenoweth
Gathering the best actors to take on the roles in a film is no easy task, take it from Ellen Chenoweth herself, the award-winning casting director behind No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010). An entire day of interviews isn’t even enough to fill the spots. Don’t be dismayed, though! The hurdles in the industry are necessary to help you blossom into a world-renowned casting director.
To guide you, Ellen has shared her secrets on how to be an efficient casting director. Here’s what she has to say.
1. Scout for your candidates yourself.
Don’t sit idly in your office waiting for the candidate with the most amazing credentials to walk in. Instead, go out there and look for people with potential yourself, even if you’re not hiring at the moment.
It pays to have a lot of options so when casting season starts, you have a list of talents to choose from. Call your acting teacher friends, visit their plays, and watch out for the brilliant performers. Better yet, hold online auditions so you can save time and cut costs.
2. Make room for innovative performance.
In the film industry, there are different lists you can pick actors from. Most of the time, casting directors do that; however, this sometimes leads to poor, dull, and habitual performance. As much as possible, consider those candidates who seem “unfit” for the part then mold them into the perfect person for the role.
Do it like Ellen, she skipped the list of notable comedians and chose a less visible actor—Brad Pitt—to play a stupid health buff. As a result, the movie Burn After Reading became one of the goofiest plays in Hollywood and Chad Feldheimer remains the goofiest role Brad Pitt has ever done.
3. Bad interviews don’t mean bad talents.
Don’t let a brilliant talent slip away just because of a failed interview. More than a one-off interview, an impressive résumé should speak for their acting abilities.
Ellen Chenoweth once said, “I know they can do better. I know that they’re right for this in a way that they didn’t show us.” If you sense candidates are off their game during the first try, don’t hesitate to give them a second chance.
4. Stick with your first pick.
You might find yourself in the middle of sparring with other casting directors because of your choice, and that’s okay! Ellen suggests that you never concede without putting up a fight to defend your first talent pick.
Casting directors may not see the same potentials you saw. But if you try hard enough, you might rally them on your side to take your advice.
5. Avoid rush decisions.
“There are some directors who just want to get it done and make decisions,” Ellen shared. “Sometimes you have to try to slow it down and say I have a few more people I really want you to see before you decide.”
If you still have time to spare, use it to your advantage to scout for the best talents. In the end, you’ll realize that fine-tuning all the characters really pays off.
6. Learn to look past the candidates’ known strengths.
There are candidates who possess great strengths without even knowing they have them, and one thing you must master to be an efficient casting director is to learn to look for them. Once you spot their unknown forte, you can decide how the candidate will best suit the film’s needs.
Oftentimes, you’ll put talents on uneasy, uncomfortable, unfamiliar roles and they might not realize you’re helping them. Nonetheless, the experience will challenge their acting and creative abilities.
These tips from Ellen Chenoweth will advance your career as a casting director if you use them right. Besides these, you must also take notes during auditions, make talents feel comfortable, and compliment candidates if necessary.
Always have the right attitude and skills for the job, and you’ll surely cast the best ones!