Casting 101: Guide to a More Organized Casting Call

Posted on Posted in Industry Advice

Casting is arguably the key to the success of any theatrical undertaking. While final casting decisions are ultimately made by producers, directors, or commercial clients, the focus offered to the production and choice of talent is guided by the professional casting director. To ensure a better cast in your current project, here are tips to be more organized and efficient as you undertake the crucial role of casting director.

For the complete steps of the casting process and a list of responsibilities of a casting director, check this article out.

Tips for a More Organized Casting Call

Before auditions

Understand the script.

 If you’re inviting actors to come in and perform a scene, you’re going to need to be an expert on the story—their character, the emotion of the scene, and the context of the scene you’re giving them. They might have questions, so you’d better be able to answer them. Read the script and collaborate with producers, director, and writers to appropriately create the casting breakdown. All of the information in the casting breakdown should be based on your and the director’s reading of the script and the director’s interpretation of and vision for turning the script into a film. Furthermore, communicate with the director, producer, and writer to clarify various casting questions early on. Is there a specific list of characteristics you are looking for or are you open to many possibilities? What are the most important skills or elements that a candidate can bring to the job? What are casting deal breakers? How many positions are you casting for? These are all important questions to consider and discuss early on.

Create a separate email account for casting.

Casting can get really confusing and stressful. Expect tons of headshots, résumés, and emails. If you don’t have a designated email specifically meant for casting, things are bound to get pretty unmanageable. Being organized will only help you make a more intentional, educated decision on whom you want to fill a role.

Secure a comfortable audition space.

Actors are the ones sticking their necks out for you, coming into a situation they’re unfamiliar with, performing in front of strangers, and opening themselves up to criticism. Be sure to make both the waiting area and the audition room comfortable because an actor that feels comfortable will be more likely to give you a better performance that reveals their skills. Secure a space that has access to drinking water, a bathroom, and enough chairs.

Include all the necessary information in the casting call.

Be clear about what you’re looking for, be concise when describing each role you’ll be casting, and state what you want performers to prepare and bring to the audition. Write up a detailed casting call including the following information:

  • Name of your organization or group
  • Name of show
  • Brief description or tagline
  • Names and descriptions of characters
  • Union or nonunion production
  • Date, time, and place of auditions
  • Audition requirements (monologue, song, résumé, headshot, reel, etc.)
  • Rehearsal/run/shoot schedule
  • Contact information

Prepare casting materials.

Select sides, or scenes that will allow actors to show a range of emotions during cold readings. Print no more than 3 pages per emotion for lead roles and no more than 1 1/2 for supporting roles. If this is a musical, prepare a keyboard, sheet music, instrumental versions of songs, and a Bluetooth speaker. Bring notepads and pens for notes. Print signs or flyers to post outside the venue’s entrance or along hallways. Coffee and snacks are optional. 

Heavily promote the audition.

To cast the widest talent pool possible, use several platforms both online and offline for at least 3 weeks prior.
  • Social media
  • Physical mailing lists 
  • Emailing lists
  • Posters in venues
  • Word of mouth
  • Casting agencies 
  • Newspapers 
  • Performing arts press
  • Music and drama schools
  • Drama departments in schools
  • Community colleges
  • Karaoke or piano bars
  • Famous coffee shops
  • Craigslist
  • Backstage
  • Playbill
  • Breakdown Express

Print information sheets.

Create and print information sheets for all auditionees. On one of the sheets, clearly outline the days of the production and the rehearsal schedule to give to those actors who make the cut. This will allow the actors you select to let you know right away if they have any scheduling conflicts. Make an additional information sheet on which the actors will provide you with their contact information including mailing addresses, home and cell phone numbers, and email addresses. Bring a stack of copies to your auditions, making sure to have ample information sheets for all potential auditioners.

During auditions

Bring help.

Delegating tasks helps to increase organization, and the more organized the audition is, the better for everyone. It helps to assign specific tasks to casting assistants for this, as well as bringing new candidates into the room, collecting résumés or portfolios, running specific lines/songs/routines/etc., and watching the time. Also get a reader, someone to feed lines to each actor, so you can focus on watching and observing each performance. For musicals, make sure you have a piano and accompanist present for the entire audition period.

Take notes.

Note-taking is also incredibly useful and an often overlooked element of auditions. It is especially useful when you are seeing multiple candidates in a row, whether it is 30 or 300. In the hustle and bustle of the day, it was difficult to remember details of a performance and it was incredibly helpful to be able to look back at those notes to remember our reactions in real time to the candidates’ performances.

Keep things moving.

Provide equal time to each auditionee. Where necessary, ask for alternate monologue or song choices from promising performers to show more range, but stay focused and brisk on time so that auditions move along efficiently. Don’t argue or pause for extended lengths of time. Save these discussions for later or during callbacks.  

After auditions

Communicate with auditionees about the results.

For those who didn’t make the cut, tell them the bad news first then the good news. You might want to let the actor that while you went in a different direction when casting the role of the lead so-and-so, you still think the actor did a great job and would make “a smashing (insert alternate character name here),” if they’re willing to take on that part.

Contact actors for callbacks.

Contact auditioners for callbacks with precise information on when and where to show up for the callback. Callbacks will give you an opportunity to see a different side of the actors that you liked, try out new scenes with them, and bring in some new actors that couldn’t make the original auditions. At the end of the day, it may be a bit of a pain to do a callback or two, but you’ll be a lot better off than if you only do a single day and wind up casting the wrong person for you film.

In Closing

These are just some basic tips to help you host an audition. At the end of the day, organization, good communication, and flexibility are key.

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