The Responsibilities of a Casting Director
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.
Working as a casting director, you’re probably more than familiar with how the casting process goes. But if you need some pieces of advice as you work on your next project, here are some tips for organizing casting calls.
Tips for Organizing Casting Calls
From bits on deciding on the right venue to choosing the best date to hold it, here are some helpful tips for organizing casting calls.
1. Secure a good venue
When organizing a casting call, one of the first things you need to take care of is the venue. Much attention is paid to venue selection, as there are a lot of factors that have to be taken into consideration. One, you need to go with a place that is within your budget. Now this step could be hard because you don’t really know how much of the whole production budget would go to the casting part. But there are a lot of options waiting for you, so you just have to be wise and practical when making a decision.
2. Choose the best audition scenes for on-the-spot readings
Choose a scene that will get the best out of the actor. Have them read and act out a piece that will allow the talent to show their range of emotions. It shouldn’t be so long nor too short. You can choose a scene that involves a couple of actors to see how well they complement each other and how they look like on the screen together.
3. Spread the word
Advertise the casting call. You can do this online through social media or website banners or post flyers to get the attention of more people. How wide the advertising is depends on the size of the production, but you can trust that there are a lot of platforms you can take advantage of to spread the word. Besides online advertising, print media advertising is one good option too. Seeking help from newspaper companies and community theaters would be a good move.
4. Provide information sheets
Prepare information sheets for the actors who made the cut. Make sure you’ve already decided on the schedule for rehearsals and production and include them in the sheet too. This is so the actors can make sure that there won’t be any schedule overlap and the filming can continue without any problem. Additionally, it’s highly advisable you distribute a separate sheet for actors to fill in their contact information and other details you will need.
Organizing casting calls can be difficult and can take a toll even on those who have been doing it for so long. But just follow these tips and give the task before you the full attention it needs, the whole process will go as smoothly as you hope it will.
Casting can be a demanding process. It requires so much from you than just the eye for talent and patience. You need to check actor profiles, study each of them, and look into their acting experience and workshops attended.
And when a talent catches your attention, how to contact them becomes your next problem. Every casting director has been hoping for a platform where they can meet talents without conquering long distances.
Technology heeded the call, and the solution comes in the form of mobile applications.
Top Mobile Apps for Casting Directors
Here are five mobile apps for casting directors that have made the casting process easier for everyone involved.
It’s the ultimate movie database, so it is safe to say that there’s no one in the entertainment industry that won’t need IMDb. As a casting director, you can use the site to explore the filmography of any actor that has acting credits under their belt. The app also offers industry updates and other important bits of information you will need.
2. Auditions & Talents
An app with over half a million users, Auditions and Talents has a wide range of features both casting directors and aspiring actors can use.
3. Actor Genie
Created by award-winning casting director Heidi Levitt (The Artist, Lakeview Terrace), Actor Genie has everything a casting director needs in a mobile app. It is as much a necessity for casting directors as it is for actors. Actor Genie has a directory of agents, casting directors, and managers that will definitely come in handy if you are still starting out in the business.
Actor Genie gives you a scoop on the latest castings, industry tips, and even gives you a guide as you prepare for your next audition.
Casting360 is simply one of the most feature-packed mobile apps for casting directors. The app gives the user easy access to the latest casting calls and is very easy to navigate.
5. Department Head
An app for those in the entertainment industry, may it be film, television, or advertising. Basically, the app allows you to create your own database. You can create to-do lists, load a script you’ve written, store photos and videos, and make important notes, something casting directors definitely need.
Casting for a movie or TV show can be draining because of the challenges that come with it, but these mobile apps serve as a platform where casting directors, agents, and actors meet, allowing for a smooth and faster process.
The job of a casting director requires more than just having the patience to sit through a number of auditions. Before you can even organize an acting audition, you need to read the script and analyze it. Then you have to meet with the director of the film, the screenwriter, and the producer to know the type of actors the film needs.
Although the role the casting director plays in the whole filmmaking process remains unknown to some, they hold a position just as important as everyone in the crew.
Trying to determine whether an actor is the perfect guy for the role can be a challenge. To guide you, we gathered a few tips for casting directors from the experts in the field.
Helpful Tips for Casting Directors
If you are working on a new project, here are a few tips for casting directors you will definitely find helpful.
1. Have an eye for talent
This is the skill every casting director must have. The whole production team relies on your ability to choose the best of the bunch. You can’t present a talent who can’t read a line properly before the movie director.
Hone your skills. Study the previous works of more experienced casting directors or do more castings until you’re good enough yourself to tell right away whether or not a talent is the best person for the role.
2. Make the talent feel comfortable
One of the best tips for casting directors is to avoid being too intimidating. Maybe it helps in some ways, but appearing scary will only give talents the nerves. As much as possible, try to look friendly. A simple act of hospitality like offering them a cup of coffee or a glass of water will do the trick. Or start a small talk before getting to a more serious discussion.
3. Take notes
It pays to take notes. It’s up to you what you want to pen down, maybe the talent’s strengths and weaknesses? Not only will this help you when time comes you have to give them the results, it will also give the actor a clearer picture of what they have to work on.
4. Give praise where it’s due
Everybody deserves to hear compliments, so do not hesitate to give praise where praise is due. Highlight their strong points, but do not exaggerate. This is a good way of encouraging them to work harder and achieve even bigger goals as an artist.
5. Don’t make promises
As a casting director, you will meet one talented actor after another, which is a really good thing because that means you’re getting closer and closer to meeting the best person for the job. But one of the things a casting director must remember is that it would do everyone good if no promises were made.
You may be facing a really promising talent right now, but it’s possible that the next one you meet is better at unleashing emotions. Promises will only result in disappointments, so you might want to save everyone from that.
Casting can be harder than what it looks, but if you have the right attitude and skills for the job, you will surely produce a work that exceeds expectations.
When asked why you love a certain film, we always go with the plot and script reasoning. Or that the cinematography was astounding or the direction was just one for the books. Rarely do we mention that it’s because our favorite actor is in it and we just really want to see him spit fire in the overrated movie franchise he’s appeared in five years in a row.
It’s a card we rarely pull when it comes to what makes a film worth sitting through, but truth be told, sometimes, the ensemble cast of a film is what draws a large audience in. In some instances, it’s the only thing that makes the film worth watching. But a lot of times, the talented cast and how they complement each other is what makes a movie a masterpiece.
5 Films with the Best Ensemble Cast
Here are five films with the best ensemble cast, they make the film tenfold greater. Thes films’ casting directors know exactly what they were doing, and perhaps, you can take inspiration from their work as you prepare for your next film.
1. The Departed (2006)
Rarely do we see two Academy Award for Best Actor winners, a Golden Globe for Best Actor winner, and two Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series winners appear in the same film directed by one of the best directors in the world of filmmaking, but The Departed gave us exactly that. Starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin, The Departed will always be remembered as that 2006 crime drama film where the industry’s best gathered. And that’s thanks to the film’s casting director, Ellen Lewis.
Loosely based on a real-life gangster and his encounters with the FBI, The Departed gained recognition for the direction and the performance of its cast. It went on to win several awards and nominations including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Martin Scorsese. DiCaprio and Nicholson went on to receive Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards from the Austin Film Critics. Further proving their one-of-a-kind chemistry, the whole cast won three awards for Best Ensemble (Central Ohio Film Critics, National Board of Review, and Satellite Awards).
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
If it’s crime film we’re talking about, Pulp Fiction would always be at the top of every Top 10 list. Besides the fact that it is directed by someone who’s known for films that are “focused” and have plot development that’s hard to overlook, Pulp Fiction boasts an ensemble of actors that gave brilliant performances, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
It’s been more than two decades since it was released, but Pulp Fiction remains one of the films that have an ensemble we thought would never pull through but became a reality—and we have casting directors Ronnie Yeskel and Gary Zuckerbrod to thank for that. Featuring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, and Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction has secured a spot on several AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies lists and it’s easy to see why.
3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Definitely one of the films with the best ensemble cast, Ocean’s Eleven remains legendary even when a lot of other more recent films tried to strip it of its glory. Debra Zane was tasked to direct the casting for the 2001 film, and she obviously knew what she was doing. She was able to assemble a cast of actors that work very well together, the film wouldn’t be the same had one of them pulled out.
Ocean’s Eleven features George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts, and all four of them gave a career-defining performance, a portrayal that will never be forgotten. Now those names alone are enough to have people lining up to buy tickets to its premiere.
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Another film on the list with Matt Damon in it but this time, he’s with an actor that is basically one of the pillars of the acting industry—Tom Hanks. Hanks is astonishing in this epic war film, but the film wouldn’t have been worth sitting through if it weren’t for how perfectly his acting complemented with that of other actors like Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Adam Goldberg, and Vin Diesel. This is what makes Denise Chamian, the film’s casting director, a force to reckon with when it comes to casting.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
Since the first one in 2005, we’ve all seen three Batman movies grace the big screen. Now they are equally great, but there’s something about the 2008 film that gives it an edge over the rest—its ensemble cast. Directed by Christopher Nolan with John Papsidera as the casting director, The Dark Knight rewrote the future of superhero films. With an iconic performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, which earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and an unforgettable Batman portrayal courtesy of Christian Bale, it does not take too many words to explain why this Batman movie is still the best among the rest.
Behind every great ensemble cast is a casting director who gathers candidates for roles in movies, television shows, and other productions. Before an acting portfolio reaches the table of a filmmaker, it sits on the lap of a casting director first.
But it seems like their job description still sounds alien to those who don’t look past the actors they see on screen and the directors that put the whole movie together. The unsung heroes of every production, casting directors endure a tedious process of studying the script to know what the movie needs, listing numerous names, staring at unfamiliar faces, going over countless portfolios just to find the perfect person for an acting job.
The role casting directors like you play is crucial to every production. So it is only right to celebrate your contribution to the industry. To do that, we came up with a list of renowned casting directors that helped turn Hollywood into the unaparalleled force it is now.
4 Casting Directors to Learn a Lesson or Two From
In the world of cinema, Martin Scorsese is considered a force to reckon with. He’s the man who makes films that address themes some are scared to tackle. But before Scorsese could sit on the director’s chair yelling “Cut!” he turns to someone to help him find the right actors and actresses for his films. And that is Ellen Lewis.
Where there’s Martin Scorsese, there’s Ellen Lewis, they would say. A lot of Scorsese’s films, Lewis was tasked to direct the casting. The Chicago-born is the casting director behind critically acclaimed films like Goodfellas (1990), Forrest Gump (1994), Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), Mamma Mia! (2008), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Bridge of Spies (2016), and The Post (2017).
Lewis believes that “there is no small part.” Every role that has to be played, every part that needs to be filled in, matters.
She said, “I love small parts. I want to be in the sessions; I want to hear the one word they have to say and see if I believe it. Because that’s what casting’s about—Do I believe what you’re saying? Does it seem truthful? Does it fit the world that the character lives in?”
Taiwanese film director Ang Lee has made a lot of game-changing films, and the director has his whole team to thank for helping him make his Oscar dreams come true. One of them is Avy Kaufman.
Kaufman has worked with Lee multiple times, and these collaborations often end up in Lee making his way up to the stage to receive a trophy. She was the casting director for the Lee-directed Brokeback Mountain (2009) and Life of Pi (2012), which both got a best-picture nod.
Avy Kaufman also directed the casting for Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln, a task she would later say she found hard. As a casting director, one has to study the script and understand the story and each character in it to find the best actor for the role. And for Kaufman, the casting director plays a big role in keeping a film as realistic and honest as possible.
Talking about Lincoln, Kaufman shared, “Because it’s a piece of history, I tried to get to the honest living person in resemblance and personality. These are all real people. . . . It was really hard but really exciting.”
Marvel is known for a lot of things, but perhaps one of the best things about the studio’s movies is its cast ensemble. From superstars like Robert Downey Jr. to rising actors like Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright, each of their films boast a cast that you can’t help but marvel at.
Whom does Marvel owe this to? Probably Sarah Finn.
Often described as Marvel’s secret weapon, Finn is the casting director behind superhero films like the Avengers film series, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Iron Man trilogy, Black Panther, and many more.
A lot of actors have come and left the Marvel Universe, but it seems like every time a star decides to leave, Finn always knows what to do and which actor to invite to the studio and breathe a new life into the character.
To all the casting directors out there, Finn has one important piece of advice: it all relies on getting to know the character on a personal level. She quipped, “I get a little attached to every role I’ve ever cast. It has to come to life for me. It’s a journey to get to know a particular character, and when the actor is very much a part of that process, it’s really memorable.”
Ellen Chenoweth has over seventy films under her belt, most of which have given birth to today’s biggest stars.
The 1982 film Diner is one of Chenoweth’s first projects, but even then, she made sure to not limit herself to the already-rising stars in the industry. Chenoweth chose to dig deeper, she more research until the applications of then-unknown actors Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser reached her desk. Diner became a huge hit, among critics and at the box office. The movie helped boost the careers of the actors in it and made Chenoweth a casting director that’s worth looking forward to.
The projects that followed Diner were also successful, further proving that Chenoweth knows what she’s doing and does her job as flawlessly as possible. Her prominent works include Terms of Endearment (1983), Lolita (1997), No Country for Old Men (2007), True Grit (2010), and Men in Black 3 (2012).
For Chenoweth, it pays to give every actor a chance to stand in front of the camera. Chenoweth also suggests that casting director find fun in what they do. She once shared, as she was asked about working on a theater production, “I want to put the best, more interesting actors together. I love doing it. There were so many juice smallish parts where people could come in and work for a day or two. And I was just licking my lips, thinking about how much fun it would be.”
The entertainment industry is one that welcomes a new face every second. Every day, in every movie and show that invades the screen, a star is born. With this comes the fact the competition is high, making it one of the most competitive industries there is.
As a casting director, it’s your job to find someone who will stand out in the role they are to portray. When looking for a talent for a shampoo commercial, you have to look past one’s hair. Convincing people to purchase the product requires more than just long, shiny locks, after all.
Casting can be draining, psychologically and emotionally, but today’s world has provided a lot of platforms where casting directors, agents, and talents can find each other. The rise of the Internet has revolutionized the casting process. It has helped major industry players find new faces that helped them make their projects the revelation that they are.
Ways Technology Is Revolutionizing the Casting Process
The Internet isn’t just for meeting new friends, it’s for working your way to stardom too. And for casting directors like you, it’s for discovering fresh faces with unique personalities you can hire for your next project. Here are the ways technology is revolutionizing the casting process.
If there’s anything about the new times that has been a great help in connecting people, that would be the Internet and social media. It’s true, this side of the Web has its downsides, but it has also helped bridge gaps, unite diverse groups, reconnect lost and severed ties, and build relationships.
For aspiring actors, it is on social networking sites that they share just about everything. From photos and videos to random thoughts, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram have seen these people’s lives unfold. As a casting director or agent, it is your job to seek new faces that will suit a certain role. Holding auditions remains the best way to get the task done, but you don’t have to limit your choices to those who walk into the audition room.
Take advantage of the world of social media. A lot of new talents these sites to reach a wider audience. Be a part of their crowd audience and you might just find the next big star that will make the project you are working on the talk of the town.
Online media distribution platforms
YouTube has done more than just entertain people through funny and informative clips. Some casting directors and agents credit the site for helping them discover today’s biggest stars.
Ever since it was founded in 2005, YouTube has grown to become the biggest video-sharing platform ever. If before, we could only rely on television and theaters to give us a good laugh, now we have YouTube. The site allows us to share videos we believe are entertaining to the rest of the world. Everyone can now watch an artist’s music video without turning their TV on or watch movie trailers without going to the cinema. Taking advantage of the site, some aspiring talents turn to YouTube to share videos of them singing, dancing, or acting in hopes of attracting casting directors and agents.
While most social networking sites come with a free mobile applications too, there are apps that specifically cater to the needs of aspiring actors.
One good example is the Actors Apply, the app where talents and casting directors meet. The app has information on latest auditions, the location and requirements, how to apply, etc. These applications connect industry players and break the barriers that hinder them from working together, like distance and language. With these phone apps, a few taps will get you closer to the talent you’ve been looking for and them to you.
Demo reels are probably one of the best ways technology is revolutionizing the casting process. As mentioned, one of the major obstacles aspiring actors and casting directors face is the fact that sometimes, they’re from different sides of the world. As a casting director, you organize auditions and conduct interviews. Before you are talents looking to break into the industry. Outside the interview room, however, is a whole big world full of equally, if not more, talented actors that would have been the perfect fit but just couldn’t be in the same room with you.
This is when demo reels come into the picture. With the help of a camera and the ever-helpful email service, talents from all around the world can flaunt what they’ve got, without worrying about having to fly across continents. And you can just look at their videos and decide if they’re worth hiring.
Online casting service
Another one of the best ways to discover new talents is by signing up to online casting services. It’s where talents find casting opportunities and where casting directors like you can find the best person for that acting job. And it’s very convenient too. A talent just uploads their portfolio, gets matched to a role, a casting then director looks at their details, and their journey together starts from there. There are a lot of reliable casting in existence. Slowly rising to prominence is Auditions.net.
Auditions.net offers free casting service to casting directors, agents, and talents who want to make a name in the industry. It is also easy to navigate. To get started, you just have to fill out an online form. Casting directors post about their upcoming projects, which talents can look into and apply for, if they believe they have what it takes.