What Are Casting Assistants and What Do They Do?
In larger productions, where the casting process is too much for one person to handle, casting assistants are typically hired to assist the casting directors in the selection of actors, singers, dancers, or models for movies, commercials, musicals, and stage or screen productions. Casting assistants also provide general running duties in the office, including answering phones, sending faxes and emails, liaising with couriers, as well as assisting during casting sessions when actors perform screen tests on camera.
Learn more about their responsibilities here.
Duties of Casting Assistants: What Are They Here For?
The casting assistants of the casting director or casting firm of multiple casting directors is responsible for supporting casting operations through a number of administrative and secretarial tasks, as well as performing research and preparation for auditions. This is an entry-level position and is considered an apprenticeship toward a career as a casting director. The specific job description of a casting assistant will vary by employer, but the essential responsibilities are the same.
Knowledge and skills
Casting assistants must have a wide knowledge of cinema and actors. An interest in theater and stage actors is also a prerequisite. As this position is considered a formal steppingstone toward a career as a casting director, education in acting, directing, and dramatic criticism is encouraged. Casting is a skill that comes with experience and cannot be taught in a classroom.
Most casting assistants are graduates with an interest in acting and casting and who have managed to enter the film industry at junior levels as assistants in talent agencies, thereby gaining experience of selecting and working with actors or as runners for productions. Those involved in casting should constantly keep up to date with new and interesting actors and must develop the confidence and taste vital for any casting director.
Acquiring casting credits on feature films is important for a casting director’s career progression, but since casting assistants are not usually credited, it may be difficult to develop a good reputation. Many talented, hardworking casting assistants work for many years for the same casting director before they are offered larger responsibilities or promoted to casting associates.
General administrative duties
Casting assistants are multifaceted helpers in the casting process. They are usually all over the place. They perform administrative duties such as answering office phones; taking messages; and sorting, sending, and receiving general mails, emails, and fax correspondence. Casting assistants also manage client or talent databases. This includes adding or updating contact details and scanning or uploading copies of pictures, resumes, headshots, demo reels, audition tapes, or portfolios. Additionally, casting assistants might help to drum up business by working on advertising or by researching upcoming productions that might need talent.
Some casting assistants also help with a casting firm’s or casting director’s online presence. For example, they might update websites or blogs with new information; create and issue email blasts to potential clients; or design and send newsletters to subscribers. They might also provide social media support like updating a firm’s status on social networks or responding to questions submitted via social networks, blog comments, or forums.
Casting assistants typically finish work when most of the cast have signed contracts, so they always have to keep an eye out for next gigs. Thus an internship with a casting firm is the preferred first step. Most of these internships are unpaid as interns earn college credit instead. However, temporarily providing free labor can provide substantial benefits to this career. Applicants with internship experience will have a considerable advantage over the competition, and often, the firm providing the internship will elect to offer permanent employment to exemplary interns.
1. Read the script to understand the project
Like casting directors, casting assistants need to read the script or project description to understand the creative vision of the writer. Note that the casting director is responsible for realizing the characters of the story. A casting assistant’s choice of actors for each role, therefore, must not disappoint. They have to keep in mind that good casting is crucial to making characters credible on screen and is fundamentally important to a film’s success.
The casting assistant is responsible for conducting any necessary research concerning a new client or new project. Vital information must include period, style, theme, information on past productions of the show, previous cast, and directorial team, etc. Some casting directors may own a library of resources for numerous shows, including librettos, musical scores, DVDs, and cast recordings. It would be the job of a casting assistant to catalog and maintain this collection of resources.
3. Sort through, compile, and maintain database of actors
From the casting director’s existing database of actors, casting assistants sort through talent résumés, headshots, and other background material to match potential talent to specific roles. They compile and maintain the database of client and performer information. The electronic or paper system will include data pertaining to every production cast by the company, including details about the production company, directorial staff, and billing.
4. Contacting for scheduling
Casting assistants subsequently call the actors’ agents to check the availability of talent and schedule auditions, appointments, and go-sees or general meetings. If the talent is unavailable, they update the list and research other options. They are also tasked with coordinating logistics with the directorial clients, the casting venue, and actors’ agents.
5. Send out audition materials
When scheduling is complete, casting assistants may prepare and send out audition materials, such as scripts or sheet music, contact forms, and other details about casting requirements.
1. Greet talents and agents
On audition days, casting assistants greet arriving talent and agents and conduct check-ins for auditions and other appointments. If requested by the casting director, the casting assistants corral performers and conduct the check-in process.
2. Provide general support
Casting assistants ensure that the sessions run smoothly by serving beverages and snacks for the actors, acting as liaisons whenever there are changes and delays, and running errands (e.g., answering phone calls, keeping in touch through emails, welcoming other guests, and setting up the camera for screen tests).
3. Keep records for every auditionee
During auditions, casting assistants may handle camerawork and film auditions for later viewing and consideration (although this is usually a casting associate’s job). Casting assistants also compile all records for every auditionee. This includes the performer’s headshot, résumé, agent information, union affiliation, and notes on his/her audition.
1. Label the best takes
After each casting session, the casting associates make selections and edit together the best takes. The casting assistants then label them correctly and send them to the director, producer, and/or financiers.
2. Handle callbacks
Casting assistants follow up auditions and let actors know if they have been successful or not, sometimes explaining to some applicants why they didn’t fit production needs. Then they schedule the successful talents for additional auditions or interviews. Once a role is filled, they make offers where appropriate, following these up when necessary. They might also contact talent or agents on behalf of casting directors to arrange contract meetings.
3. Take notes
During any follow-up meetings with talents or agents, casting assistants often take important notes and record agreements for the casting director. They assist in providing forms and contract signing when necessary.
Future career path
A casting assistant’s role is usually the first step in the casting sector. With enough talent and experience, casting assistants get promoted to casting associates and, eventually, casting directors. However, career progression is typically slow and can take many years.