Casting Agent

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Casting Agent


Casting directors are responsible for selecting the right actors to play roles in films and in the theater. They are generally hired on contract by film, video, television and advertising production companies to find suitable actors to audition for particular parts or characters. Although casting directors do not represent actors, like talent agents, the quality of talent sent to the production company reflects strongly on the credibility of the casting director.

Producers generally have a great deal of trust in casting directors and trust their judgments and opinions when selecting actors. Since a actor can make or break a film or play, it is crucial that a production is cast properly. For instance, a movie with Tom Hanks will have a completely different look than one with Johnny Depp. Nevertheless, producers usually specify the look or a particular actor they have in mind for a specific role. The protagonist in a theater production may be a short, Asian male with long hair, or a heavy-set woman with blue eyes, thus casting agents have to find someone who fits those characteristics.

Before the casting begins, the producer, director and casting director meet to discuss every character in a film or play. When hiring actors, the casting director has to be able to envision every single role. A common practice is writing a character description and sending it to various agents to see what they come up with. Another method is for casting directors to seek out particular actors on their own, which may include doing some background research. Once the casting director decides who they want to audition, they send out scripts to actors and arrange an audition appointment. Sometimes, they will open a free audition (called a "cattle call"), where anyone who hears about the film or play is welcome to audition. The only difference is that this practice is run on a first-come, first-serve basis and auditioners may have to wait around for hours to get an audition.

Casting directors consider actors' voice quality, trainability, expressiveness, physical features and experience when considering them for parts. Once the first round of auditioning is complete, the casting director submits a short-list of actors to the producer. They will call back these actors and conduct a more in-depth audition. Eventually, actors get chosen for specific roles with the producers and directors getting the final say.

Casting directors must be knowledgeable about the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) agreements with film and television studios. These agreements outline standards which must be met by both the employer and employee, and include wage minimums. However, SAG agreements only apply to union worker. Casting directors will often negotiate the actors' contracts on behalf of the producers.

Another area of casting is finding extras (people with no speaking parts hired for crowd scenes), stand-ins or photo-doubles. Extras casting directors are often asked to provide numerous extras, sometimes on very short notice.
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  Interests and Skills  
Casting directors should be good people-readers and have a knack for recognizing talent. Experts say that it is a subtle instinct that allows casting directors to identify talented individuals, regardless of their audition performance.

They have the ability to work long hours under stress and excellent communication skills. They should enjoy compiling information from scripts and signalling cues, taking charge of situations and negotiating with people. Casting directors must be good with people and have a good memory for faces and names.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Audition actors on a regular basis to increase their pool of available acting talent
  • Routinely review actors' photos, resumes of previous work, voice tapes and videos of previous work
  • Contact agents and members of the acting community at short notice for callbacks
  • Pre-screen a large group of candidates at a "cattle call" to select the most suitable individuals for directors and producers to see
  • Provide background information about roles and how to appear for the audition as well as copies of scripts or "sides" (portions of scripts) for actors to study before auditions
  • Negotiate contracts between actors or their agents and the production company
  • Casting directors either work out of a production studio or their own offices conducting auditions. Travel may also be a part of auditioning new talent and meeting television and film production people. The hours are fairly regular, but when hosting initial auditions for a play, television show or film, the hours will be long and often stressful including evenings and weekends. Casting directors may also spend hours on the phone.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Casting directors are usually hired on contract for specific projects by film and video production companies, advertising agencies, television and radio stations and networks, and theater and stage companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Since being a casting director is associated with the glamor of movies, there is a lot of competition for positions. Only the most talented will find regular employment. People do not start out as casting diectors but instead as production assistants or casting assistants. Casting directors could become producers in the theater, directors or acting teachers.

  Educational Paths  
There is no particular educational route for becoming a casting director. They come from diverse backgrounds in film, theater, business and public relations. Many are also former actors, which helps in choosing people to fit specific roles. Interested individuals with suitable related backgrounds may be able to arrange informal apprenticeships with established casting agents. Postsecondary education in the performance arts and contract negotiation skills are definite assets.

Although a degree isn't essential, it's certainly recommended. Since casting directors deal with production companies, directors, advertising agencies and clients, they must have some type of background.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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