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Last updated 12/13/07

The Role Of The Casting Director

The casting director’s responsibility is to find actors who are right for the parts of a particular production and arrange to audition them. To do this task, the casting director might go through a personal file or rolodex of actors; contact one or several agents to search for actors, and for projects large enough, putting a notice on a breakdown service.

A Check List For What You Need to Know About The Casting Director’s Job

Generally, the casting director can be thought of as a prescreener. In the end, directors, writers and producers make the final decisions on who to hire. Naturally, there can be exceptions to this.
Among the sources that agents tap for actors are: agents they know, to a lesser degree agents they don’t know, managers, their own files of headshots, personal recommendations, actors they have seen perform in various venues like Off-Off Broadway.
Casting directors will look at your photo and resume and then ask you to read. If they like the reading they will then go ahead and schedule a time for you to come back and audition for the producers and director.
Casting directors use a combination of intuition and experience to send candidates onto call-back auditions with producers and directors. Many casting directors were actors early in their careers; others were stage managers, and/or assistants to various producers or casting directors before moving into casting themselves.
Some casting directors work in-house, but nowadays many are freelance hires with their own businesses that have to be licensed.
Once the director and producers have decided which actors they want to hire, the casting director is the one who then negotiates money, schedules and billing with the actors or their agents.
Since they want you to do your best, which in turn reflects well on their job performance, casting directors have been known to impart subtle signals, helpful hints and conventional wisdom while escorting a prospect into a reading. Therefore pay close attention to what they might have to say.
Use our communication tools (chat room; message board; messaging tools etc.) to reach others who can provide you with more help and information

Casting directors, many of whom belong to the CSA (Casting Society of America), work for producers and directors with the main task of finding actors to audition for a production so the client (producers, directors) can determine which actors will best fit the roles for the production. Once the director and producers have decided upon which actors to hire, the casting director then negotiates money, schedules and billing with the actors and/or their agents.

Most casting directors are freelance or independent contractors and have learned their trade through an informal apprenticeship since there is no school that teaches the skill. The Casting Society of America, located in Hollywood, is a nationwide professional organization of casting directors, but is not a formal union for the group.

There are several types of casting directors. As mentioned before, there are independent casting directors who are hired for a particular project by theater, television, film, or commercial producers. Most of these independent casting directors have offices, but others travel, depending on the location of the project they have signed on to.

Another category are the casting directors who work for advertising agencies.

It’s their job to find actors for television commercials, radio spots, voice-overs, and print.

In contrast to the first group mentioned above, there are in-house casting directors, such as daytime serial casting directors who specifically work for the studios and networks.

Web Based Organizations Offering Casting Services

127 West Church Street
Suite 300
Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: 866-582-4201 ext. 2273
Email: castnet@castnet.com
5670 Wilshire Blvd
Suite 1620
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 888-590-9994 ext.273
Email: info@castnet.com
The Link
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Attn: Mr. Keith Gonzales, Editor, Academy Players Directory
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90211
Phone: 310-247-3000
Email: players@oscars.org
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here

Terms To Know

Audition. A formally arranged session (usually by appointment through an agent) for an actor to display his or her talents when seeking a role in an upcoming production of a play, film or television project, usually to a casting director, director or producers

Callback. A second audition where an actor is either presented to the producer and director or, in the case of commercials, is filmed on tape again for final consideration.

Casting. When a casting director puts out the news that he needs to fill a certain role that requires an approximate age range and appearance such as a certain ethnicity, height, build or look.

Cold Reading. Delivering a speech or acting a scene at an audition without having read it beforehand.

Concept Meeting. A gathering of the producer, director and casting director to reach an agreement about the look and quality of each character in a script.

Image. The casting type or quality you wish to convey and portray to the theatrical community.

Pre-reads. An advance reading by a casting director who is unfamiliar with an actor’s work prior to taking the actor to meet a producer or director.

Reader. Another actor who is paid, or volunteers, to help the casting office by playing all the other characters during an audition so the casting director can concentrate on the actor being screened.

Screen Test. A recorded audition to determine a person’s suitability as an actor for film or television.

Type Casting. Assigning a role to an actor on the basis of his or her surface appearance or personality.

Typed-out. The elimination of an actor during auditions because of such obvious features as height, weight or age.

For a full glossary listing click here

Some known ways in which casting directors go about the process of finding talent for a production include:

When casting directors hold preliminary auditions, they eliminate those actors whom they feel are not right for that particular production at an early and predictable stage. Usually actors are “typed out” or lose out because of a poor audition. When they’ve narrowed down the playing field to the most likely candidates, the casting director will then bring in the producers, director, and playwright to the audition where the decision as to who will be cast in roles is now made.

How to Meet Casting Directors

Actors can meet casting directors in similar fashion to the way they can meet talent agents. Casting directors go to showcases, Broadway plays, and off-Broadway plays. They watch movies and television shows, and look at actors’ reels to become familiar with actors in an available talent pool. Aside from an agent’s submissions, you can meet casting directors through referrals by another actor, through mail submissions, or by paying for introductions or auditions at places that sponsor them, like networking facilities. Another way is to make the rounds, stopping by a casting directors office (where permissible or it could backfire badly) and leaving a picture and resume.

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Useful Books

An Actors Guide: Making It in New York City
by Glenn Alterman
288 pages; (February 2002)
Allworth Press; ISBN: 1581152132
How to Completely Blow Your Competition Away at Any Audition!  What Casting Directors Wish You Knew and Your Competition Hopes You Never Find Out!
by Caterina Christakos
112 pages; (July 2002)
Writers Club Press; ISBN 0595232728
Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews
by Bonnie Gillespie
408 pages; (January 2003)
Cricket Feet Publishing; ISBN 0972301933
How to Get the Part...Without Falling Apart!
by Margie Haber, Barbara Babchick, Heather Locklear
225 pages; (October 1999)
Lone Eagle Publishing Company; ISBN: 1580650147
Agents, Managers & Casting Directors
by Debbie Hennessey
300 pages; (May 2003)
L A Four-Eleven Publishing Company; ISBN 1931625131
The Back Stage Guide to Casting Directors: Who They Are, How They Work, What They Look for in Actors
by Hettie Lynne Hurtes
224 pages; (June 1998)
Watson-Guptill Publications; ISBN: 0823088065
The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job
by Karen Kondazian, Eddie Shapiro, Richard Dreyfuss
475 pages; (January 2000)
Lone Eagle Publishing Company; ISBN: 1580650139
4 Actors & Extras: Practical Advice from a Hollywood Casting Director
by Regina Prokop
120 pages; (July 2004)
Archer Books; ISBN 1931122148
An Actor’s Guide: Your First Year in Hollywood
by Michael Saint Nicholas
272 pages; (June 2000)
Allworth Press; ISBN: 158115058X
Getting the Part: Thirty-Three Professional Casting Directors Tell You How to Get Work in Theater, Films, Commercials
by Judith Searle
367 pages; (September 1995)
Limelight Editions; ISBN 0879101946

Click the titles of the above books for their availability, or enter the title of a book not shown in the above listing in the search box below.


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Relevant Associations & Organizations

Actor’s Fund of America
729 Seventh Avenue (48 & 49 Sts.), 11 Floor
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-354-5480
Los Angeles: 323-933-9244 ext:50
Career management and counseling mostly for sideline and second careers; educational grants for retraining and education.
Email (NY/LA): blevinso@actorsfund.org or lgreene@actorsfund.org
Casting Society of America
606 N. Larchmont Boulevard, Suite 4-B
Los Angeles, CA 90004 -1309
Phone: 323-463-1925
Functions like a society for casting directors, also carrying advice on its website for those seeking to enter the casting director field.
Email: castingsociety@earthlink.net or castingsociety@hotmail.com
Casting Society of America
2565 Broadway, Suite 185
New York, NY 10025
Phone: 212.868-1260 x22
Functions like a society for casting directors, also carrying advice on its website for those seeking to enter the casting director field.
Email: castingsociety@earthlink.net or castingsociety@hotmail.com
Non-Traditional Casting Project (NTCP)
1560 Broadway, Suite 1600
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-730-4750
Fax: 212-730-4820
NTCP works to promote inclusive hiring practices and standards, diversity in leadership and balanced portrayals of persons of color and persons with disabilities.
Email: info@ntcp.org

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