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As actors, we often think of casting directors as being the gatekeepers in this business; somewhat unaccessible and trying to keep us at arms length. But the truth is, casting is generally on our side. They truly wants actors to succeed! Yes, it is also their job is to collaborate with producers, directors, network and studios execs, and to cast the best talent for each role. Ultimately, they work to bring the creative vision together, and actors are a part of that.
To help demystify the casting process, I’ve pulled together some quotes and advice from the top casting directors in the industry. Hopefully this will help with nerves and the jitters next time you get called into the room.
“We’re really rooting for the actor to do well. I’ve said this before: Selfishly, I want you to do well because it makes me look good. I really want actors to come in and feel comfortable and do their best. It’s a weird process, auditioning. You have to come in and be completely open and vulnerable in front of people you don’t know in a room you’ve never been in before. I think some actors assume we want to embarrass them or make them feel less than when it’s the exact opposite. I want them to feel as safe as possible; I want them to do well; I want them to see it as an opportunity to perform, to act, hopefully to get some direction, workshop it if we can. I think it can be a really fun learning experience in the office. Ultimately, we want you to succeed.”
“I go to the theater, and I almost always end up casting someone I’ve seen live within six months. I have friends who know my taste who send me names of actors they’ve seen in obscure things and I keep track of them. And I watch film and television and weird stuff online and track people down on my own. I also have my own favorite directors and casting directors whose work I love, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am often tracking down actors they’ve used in their projects as well! I don’t watch anything in my “free time” that doesn’t interest me. Because I’m watching stuff I actually love, I often end up falling in love with the actors in these projects.”
Lisa London, London / Stroud Casting
“Stay in touch with the casting director. Feel free to send a postcard or drop us an email. I don’t recommend doing this every week, but every few months is totally acceptable. Let us know that you just booked a role, got new representation or that you are in a showcase or play. This puts your face in front of the casting director again and reminds us of who you are.”
Bernie Telsey, Telsey + Company
“One thing I would want every actor to know is if they don’t get that specific job they might be coming into the room for, there are so many other things about that experience that will be carried over. Always remember you’re not being rejected, you just didn’t get that job. In our office, we have this box. We come out of a session, and those audition sheets get circulated so everyone can see who might have done something that might be right for the thing that they’re casting.”
Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas of Bialy/Thomas & Associates
SB: “We’re all in this because we love to tell stories, so what makes me remember an actor is an actor who went in to tell the story, not the actor who is in there because of the ego. A lot of times, actors are told, “This is your time in the room,” and that’s not my feeling. It’s not their time; it’s the time for the story. It’s their time to bring the story to life. It’s not all about them.”
ST: “We may have heard the scene 20 times and it doesn’t make sense, and then that one person comes in and they read the scene with you and you go, “I know what this scene is about.”
Tara Feldstein Bennett & Chase Paris CSA of Feldstein | Paris Casting
“Be yourself. Most of our roles don’t require a ton of acting, we need you to be yourself in that role, not try and fit outside of your mold. The actors that work the most in this market are still working within their type – if a role feels like too much of a stretch then it’s probably not a good fit. Go in and do the best YOU for each role, and I believe you’ll book constantly. If you find you have to keep ACTING for each role, it’s probably not working!”
TFB: “For the love of god – actors – STOP POSTING YOURSELF ON SET, IN COSTUME, WITH OTHER ACTORS, PLOT POINTS on social media. JUST STOP. When it airs, go crazy. I’m over making phone calls to your agents when you know better.” -via Twitter
CP: “Actors/Agents – when you ask for an extension on a self tape, are you asking us to hold presenting to producers for your one tape? You can always send a tape late, but should know it may not be considered unless we do another pass on the role, so send at your own peril…” -via Twitter
“Acting is a profession; we’re hiring professionals. So if someone shows up late, how do I know if I cast this person that they’re not going to show up late on the job? Fifty percent of why I’m hiring that person is what they’re doing with the character, and 50 percent is asking, “Can I trust this person on set?” I think it sets a bad tone for the beginning of the audition, especially if you have a director or producer waiting. Be respectful of everyone else’s time.”
“I give adjustments. I want to find the person for the part, so if there is something that is right about you for the role, but your choice wasn’t going to best tell the story the director or writer wants, then you make an adjustment. Then maybe it’s almost there and you make another adjustment. I work with actors. There is also so much that goes into casting. You as an actor cannot be everything. You cannot twist yourself into a pretzel and say, “I could have been this.” There are so many factors that go into casting that the actor is not privy to. They just have to feel good about what they did in the room and then leave it there.”
Meg Morman & Sunny Boling of Morman Boling Casting
MM: “When we audition actors (with or without the director present), our rule is that the actor reads all of the pages they prepared at least once. If nothing else, just out of basic respect for them. We’ve given them specific material and they took the time to prepare. You’re showing them that you respect that time they’ve put into their craft. After that, if we want to redirect, we do but redirection is not always given.”
SB: “We never interrupt an audition. We’ve heard of directors doing this and it’s horrible. If you encounter this we’ll say, ‘Let them finish this scene and then we’ll go back.’ Auditioning is a very nerve-wrecking process for people. You’ll get better performances if you are respectful of that.”