What do Casting Directors Do?

What is a casting director and what do they actually do for a living? The reality of the situation is that this answer can differ from production to production.

Essentially, a casting director is the person or company that hires all of the talent in a performing arts production. Casting is always conducted pre-production and most casting directors never see the final product until release.

Casting directors need to have an innate talent at deciding the right person for a role, even before anyone else can. Some productions can take up to 2 years to complete and directors and producers hate replacing people in the middle of a production. Imagine having to re-shoot fifty percent of a television commercial because one of the actors walked off the set. This would cost incredible amounts of money and most likely the casting director would lose their job.

Casting directors themselves are often former actors and use their old skills to test and challenge new actors during auditions. Casting directors are constantly in communication with talent agencies and scouts, all in an effort to find that 'new face' or 'raw talent'.

Because more and more productions today have higher budgets, they are requiring more and more talent. In a large film production with hundreds of roles to cast a casting director may have to interview thousands of people before finding the right combination for the film. During the earlier stages of the audition process casting directors will often have their assistants interview the majority of the actor applicants.

Once the assistants have narrowed down the applicant pool, the casting director will begin conducting call-back auditions. Through the call-back auditions, the casting director is able to place all of the talent into the matching roles. Because the casting director is trying to realize the artistic impressions of the director and producer, there may be many series of call-back auditions.

Casting directors can be associated with hiring big name stars and performers, but in some cases the casting director can defer the job to the director or producer. Casting directors primarily fill all of the speaking and non-speaking roles, including the leads. The casting director usually does not cast the remaining non-speaking parts or the background roles.

This brings us to the other half of the casting process called background casting. Background casting is usually the responsibility of a second casting director who specializes in that area, and is the process of hiring all of the background talent.

Background casting directors will contact talent agencies and give them very simple details about who to bring to the production. Unlike speaking and non-speaking roles, auditions are rarely held for background actors.

The truth of the matter is that directors and producers will instruct casting directors to contact specific talent directly to fill key roles. These performers are usually asked to perform a first audition to get a feel for the material and are then invited to a call-back later on in the audition process.

Now that the casting director has narrowed down the field, the director and producer are called in to perform final auditions. It is at this point that the pre-selected talent or stars are brought back in for their follow-up auditions. The casting panel will usually have group interviews as well as solo interviews to judge the chemistry between all of the performers.
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Arthur Blume is an actor and short subject director and producer. Copyright © Arthur Blume. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.