What is a Casting Call?

Casting calls, also known as casting notices and actor breakdowns are notices made to the public or to casting agencies that actors are required for an upcoming production. The term can be applied widely, since anyone from a student filmmaker to a major motion picture studio can issue a casting call. The notification can take place in many forms, including in industry trade magazines, on web bulletin boards, by word-of-mouth, via agent notification and production lists, to name just a few.

As a beginning actor, the importance of casting calls is huge. This is primarily how you will go about getting work. Later on, after you have worked on several jobs and have a strong acting resume, you might be able to sign with a talent agent or talent agency who will locate all future work for you.

A somewhat experienced actor with a talent agent will look to him or her to drum up auditions for them. Established talent agents have well-oiled relationships with major casting directors, production companies, studios and other industry insiders. It is the agent's job to use these relationships and contacts to find the best parts for their clients.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In order to get a talent agent, you must already have a fair amount of acting experience and an impressive acting resume. So how do you get that experience and an impressive resume? Locate acting roles on your own by searching out quality and legitimate casting notices, casting calls, and auditions.

Where do you find casting calls? Most actors do two things. They diligently read the industry trade magazines and join casting web sites like Actingland.com.

The casting calls printed in the industry trade magazines and posted on popular acting web sites like Actingland.com are not for "A" list actors. The principal actors and the "stars" are generally attached to the project through inside dealings prior to the project getting funding and going into development. The casting calls are, instead, used to fill out the rest of the cast. The roles most often found on the casting calls are usually the lesser, supporting roles.

When projects call for many actors to fill roles, these casting calls are referred to as "cattle calls." Often reality series television shows will announce casting calls on the air to fill roles for an upcoming season. In this case, hundreds or even thousands of people might respond. Casting calls of this kind require standing in long lines, filling out applications and interviewing or auditioning. Callbacks come later and usually involve more auditions as the thinning process continues. It is not unusual to get four or five callbacks before getting a part or being turned down.

Acting is a popular pursuit of many young people, and unscrupulous persons take advantage of this fact every day by conducting bogus casting calls that require nudity or partial nudity. These fake "casting calls" are often conducted in someone's apartment or home. Never attend a casting call that takes place in a private home or residence. When in doubt, bring a friend or relative along with you and always let others know where you are going. A good way to safeguard yourself is to avoid responding to small, inexpensive ads and stick with legitimate avenues of pursuit for your goals. There are many online resources and well-established casting companies for inexperienced and experienced actors alike. A little diligent research and patience will pay off in the long run.
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David Collins is a talent coordinator for a successful variety television show. His career in television spans over 15 years. Copyright © David Collins. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.