“To me, casting is all about finding a character within the actor off the screen as much as on the screen” Rupert Sanders
Good casting is often the make-or-break element between a box-office flop and an Oscar nomination. When it’s time to put together the dream cast of actors and actresses, studios rely on the expertise of casting directors to produce the magic. The magic casting directors possess comes from years of experience in the industry and the ability to master the science of seeking the correct talent for any film project. What separates the successful casting director from others? It’s the ability and skills to match the ideal actor to each role by understanding the director and producer requirements. This also requires having extensive and up to date knowledge of the current talent pool for auditions.
Casting directors have a multitude of responsibilities which makes the job demanding. With that said; let’s explore five mistakes a casting director aiming toward success should avoid when casting for any film project.
#1 Lacking “eye for talent” instinct– Your job as a casting director is finding talent that’s suitable for a film project. It’s not just about reading the script; it’s the ability to become the characters in the storyline. Living and breathing the characters beyond the script is how you can develop the “eye for talent”. Asking directors and producers in-depth questions about the personality, lifestyle; even religious preferences of the character can help envision the perfect actor for the role before the audition. Tip: Start listening to the actors without looking at them during auditions. Listen for how they can bring the character alive without seeing them.
#2 Relying on memory during auditions– There’s no way you can do the job of casting if your memory isn’t sharp. Even if you think you have a good memory, standard practice recommends developing a library of index cards that includes photos and profile of people you have worked and met with. Casting directors see thousands of actors over the span of their career. The ability to remember the ones that matter during and after an audition is priceless. Tip: Go beyond the index cards and create spreadsheets or better yet; use apps such Cast It Systems to organize your audition process.
#3 Only seeking talent during auditions– Although auditions are the standard procedure for finding cast members; hosting workshops is a great way to meet talent in a less stressful environment. Actors love attending workshops to get advice from industry professionals. Also, this is the perfect opportunity to use your “eye for talent” and seek out potential prospects for current and future film projects. Don’t dismiss social media; it’s another avenue for increasing your casting database. Social media such as Facebook page, Vine, Instagram and Twitter can keep you connected to the film community for networking purposes. Tips: Organize a workshop with acting schools in your area to network among the talent pool for your project. Make sure your social media is business friendly so actors can friend and/or follow you. Stay connected!
#4 Lacking the business side of casting: Negotiation– Casting directors who lack business sense suffer a huge risk of losing the actor and missing the mark on closing a deal with the agent. It takes serious preparation to correctly negotiate the terms and conditions of contracts with agents. There must be a clear understanding of performance service agreements as well as being organize to successfully negotiate the film’s budget. Tip: If negotiating isn’t your strong suit; take business classes or research on your own the skills needed to master techniques. As you continue to practice effective negotiating tactics, you will develop a system to follow in the course of your career.
#5 Not building a positive relationship with the film community– The best practice to stay on top in the film industry, whether you get the job or not is to always thank producers, directors, executives, agents, or managers you have meetings with. Remember your role as casting director is being the “gatekeeper” between actors, producers, writers and directors. If you establish a solid foundation with the community, you will gain the support needed to further your career as a well-known casting director. Tips: Make time for networking. Film/web festivals, social events and workshops are places to create relationships with film professionals. Also join film organizations such as Casting Society of America to build your network.
#Soflowebfest guest speaker, LaShawnna Stanley, CEO of Ethnicity Models knows the business and importance of casting for film production. Her success as one of the top talent agency specializing in ethnic models has giving LaShawnna the opportunity to evolve her skills from talent agency to casting director—working with countless major motion picture projects.
Written by Sudi Elliott, Soflowebfest Ambassador & lover of Web series and all things indie