How to Become a Casting Director
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As a fan of movies, it’s always fun to imagine “what if” when it comes to your favorite films. For example, Christopher Walken and Kurt Russell were in the running for the original Han Solo. And did you know, the role in Alien that made Sigourney Weaver a bonafide star – Ellen Ripley – was actually supposed to be played by a man!
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the roles we love so much on the big screen. (Except Spiderman or Batman – seems like everyone gets a crack at those two superhero roles.) On the other side of that casting coin are the roles that are changed up every few movies, such as James Bond or Dr. Who.
That’s part of the fun when it comes time to unveil new actors for beloved parts – the debate. Although there will always be those that hate change, the first episode starring Jodie Whittaker as Dr. Who – the first female Dr. Who – had the largest U.K. audience for a season opener in over a decade.
While it’s been said that change is the only constant, most filmmakers just want to make a good movie. Whether that’s grabbing a bankable star (Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean), a relative unknown (Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds), or fallen stars (John Travolta for Pulp Fiction), picking the right actor for the right role can be critical.
Directors and producers obviously have the final say over the actors and actresses that make the final cut. But when it comes to a potential franchise film, you better believe there will be hundreds – maybe even thousands – of those looking for a star turn of their own. And so you know, it isn’t the director that’ll be sifting through those headshots.
What is a Casting Director?
When people in the business refer to “the talent,” they mean anyone appearing in front of the camera. Films, television, commercials, and other marketing media all need talent. Certain roles are written with particular actors in mind, but supporting cast members still need to be chosen.
That’s where a good casting director proves their worth. Once a script has been greenlit by a studio, the casting director works to start filling out the cast. In simplest terms, they are similar to the human resources department, responsible for getting the word out about open positions.
Also known as talent directors, they begin by reading the script. If it calls for a tall, brawny character as the best friend, the talent director needs to put that in the job description. In many cases, the main roles are limited to a handful of actors. The hard part is filling out the rest of the cast.
However, writing 50 job descriptions can be a time-consuming affair. Some casting directors use services that read the script and write characterizations of each role. Strong and silent, smart and mousy, quirky but endearing. Based in Los Angeles, Breakdown Services is an example of just such a company.
This could mean sending out casting notices to casting agencies, casting companies, industry magazines or websites, or reaching out directly to talent agents. As a member of the Casting Society of America, the casting director career is built on choosing the right candidates for the right roles.
Once the resumes are received, casting offices go through the responses to thin the herd so to speak. The main actors might already be selected by the time the first pre-production meeting is held, but it can take some time to choose people for all of the speaking roles.
For larger casts, casting directors use casting assistants to help shoulder the load. This may include contacting agents for readings or callbacks, making sure hopefuls have the required experience, or even making the occasional comment about switching roles for an actor.
Become a Casting Director
Like many creative fields, formal education isn’t necessarily as important as experience. To become a casting or talent director, the ability to communicate what is needed for a role is more important than sitting in a classroom for four years. It can be said that the sooner you can get into the trenches, the better.
Casting directors are rarely part of a studio or production house, working freelance most of the time. That’s why it’s so important to get experience as often and as early as possible. It doesn’t hurt to learn about the industry first, especially what producers or directors look for in their cast when shooting a film, TV show, or web series.
With Film Connection, you’ll get that experience while learning from experienced professionals. We place you inside a real-world production company, working alongside your mentor for six to nine months. Our Film Production & Editing and Cinematography Programs and Screenwriting and Film Editing Workshops will give you an insider’s look at the industry.
You’ll learn about the business from the inside out – at a fraction of the cost of a 4-year university or trade school. But, chances are, you’ll work harder than you ever have. You aren’t just here to observe and take notes, your mentor will expect you to jump in and do the things it takes to keep a production moving.
If this sounds fulfilling, fun, and full of opportunity, apply to the Film Connection today.