The Work and Approach of a Casting Director

Another Facebook Friend shared this article by a Casting Director Maureen Hughes which was taken from a Filmbase article and is probably one the best things I have read concerning a Casting Director’s role in the scheme of things, not to mention the way in which they approach their work.  I enjoyed reading it and taking onboard many of the things Ms. Hughes has to share. So much so I would like to share it with you. Over to your Ms. Hughes:-

Getting Noticed
…”We can’t afford to rule out actors who have very little on their CV, particularly if they are right for the role. But in general I would go to a lot of fringe shows and watch an awful lot of short films. As an actor you have got to start working yourself up some screen credits. Ring third level colleges to get on student films and get your ass out there – you’ve got to get yourself some experience, which will almost always be unpaid in the beginning.

First, we check if the actor is available for the specific period of time. We send them the script in advance and ask them to prep a scene. Then we bring them in to audition. Personally, I don’t mind people reading from the script, but there are casting directors and directors who will be very, very unimpressed if you do. It’s up to the actor themselves to check who they are going to be working with. Sometimes I feel if people are really, really off-book then it’s very hard to unlock that performance. Whereas, at least if you have somebody just reading it, they’re not scared to try it a different way.

The Audition
For film and television the audition is everything, because if it ain’t working on the screen, it just ain’t working. We use fairly limited MiniDV cameras but it has got to work on camera on the day. I suppose the big thing is “to thine own self be true” There is nothing worse than coming into the audition dripping with neediness. Are you happy with the way you read? Can you get up out of that chair, walk out the door and go, “well, fuck it, I thought I did great.” I’m looking for the person who does that as opposed to the person who has tried to second guess what we’re looking for and ends up in a very artificial process.

The Bottom-Line
Good, intelligent preparation is everything. Who are you meeting in the room? What are they like? What are their expectations? I’m bringing you in there, so ring me. I want you as prepped as you can be, because I don’t want to look foolish either.”….

The above is something of a no-brainer but how many us (myself included,) screw up an audition because of a lack of knowledge of the above?  Sometimes we are given so little information to begin with. These days my current agents give me enough information that I can base some research on and if necessary I will contact the Casting Director concerned.  But most times we don’t have the time to do that or the Casting Director is not so easily contactable.  I can think of only two CDs that I could easily contact prior to an  audition they are running.

As many a regular reader to this Blog will know, I am not a great fan of actors working for free, more due to the attitude of those hiring who think we should be grateful for doing so and in many cases having to put up with their egotistical bad behaviour (I speak from personal experience).  It is a regrettable fact that many an actor will still have to work for free in the early years of their career.  I will be playing my part to put an end to this practice but as long as this practice continues those hiring need to realise that like any other professional, we have invested huge sums of money in training and developing our talent and skills.  So like any professional we are looking for a return on that investment.  And that is not likely if we are expected to work for nothing on projects that never ever see the light of day as many of these so-called ‘freebie’ projects end up going nowhere (again I speak from personal experience).  It would also be useful if film schools promoted good practice and behaviour to match with regard to their dealings with actors.  I have never been impressed with The London Film School (as an obvious example,) – Not just because it is a cash-rich organisation who still refuses to pay actors for working on student films (and still refuses to discuss the issue with the Actor’s Union Equity,) but also the bad attitude and behaviour of their students  who I have auditioned for in the past. Surprising given the School’s reputation and its Alumni of  famous former students.

Like many actors (in the UK at least,) I don’t know many casting directors on an on-going, regular basis.  There are at least three I have conversed with on a semi-regular basis, two of whom I have met at least once.  That said, it is still useful to do some research concerning the Casting Director you are going to meet.  If you are fortunate enough to have an agent, representing you, they can be a good source of information. In the UK, many of the top Casting Directors, are  not so easy to contact but that is akin to CEOs of any organisation.  Perseverance eventually pays off.  As actors, the pay-off comes from doing the work and going out there and getting the work.  It is a very competitive arena but in the end, we are all gladiators in that arena and once you get into the magic ‘Eight Percent’ who are successful and seldom out of work, only then can you look back (if you dare,) and say it was all worth it. After all, you will be a ‘Hero of the Acting Arena’ by then.

Thank you Ms. Hughes.


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