“How does the film casting process actually work?” is a question that as professional casting directors we are often asked: whether by up-and-coming actors seeking jobs, or by new directors and producers. In this article, we hope to provide a solid insight into the process and give some guidance as to what casting directors, producers and directors should be aiming to achieve from the process.
The Casting Process
Let’s begin by saying that there is no definitive answer to the question. Projects vary greatly, as do budgets, cast requirements and time-scales. But there are fundamental elements worth noting which we think will be helpful to both directors and producers.
Briefing the Casting Director
Probably the single most important part of the process is the briefing of your casting director. Any director worth his salt will already have a clear vision for his film. Hopefully this is the one shared with his producer. That vision must be effectively communicated to the CD, who having read the script can be of inestimable help in identifying potential casting problems. It is not uncommon for a key character to feel underwritten and to disappear for a good portion of a script. Not helpful if you are hoping for a ‘name’. Sometimes a lack of sympathy or redemption can make a part unattractive; a potential casting ‘black hole. ‘ Listen to your casting director. They can identify these problems. If lead actors consistently turn down a script, there is a reason.
Key Questions to ask…
As a director/producer you may already have strong casting ideas. Are these in line with your budget? Are they realistic? Don’t become too wedded to an idea. Is that actor actually available? Is it something they would consider? Your casting director is better placed to know or find out for you.
Meeting the talent!
When it comes to meeting actors, the director is responsible for setting the tone of the meeting. It is important that he engages with the actor, is forthcoming and gives notes. If an actor is asked to read again, then make it clear what it is you require from them. Does the scene you have give the actor give sufficient opportunity to show light and shade. Develop an awareness of mood. Actors shouldn’t have to jump through hoops. If you are absent from a session and are viewing tapes, trust your CD to elicit the best performance from the actor and don’t make rash judgements.
Producers are often guilty of arbitrary objections based on hair length or shirt colour. Always remember the actor is giving a reading, not a performance. If you don’t like a particular actor, fair enough but always have good reasons for your decisions.
Be confident in your decisions and your script!
It is a frequent misconception that everyone is desperate to work on your project and will keep themselves available indefinitely. Sadly this is rarely the case. Agents may well be juggling projects for their clients and there is always the possibility of something better just around the corner. If an actor really loves a script then better the chance you have of getting him on board. It is a mistake to throw money at somebody in the hope that they will say yes. Money becomes an issue in negotiation if deep down they are not really bothered if they do the job or not. Be guided by your
The casting process can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. It is the job of the casting director to facilitate that process in a thorough and creative way. But they must always be given clear thoughts, up -to- date information and trust, in order to achieve this. As a director/producer, sometimes it is hard to let go!
But with trust, whether it is finding the perfect lead, or discovering an exciting new talent the casting director can play a pivotal role in giving your movie balance – and as a result the film has a much greater chance of success!