How do casting directors get their jobs?

It’s useful for actors to know that casting directors get work in exactly the same way that they do – we’re all in this together.

Our favourite is the straight offer – a producer or director who has worked with us before and wants to do so again. The beloved repeat client. Sometimes we may have cast a short or commercial for someone and now they are making a feature. Occasionally the offer comes from someone who is familiar with and a fan of our work, or it could be a strong recommendation from someone of influence. It could simply be a chance meeting with someone at a screening or other event and we share the same passion, enthusiasm and sensibility.
All of these methods apply directly to actors too – especially as your body of work grows, your contacts develop, you become more well known, and your qualities and versatility become well documented in reviews by others. Let the offers flood in.

But sometimes it takes a little more work and we have to audition too – except we call it a pitch. We’re sent a script prior to a meeting with a producer / director, we prepare thoroughly, and then we go into a little room and perform our very own song and dance routine for them. We’ll speak about the script and the roles, we’ll see if our vision matches that of the director. We’ll talk about our methodology – how we would go about casting certain roles – especially if they are out of the ordinary and would involve a wider search than normal.
We have to make bold choices too. Film-making is a fine balancing act between art and commerce and casting can be at the sharp end. There’s a complex formula between budget, the strength of material and the quality of the individual roles, the status of co-stars that might already be attached to the project, the experience of the director and just as importantly the producer and the team that will get the film out into the world. For the most part movies are the director and producer’s passion project, it’s their baby, they’ve been working on them for years, and sometimes they don’t want to hear that Brad Pitt may not be interested in performing a minor role for scale in a film maker’s low budget debut. Or that a particular role is not written well enough or have sufficient impact on the story to attract a high level actor.

It’s our job to tread that line carefully during the pitch – to shoot for the moon but to manage expectations, to be constructive and imaginative, to understand and serve the director’s creative palette, the producer’s budget, and the sales and financiers requirements.

And just like actors who may see the same types waiting outside the audition room, more often than not we bump into other casting directors waiting for their turn to pitch.

Do we always get the job? We like to think we have a pretty high hit rate, but sometimes it is not meant to be. And just like actors – sometimes we are informed of a decision and sometimes we are not. The phone simply doesn’t ring.

Actors and casting directors work the opposite side of the same coin – we share the same highs, lows, frustrations and moments of pure joy – and we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

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