Kevin E. West

The Business of Acting: The Casting Process

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8 TIPS to IMPROVE your Castability!

 

WHAT’S WITH THE LIST!!?

 

Relax. It’s okay. Just trying to make a point. We spoke last about acting as either a hobby or, more importantly, your vocation. Regardless of what it means for you, if you want to book work, a casting director likely will call you in to audition. 

 

Yes, you can sidestep this person, but eventually the majority of your auditions will come through a casting office. They are the cog in the booking wheel. An essential part of the industry process. 

 

As you cycle through the hundreds of casting faces that will become part of your life, you will encounter a few “casting curveballs” along the way. I told you I played baseball and I can’t help myself to an analogy once in a while! 

 

To assist you getting started with your acting journey, or to simply re-set your mentality about casting directors in general, I offer up eight thoughts!

 

But first… 

 

LIONS and TIGERS and CASTING DIRECTORS!!

Let’s get this out of the way! Here The Wizard of Oz is quite appropriate. Dorothy, encouraged to ‘follow the yellow brick road’ as a way to get home, is a perfect analogy for SUCCESS. Before she can make it back, along the way, she has to overcome the threat of lions, tigers and bears. As we quickly learn, Dorothy creates more worry in her mind than what actually happens when she and her friends met a certain lion. 

 

As performers, let’s not fill our heads to much as the wonderfully talented Judy Garland did in that scene. It is important you don’t psych yourself out before you ever get started on booking work. Are casting directors people you should be frightened of? Absolutely not. However, when starting out, we’ve all worried about making an impression in auditions. Over time, we learn to re-direct that worry into our “business” to build healthy relationships with casting and then later into our craft so that we can “show” them our true artistic selves. 

 

Bottom line: Let’s not start out scared of casting directors. It won’t help you act better!

 

How do we stop worrying and start booking? 

Great question! Here is where I lean on my experience both in front, behind and alongside the camera. Very likely, you know some of these tips already, but consistently they re-surface — even in my private coaching with above the line performers!

 

Here are my tips:

 

1. YOU ARE A SOLUTION

Take a moment to understand the daily grind for Casting Directors. At times, it’s analogous to living in a maze and all they want to do is find a way out as fast as they can — and you hold the key! First and foremost, when you get an audition, do realize that you’ve already won. And won big!! Why? Because casting only has time to see about .001% of the actors who are possibly right for any role that comes available. Moreover, if you’re in a competitve market like New York, Los Angeles or London, it’s a huge win whenever you get an audition. Make the most of it! Rather than being fearful, just do your work and be a solution! Casting will appreciate you making it easier that day to get them through their MAZE of casting problems. 

 

2. THEY ARE THE H.R. DEPT.

Remember to view casting as the Human Resources division found in all companies and industries worldwide. Do know that in the United States, for example, a casting director, despite being an independent contractor most of the time, is governed by the same Labor codes as any Human Resources director. They are conducting job interviews (“auditions”) in the eyes of the governing labor entities. Be professional!

 

3. CASTING OFFICES ARE TYPICALLY OVERWHELMED

Am I repeating myself? Yes. With historical context. Virtually every casting director would agree they live a constant state of flux. When I first started out, before digital technology, the typica casting director overwhelm was the TIME it took to process their work – sorting through hundreds of black and white photos, landline phones and really slow computers. It was physically arduous. Today, despite all the technology advances and the electronic casting portals, casting is now wading through thousands of thumbnail images to fill casting times. Frustratingly, agencies and actors and clients too often wait until the last second to communicate or confirm. Just carry this with you – CASTING IS ALWAYS SWAMPED! 

 

4. CASTING DIRECTORS HAVE INSIDE INFORMATION … sometimes!

I wrote a book. Whew! Shameless plug, yes, but I bring it up because in it I have a chapter on REJECTION. In my coaching experience, actors tend to focus on not getting the job and how they’ve “been rejected.” Honestly, in most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth — most of the time. Sometimes what happens is that a casting director is given new specs for a role. I share because this has happened to me! For example, on Monday, production might be looking for a 30-something Caucasian male and by the end of the week, the role changes to an elderly Asian woman. So next time you audition, do a GREAT job and wonder why you didn’t get it? Well, what MAY have happened is they changed the man to a woman or the African-American ethnicity to Asian. Casting directors have the inside information, so relax and stop believing every time you don’t get hired is a personal affront to you. It can be harmful to your psyche.

 

5. NEVER FORGET – IT ONLY TAKES ONE

That’s right! It only takes one casting director who truly adores you, your talent, and everything about you to potentially change your career. JUST ONE. Now that does not mean you should NOT try to create a professional association with as many casting directors as you possible. Just realize that it only takes one to make a difference. Now interestingly, I started my career in Atlanta a long time ago and back then there were only a couple casting directors in the entire town. So, if that’s your circumstance, do know the “it only takes one” phrase goes both ways. No need to be scared, but be mindful as you start out. You might find that by seeing the same office over and over, you begin to build a relationship where you do get the feedback to be better — something that might not happen right away in a larger market. 

 

6. AVOID “US VS. THEM” MENTALITY

Simply put, no matter what happens, no matter how many times you audition and don’t get hired, no matter how many times your agent or manager attempts to get you an audition and the answer from casting is “no,” DO NOT MAKE the casting community your enemy in your mind. This will only serve to harm you — not them. Do not go into an audition with the subconscious thought that it is ME against THEM. I’ve discussed this too many times with coaching clients. You will lose. Your performance will suffer and it will slowly prompt casting from having any desire to see you again in the future. Be their solution, not their problem! 

 

7. CASTING DIRECTORS ARE HUMANS — NOT GODS!

This comes up repeatedly in private sessions. For whatever reason, actors put casting directors on a pedestal and it colors both their interaction, and more important, their audition with that office. Please understand both sides of the coin —casting directors have a job BUT so do you. They are people too. However, actors at times, will deify casting and put them on a pedestal. What happens? Now casting is so seemingly out of reach, the actor’s behavior in the casting office and/or their auditions are likely to be less than what they could have been because there is now a need to impress! How many times have we heard… “don’t push it!” Believe me, no “performance” is needed when you meet a casting director. Be you! Let them digest everything you’re about. For them, the only real performance you will ever need is when you hear… “Action.” Do that well and good things can happen!

 

8. RESPECTFULLY…CASTING’S POWER IS LIMITED

Meet a casting director outside their office, at a Q&A and invariably they will admit ell their “power” is very limited in today’s world. We know this. We see it happen in sports. Do all quarterbacks get to call their own plays? Sometimes, yes. Often, coaches and coordinators labor over what needs to be done situationally for every down in football and it’s their job to decide. Why? Ultimately, that’s the coach’s job and the owner says so! It’s now the same in show business. Film directors, TV Showrunners, Producers, know that it is their neck on the line when it comes to who is cast. Even though the casting directors are supporting these decision-makers in the process, often the final casting decisions are made by the casting director. Now, based on their seniority and/or their relationship with the aforementioned titles, a casting director can potentially influence who gets cast but usually it’s often for smaller roles at best. This does not diminish casting directors’ role in any way but it should help you the actor mentally and thus encourage you to expand your professional associations to production, direction, etc. 

 

CONCLUSION

I called this post “Casting Curveballs,” because casting is such a fluid part of our profession and long-term career. From my experience, the most important advice to you from everything I’ve shared above, is this statement: There are hundreds of eligible actors perfect for every role, so if you’ve been called in for an audition – you’ve already won!!! Casting directors want you to be brilliant!! By all means, BE BRILLIANT and the results will take care of themselves!