Casting is an extremely competitive and creative field that can be very rewarding.
In order to do their jobs well, Casting Directors draw on years of experience during which they’ve developed instincts, taste, and an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of acting and of actors. Casting requires a terrific memory, an intuitive understanding of psychology, a distinct artistic perspective, and – of course – a complex grasp of the core subject: the many different local, national and international actors out there.
It takes time to build your knowledge base and to develop contacts, which is why the most common path into casting usually begins with a job as a Casting Assistant. Experienced Assistants sometimes move up to become Casting Associates and, from there, some make the move to Casting Director.
Casting offices can be busy, fast-paced, and sometimes stressful places. A good Assistant is efficient, organized, a great communicator, tactful and respectful to people at all levels. Most importantly they are willing to pitch in and do whatever is required to get the job done.
Each office has its own way of working, but generally Assistants’ and Associates’ work will consist of taking calls and emails from agents and managers, doing availability checks, setting up casting sessions, running the camera, uploading auditions, typing deal memos and contracts – while keeping calm under stress, and generally being as helpful as possible. The hours can be long, all for entry-level pay and usually no overtime. As with most industry careers, the job is finished when the work is done; this is not a 9 to 5 endeavor.
So, how do you gain the experience and knowledge required to be a good, hirable candidate for an assistant position? A love of actors and acting, along with a voracious appetite for their work (on stage, in films, television or online) is a great place to start. The more you see, the more you begin to develop a sense of what makes something work, and what moves you, interests you or makes you laugh.
You might try working for a theatrical agent or manager, where you will learn how the business works, who the Casting Directors are, what areas they specialize in, and perhaps who is looking to add to their staff. Moving over from another area of the industry, like film or TV production, is another common path. All routes have one thing in common: before applying for a casting job you will need to know something of how the industry operates and have a fair understanding of the role a Casting Director plays.
Like many creative professions, it is not imperative to have a college degree. Some people do, some people don’t. What’s important is that you have a passion for what you do and a hunger to learn the skills which will make you successful in this field, which marries the technical with the creative. Like most professions within the arts, casting can be overcrowded, so a real commitment and determination is also helpful.
A note for actors: although a background in acting can be very useful, it’s important to understand that a Casting Assistant job is full-time with almost no flexibility so it’s usually not possible to pursue acting at the same time you’re working in casting.
Getting an interview is often by word of mouth. Cold calling or emailing randomly for a casting job with no previous experience in the business is unlikely to get you an interview. Your own interest in the field can help propel you into the company of people already working, whether your preferred area is in theatre, film or TV.
And for those who feel they are ready to start applying for work in casting you can sign up to register as an Assistant/other entry level support staff at the bottom of this page.
The good news: it’s never too late to start a career in casting. A number of the most successful casting directors have come to the field long after college. But for those of college age, some universities have recently begun to educate students about our profession. See below to learn more about the Tepper Program at Syracuse University, a recently-created, semester-long immersion program designed to provide students with rigorous training in the craft.
Lastly, be aware, this is largely a free-lance profession – work comes and goes, so you should be prepared for the feast and famine cycle of free-lance work. But we also believe that, for those well-suited, you are not likely to find a more fulfilling, unpredictable and FUN job out there. For those who work hard and succeed, you will have a strong voice in the creative process and a clear impact on the films, television and theatre you help bring to fruition.
Tepper Semester Overview
The Tepper Semester program of the Department of Drama at Syracuse University and the Casting Society of America have partnered to create the first-ever Casting Concentration Curriculum, launched in the Spring of 2012. The program will continue in Spring 2013 and the selection of the students is currently underway.
The semester-long immersion program is designed to provide students with a rigorous training in the craft of Casting. The program, designed by the New York CSA Community Outreach Committee and Lisa Nicholas (Director of the Tepper Semester) is a joint effort to maintain a high standard of professionalism and artistic integrity within the field. Since there is no formal degree for casting directors, the program will provide students the training they need to be prepared to enter the profession. The program has three important components; key core courses with fellow Tepper students, an apprenticeship with leading casting directors, and mentorship by CSA Outreach Committee members. When the students finish the semester, they will have been trained to be an immediate asset to any casting office.
Breakdown Services Founder, Gary Marsh, heard of the program at last year's Artios. Thinking it would be be a terrific way to give back to the casting community, he has very generously set up a scholarship program specifically to support students training in the Casting Director field until 2017. Gary, we thank you!
For more information on the training and the Tepper Semester, go to www.teppersemester.com.