7 Highlights From the Casting Directors Roundtable
For the first time this year, The Hollywood Reporter opened its Roundtables to two more categories: the Documentarians and the Casting Directors, which is not only a great news, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the overall filmmaking process. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and even if you go on taking all the hats possible you will need to involve other people.
It is now understood that films are not limited to the director, the cinematographer and the actors but, ironically, the Industry itself still has a hard time acknowledging that Casting Directors are key actors in making a movie. Casting is one of the few field that does not have an Oscar attached to it. Because it is disregarded, we know very little about the casting process and what casting directors do.
Thanks to the THR Roundtable Juliet Taylor, Ellen Lewis, Patricia DiCerto, Laura Rosenthal and Jennifer Euston talk about their art and craft and explain how, just like an editor, a cinematographer, a costume designer or a producer, a casting director bring creative and business inputs to the table. Here are some of the highlights:
1 – Lessons Learned From Juliet Taylor
If you watch the full roundtable you will quickly realize that Lewis, DiCerto, Euston and Rosenthal started working for Juliet Taylor before becoming independent and building a name for themselves. Juliet Taylor herself learned her arms with Marion Dougherty, the infamous casting director that fought for their work to be recognized and who is at the center of the 2013 documentary Casting By.
Out of the many things they learned from Taylor, there are two lessons that have become constants in the way they work:
- Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.
- Give the actor as many information as you can regarding the director, the character, the film etc.
2 – On the Influence of Technology on the Casting Process
The way casting directors handle auditions and personal work hasn’t changed much and follows a tradition based on pen, paper and human relationships. What has change though is the size of the playground and the speediness of the process. Casting Directors can find talents thanks to the Internet and receive material from actors wherever they are, which makes it that much more exciting of a process. But even if it is easier and faster today to record a tape and email it, a casting director will unlikely consider unsolicited auditions. As Laura Rosenthal puts it: ‘It’s like showing up for an audition without an appointment.’
3 – Two Things Casting Directors Do And People Are Rarely Aware Of
A Casting Director’s task is not limited to audition actors and make suggestions to the filmmaker and producer. Far from it. If casting directors do casting, they have to do it within a budget constrain, which means that the way they build their list is made out of balancing wishes, hopes and a very real money factor. They are also in charge of all the agreements, that is, negotiating and scheduling actors. As a consequence, casting directors will work very closely with producers.
4 – The Qualities You Need to Become a Good Casting Director
Casting Directors are the Actors’ champions. Besides having to rely heavily on instinct, being able to multi-task, not being afraid to ask a lot of questions and being nurturing, Juliet Taylor points out that you also need to be able to enjoy people that might not be very likable. You need to be able to see through someone’s personality and value their talent as opposed to their qualities as a human being.
5 – The Difference Between Casting for Indies and Studios
According to this table of Casting Directors, whether you cast for indie films or huge studios productions, you have to juggle with the same parameters: What is your audience?, Who’s going to come and see it?, What is the value factor?
Patricia DiCerto explains how each actor has a number associated to its name, and that numbers will have an impact on the last decision, especially with the Overseas deals being a strong part of an overall deal now: “One of the challenges in Independent Filmmaking these days is that you think you have an actor that is about to break, and this actor is fantastic and you should absolutely get them in your movie, but that person only means $300,000. (…) It is as if you were casting for a budget as opposed to casting for a film.”
6 – What Actors Should Never Do During An Audition
If you are an actor auditioning with a casting directors, here are a few things they recommend you to avoid:
- Never touch a casting director. Shake their hands at the beginning if they invite you to do so, but that’s about it. Don’t go method actor on them.
- Be ready. Don’t ask to ‘take a moment’ once you’ve entered the room to audition.
- Don’t make drastic changes, whether physical or in your acting between two auditions. If the casting director liked your audition and is setting up a meeting with a director, don’t come with full make-up and a shaved head.
7 – Internships Matter
You might have a thing for casting, but it is not a craft you can learn on your own. One point I found particularly interesting is that all the casting directors agreed on the importance of interning to have time to sit, look and listen. After the wave of law-suits from unpaid interns, small companies rarely can afford offering internships and that’s the case of many casting offices. So here, if you are planning to become a casting director, you might want to start thinking about your options to gain on field experience.
Take 55 and watch the full roundtable, it is worth it and such a pleasure to hear about a lesser known field in filmmaking:
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check the archives for a taste of it.