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Note From the CD

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Casting Director-Agent-Manager Relationship

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Casting Director-Agent-Manager Relationship
Photo Source: Nick Bertozzi

This week’s article is dedicated to the agents and managers who help us along the way to casting the perfect actor. 

While the phrase “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” usually applies to an actor’s career, casting a pilot is more like running at breakneck speed with 20-pound weights on each arm and leg. Imagine you’re a painter, for instance, and you’re told to create something beautiful, timeless, and inspiring. Then the people who hired you set up a stopwatch and yell, “Go! You’ve got eight weeks!” 

To cast a pilot, I’ve got to work at the speed of light, and not only come up with stellar and creative ideas to fill a series regular slot but then to get those actors to show up in my office for this project rather than in someone else’s office for another. After that, I have to get about a dozen people (sometimes many more) to agree on testing and ultimately casting that actor in our show.

READ: How to make the Agent-Client Relationship Work

Casting directors need talented and professional agents and managers as much as they need us. I beseech you: Help us help you! To simplify the process, a few friendly pointers:

We understand that your client needs as much time as possible to prepare for their upcoming audition. To that end, we take great pains to send them the audition as soon as we have the material and a time slot. We want them to come in off-book and fully prepared, so it’s disappointing to find out that your assistant waited until 6:30 p.m. to call a client about an appointment happening at 9 a.m. the following day. Those are valuable hours they could’ve used to prep, get coaching, learn their lines, and fully get into character. I understand you’re busy all day, but maybe there’s a workaround?

READ: 38 Famous Actors’ Audition Prep Tricks

When we write in big capital letters to bring a hard copy of your picture and résumé, we are not kidding. Even though most aspects of our business have gone digital, we still need them. When I or my director can easily glance down during the meeting and see that your client had a supporting role in “Boyhood” and worked on that film for 12 years, that’s very interesting to talk about. We love to hear those stories. It’s not casting’s job to print it for them. Would you ask us to print your client’s business cards for them?

We appreciate the agents who actually read the script (not just the breakdown) and send us well thought-out ideas for potential castings outside the usual “laundry list.” 

When we post a casting notice to a website, it’s worth noting that we go through each submission very carefully. Those submitted both online and via email by several agents from one office, for example, and two or three managers from another—for the same client—can double, triple, even quadruple our work (the kicker being that we don’t know who you submitted online and if they’re different from who you’re submitting over email). This is on top of the thousands of other submissions for each role that I and my staff go through. Time-consuming? You betcha. Please stick to one method!

Finally, while I truly admire a rep’s enthusiasm about a client, the credibility starts to dwindle when the submission subject line reads: “Excellent actor—he’s perfect for this!” for every actor she submits. After about a dozen of these submissions (that are truly not very good), I have no choice but to ignore them.

Moral of the story: A team effort between casting directors, agents, and managers is crucial. One cannot work without the others.

Known for her work in film and television, producer and casting director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story,” “Poltergeist,”  “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial,”  “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and “Blade Runner.” After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose,” “St. Elmo's Fire,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Iron Giant,” “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday,” “Mean Girls,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Vampire Academy,” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well, and the upcoming film "Magic Camp.".

Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned an online course available at Udemy entitled "How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp." Visit Liroff online at marciliroff.com, follow her on Twitter @marciliroff and Facebook, and watch her advice videos on YouTube. You can also read her blog.

Inspired? Check out Backstage’s Los Angeles audition listings!

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