Casting Directors Are Not the Gatekeepers to Your Success

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Photo Source: Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Casting directors have a tough job, one that takes talent, patience, and stamina. They are some of the most gifted and under-praised members of our industry. Through their wisdom and shrewd instincts, they have shaped some of our most beloved films and television shows.

But while casting directors are integral to the process of making great works of film or TV, they do not make final casting decisions. That is the job of the producers, writers, and directors. A fallacy that has so deeply infiltrated itself into the collective consciousness of the actor is that pleasing CDs is the magic pill for launching an acting career. This couldn’t be more untrue.

I blame CD-run workshops/classes—fundamentally flawed gatherings in that they paint the casting director as superior to the actor—for propagating the myth. But this couldn’t be further from reality when it comes to how things actually work in the industry.

When a professional actor wants to meet and build a new relationship with a casting director, they schedule a general meeting. They don’t do casting director workshops or classes. Yes, “generals” with casting directors (and producers, writers, directors) are still alive and well and happen regularly throughout the industry—they’re how actors can actually compete for many major film/TV roles before they even go to casting.

A general meeting is a scheduled meeting between actor and casting director where both parties are on level ground. First and foremost, it’s really an exciting opportunity to meet and connect as human beings. Generals offer a more respectful (to the actor) and professional way of meeting and building lasting relationships with these industry professionals.

While I don’t care to comment on the credibility, experience, or real love of the craft that these casting-director-cum-teachers may or may not have, they are able to readily pull students from a pool of actors who will simply study with them in hopes of getting cast. Taking an acting class or workshop with a CD because you think he/she is going to launch your career or actually cast you is like spending your hard earned money at a casino. The golden rule in Las Vegas also applies here: no matter how big the promise of riches, the house always wins and you’re only paying to play.

READ: Pay-to-Play Workshops Dealt Blow by L.A. City Attorney

I’ve even noticed a trend of some agents and managers sending their clients to “study” acting with casting directors. This is a prime example of agents and managers doing a massive disservice to their clients. Rather than studying at a reputable school that can actually help them hone the craft and achieve meaningful, regular breakthroughs, these industry reps send them off with the hopes that they’ll win a lottery that will always be stacked against them and that’s never winnable.

The biggest problem with these CD-run classes and workshops is that there are often ulterior motives that poison the well. Most actors in these classes want something from their casting director-teacher. They want to be called in for a role and they want to book that role. They believe that the casting director-teacher has the power to make that happen and can grant or withhold such a desire at will. Thus, all craft development gets cast aside and the entire class experience revolves around pleasing the teacher. This is a major red flag. Being a part of any acting class where the primary goal is to please the teacher is like signing up for stunted development.

Instead of spending hard-earned money, time, and patience on industry professionals who ultimately can’t advance your career, why not reach out to directors, writers, and producers and maintain relationships with them? Not only do professionals, like writers, not receive enough recognition, they are also likely to be more open to meeting actors and building relationships with them, as they’re not so besieged by actors trying to get their attention all the time. The same goes for indie directors. Making an effort to meet indie directors whose careers are on an upward trajectory is a wise idea: they want to meet new faces and they won’t have the hang-ups and barriers present that other industry players may have.

Casting directors are an important alliance but they’re not the jackpot they may seem to be. Using your common sense, not checking your power at the door, and finding off-the-beaten-track methods for opening industry doors are definitely the best way to get ahead in this business.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Joseph Pearlman
Joseph Pearlman is a celebrity and on-set acting coach for Hollywood’s top actors, musicians, and comedians. He works with clients such as Zooey Deschanel, Skylar Grey, Michael Welch, and Julian Sands, and he also coaches presenters for all the major award ceremonies. Pearlman Acting Academy was voted the best acting studio in Los Angeles by the Backstage Readers’ Choice Awards.
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