What to Know About Getting Cast in a European Production

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Photo Source: Raquel Aparicio

In the U.S. and U.K., casting is an established profession with guilds and other organizations to ensure standard practice. And while the entertainment industry is recognizing the work of casting directors more and more, in European countries like Italy, professional protocols such as the ones determined by the U.S. and U.K. guilds are hard to find. Different cultures, histories, and governments influence the differences in filmmaking, casting, and acting, and unfair or potentially unsafe practices often go unchecked. That’s where the International Casting Directors Network comes in. Now consisting of 90 members from 26 countries, the organization works to create safe, fair processes for casting globally and to spread awareness about everything from what a CD does to why casting directors should not be called “casting agents.” Italy-based CD Beatrice Kruger, a member of CSA who has worked on projects like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and a number of James Bond films, is the chairperson of the organization; she recently spoke with Backstage about what European actors need to know about the international network.

What does it mean for someone to be part of ICDN?
In general, it signals that you’ve got some kind of standard or proof of the way you work. In the industry, people know what the CSA is, and people in Europe are getting to know what the ICDN is. It creates an opportunity to speak about what the job of a casting director is. People assume we just give advice [about] who could be good and who could be better for a role, but there’s so much more to it. When people understand what the job of a CD is, they want to collaborate on their next project, and that’s how you get the ball rolling. It’s a beginning step compared to where our profession stands in the U.S. or U.K.

What are the similarities and differences between the ICDN and organizations like CSA?
The difference is that the CSA is a much older organization and is completely acknowledged. They don’t need to prove anything to anybody. They have their awards, and it was a great achievement to establish a casting directors branch of the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]. That opened the door for CDs from all countries, so that’s the difference. America is the cheerleader, and rightly so because they’ve put so much energy and work into it for such a long time. We still have members who call themselves casting agents, and we have to say, “You can’t do that, because you’re giving the wrong signal.” It’s just not right. Everybody negotiates differently, but I think being aware of Equity laws and SAG laws is important; here, people are not, or at least not as much as they should be.

READ: How to Audition Internationally

What have you learned working with CDs from other countries?
The differences are tied to the mentality of the country. For instance, actors in Germany have to have new show reels every year. For Italy, it’s only been a thing to have show reels for a couple of years. Insofar as what our job is, it’s our job to search and find the right people and have a good relationship with a director to understand his vision; that’s the same all over the world. Everything that belongs to the job changes in other countries because basic things like negotiating deal memos don’t happen outside of England in Europe. Until eight or 10 years ago, it was not even a notion that CDs could ever be heads of a department in many countries, so I’ve learned how the different countries impact how casting is done. 

Why is International Casting Directors Network important?
It evolved out of CDs meeting at the Berlinale International Film Festival in the ’90s. We went to see foreign actors—that’s why we used to invest in these foreign festivals—but the internationality of casting is very recent. One of the first films big international films I did was “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and they were very progressive because they actually wanted Italian actors. Before, they would take anyone and go for the look, but with the VOD platforms, there’s a chance for them to be discovered, and people are more open to discovering them and productions in these European countries are now growing.

If an Italian actor wanted to get work in the U.K. or U.S., what would you tell them?
If [they’re looking at] America, CDs won’t even consider actors that don’t have a permit to work in the country. The moment when they have a film that’s airing in the States, like at a festival, they have to take advantage of that opportunity. Even if it’s small, you never know. Then, at the same time, of course, learn English. The better one learns to speak English, the more options they are going to have. The actor should know that the lighter the accent, the more power you have to play around with it. It’s always easier to play a stronger accent. The acting is the same. I think the only difference is between theater and film really. It’s about profession. It’s your job to never stop learning.

READ: How to Avoid Getting Into a Shady Casting Situation

What advice do you have for actors?
I always remind everybody that the minute you’re invited to an audition and you have your appointment and you’re sitting outside, instead of loading yourself with negative thoughts, like that you won’t get it, be aware that when you’re called in, that could be the moment you get the most attention you’ve ever gotten from a CD. We’re sitting there looking for the right person for that role and we’re curious about you and we look at you. We don’t look at you if you come in saying, “I got the lines only last night.” Even if that’s true, and it’s often the case, don’t say that. Get away from this victimizing thing. There’s a lot of self-awareness in the end that you have to learn, but it’s also good because it helps with most characters, and the richness that you can then offer is also rewarding.

What should actors know about auditioning for you?
I do auditions myself because I’m an actor. I don’t act anymore, but I’m an actor, so I use everything that I ever learned as an actor in casting. I always give the lines, and that’s something I like to do. The actors appreciate that very much, they feel they’re working with someone who knows what it’s about and that helps make them feel good and to relax. Very often, CDs have assistants who don’t know how to give lines, they just read. It’s bad that on many self-tapes, actors don’t make sure they have a colleague to give the lines. You’re depriving yourself of that wonderful situation of reacting, of being real. Agents will say, just present yourself, and then it becomes this boring sales speech. It’s embarrassing; nobody can do that. I always ask people to tape and talk about something they’re passionate about so instead of a sales speech, a director can see the actor in a real way.

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Elyse Roth
Elyse is a senior editor at Backstage, where she oversees all casting news and features content, including her weekly casting director Q&A series, In the Room. She came to New York from Ohio by way of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism, and now lives in Brooklyn. She might see and write about awards-worthy films, but Elyse still thinks “Legally Blonde” is a perfect movie and on any given night is probably taking in some kind of entertainment, whether it’s comedy, theater, ballet, or figuring out what show to binge next.
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