An Inside Look at the Casting Process

Photo Source: Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Many people have asked me lately, “How does the casting process work?” Actors are always curious about what goes on behind closed doors, so here is my attempt to clarify the process for you.

First, we get the specs required from our client. Let’s take a female and male, age 20s-30s, all ethnicities, and great with copy, as an example. We take these specs and put them out on a breakdown—which is where you might see them on Backstage.com.

After the breakdown goes out, there are many submissions from agents and, if the breakdown is posted on a casting site like Backstage, actors as well. Then it’s decision time: who gets an audition? Here is what I do.

To start, I schedule the actors I already know are great with copy. Then, I always like to give new talent or talent I don’t know an opportunity. However, I need to see some kind of video reel of the person’s work. Résumés don’t mean a thing since anyone can make up credits on a piece of paper. I want to see video footage. However, there are rare occasions that I will schedule someone I don’t know based on their headshot and résumés—it does happen.

Next comes the audition. You come in, do your best, and you leave. At the end of the day, I send the session to my clients to review. Actors have always asked, “Do you take actors off your session?” The answer is yes, sometimes. I have to. If I’m giving someone a chance to audition for me and they give a poor performance and cannot take the direction I give, I have to take them off. My clients hire me for my knowledge and eye for the best talent for their project. For the most part, though, it’s rare that I have to take someone off my session.

After the clients—producers and director—have reviewed the session, they tell me who their selects are. If there is a callback session, I schedule their selects to come in again to audition and maybe get some additional direction from the director. Then when the callback is over, the actors leave.

Who books the job? Who makes the decision? Here lies the biggest misconception. Casting directors do not make the booking decisions. The producers and director narrow down their selects from the call-back and choose a first and second choice to present to their client. And then, they all make the decision who finally books the job.

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Ken Lazer
Ken Lazer is a seasoned veteran in the business and has been working for the past 23-plus years as a widely sought after New York City and Los Angeles casting director. His experience and credentials have made him an invaluable commodity to ad agencies and production companies over the past two decades, successfully casting thousands of commercials, voiceovers, industrials, real people, beauty ads, feature films, TV shows, reality TV, print ads, and infomercials.
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