Mistakes to Avoid When Casting Your Project

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Photo Source: Unsplash courtesy Kal Visuals

So you’re going through the casting process and you’re wondering what you’ve done wrong. The applicants for your branded project or creative endeavor aren’t what you were looking for and you can’t figure out why. After you have understood how to write the perfect breakdown and taken the steps to get the best performers and generally checked all your boxes for the best ways to cast, there are still mistakes you can make that you might not realize are causing actors skip over your notice. From giving too little information to too much or making your requirements too specific, the casting experts at Backstage have some input on why you aren’t getting what you’re looking for when casting your project. Avoid these mistakes and you will see your applications turn around to create the best project possible, and when it comes time to cast, you can do it right here on Backstage.

Leaving out crucial information for performers.
Being too brief with the breakdown and not fully explaining the project and roles won’t get you the best results. —Hannah Williams, UK Casting Specialist

A common mistake in posting a notice is being too vague about the project and what you’re looking for from the actors. While there are times when confidentiality is important, if you don’t include enough information, actors may be suspicious that your project isn’t real and not apply or you may not get the actors you’re interested in because the actor can’t tell what you’re looking for. —Melinda Lowenstein, Managing Casting Editor

Checking the nudity required box and not providing any additional information. There are plenty of actors comfortable with nudity if the scene requires it, but there is a big difference between a quick shot of an actor’s legs and shoulders as they step out of the shower, versus full frontal nudity for an intimate scene. Remember: the actor has not seen your script. Make sure that pertinent information is available to them so they can decide on their suitability. This saves you from last minute dropouts, script revisions, or general miscommunication. —Katie Swabb, Casting Editor

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Or including too much.
A mistake we often see is people writing out a character’s biography. This is not what a breakdown is for. Again, it (typically) doesn’t matter that the character has blue eyes or that they are a Virgo. It’s fine to include a moment of their past if it is a reason for who that character is supposed to be in the production. Keep it on the short side! —Elijah Cornell, Casting Account Manager

Having a character description that’s so niche, people may not feel like it’s worth their time to apply. Is it really relevant to your plot that your supporting actor be 5’11.5”, have hazel eyes, a face full of freckles, and also a giant scar across his face? Maybe, but those are easily accomplished with makeup. Don’t be afraid to cast your net wide. You might find someone amazing you didn’t expect! —Gillian Heller, Casting Editor

I hate when I see someone cite a specific height for an actor. I understand if you are looking for a photo double or your DP has specific needs, but it’s not imperative a woman has to be 5’5” and 120 pounds and that a man has to be tall and a size 42R. Also, please don’t ask for nude auditions. No one professional does that, not even in the studio system. —Veronika Claghorn, Casting Account Manager

Requiring demo reels from actors for minor and/or unpaid roles. Often, the kinds of actors who are interested in these types of roles are trying to get their foot in the door and gain more onset experience. Those that already have enough footage together are unlikely to be seeking these roles, unless the filmmaker is already well established. —Katie Swabb, Casting Editor

Giving a tiny age range for adult characters. For kids that makes sense, but we’ll believe adult actors at a larger range of ages. Giving yourself a tiny age range will give you a tiny group of actors to choose from. —Christina Kleppinger, L.A. Casting Specialist

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Not crossing and dotting.
Notices with lots of spelling and grammatical errors will deter actors. If you don’t pay attention to the details, people will lose confidence in the success of the final project. Small errors add up to large ones. —Lisa Hamil, Casting Editor

Know the difference between union and nonunion performers. Members of SAG-AFTRA or Equity cannot work on nonunion projects, so be careful not to accept submissions from union performers if your project is not operating under a union contract. —Katie Swabb, Casting Editor

Leaving too much or too little time to cast.
Timing. Notices for projects shooting in six months can get overlooked, and rush calls for projects shooting the next day can yield less than desirable results. We know things happen, but plan your casting call to launch a month to six weeks before shooting is scheduled. —Dan Gelb, Casting Editor 

Lying about pay.
Transparency about pay is important: don’t mark a project as paid if you do not currently have a budget for it or if pay is dependent on crowdfunding. —Katie Swabb, Casting Editor

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