19 Things Casting Directors Want You to Know

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I recently attended a social function for industry folks. I was having a great time hanging out with other managers, agents, and casting directors, when I was cornered by two prominent casting directors with very serious looks on their faces. Knowing that I write a monthly column for Backstage, they came to me with a special request: publish a list of what casting directors really want you to know. The real deal, the down and dirty—as long as they could stay anonymous. Covertly handing me the list you’re about to read, the CDs melted back into the crowd. So here is their list.

  1. Be completely off-book when you attend a callback. You embarrass us in front of our clients when you show up and still do not have the material memorized.
  2. Keep your clothes on and the perfume off. If the role calls for a nude scene, it will be done on set. Not in my office. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Don't loiter. When your audition is over, please leave. We're not besties and I don't want you hanging out in the waiting room.
  4. Go through the proper channels when submitting. If you have an agent, they will submit. I don't want to see you tweeting the director. I see all the tweets.
  5. Don't question whether you are right for a project. If I am calling you in, I have spoken to the director, I have seen your material, and I think that you have a chance at the role. I won't call you in to waste your time or mine. Go and be prepared.
  6. Be respectful. Even if you are having a crappy day, put a smile on your face and be pleasant to me.
  7. Thank casting when you get a booking. We like to be appreciated too!
  8. Book-out. Your agents and managers are submitting you. We give you a time and are then surprised to hear that you are out of town. You're wasting everyone's time and making nobody happy.
  9. Don't say that you can do something you can't. Make sure that all your performance skills are up to date on your profiles, but don't lie or exaggerate them.
  10. Never tell anyone your age if you're an adult even if the CD asks. If you're an adult, it only matters how old you play in the room. You could look far younger than your years or you could look far older than your years. If we know your actual age it skews how we may see your audition in relation to the age range for which we're casting.
  11. Never criticize the writing of a project in front of the writer or director or producer of the project or tell the creatives how you see the character after you've been giving an adjustment. It's good to have made a strong choice performance wise, but the creatives know better than you about the role because one or more of them have probably written it and toiled over each and every line.
  12. Ask questions about the material if you are unsure about something! I'm confused about this line, does it mean this? Is it OK if I use a prop or have a little movement here? Do you want me to mime this or skip over the stage direction? Only ask questions if you need clarity.
  13. If you're really not into the material, please let your rep know that you're passing and why. It's better to pass on something you don't feel passionate about than go to the audition and purposefully tank it so you don't book the gig.
  14. If you need more time with the material, it's OK to ask for a reschedule or for the opportunity to self-tape if it's a rush call. Better to do your best and be prepared than to go in and try to wing it in the audition room.
  15. Be flexible and loose; if you're too inflexible because you've rehearsed the material a set way on your own, you won't be open to adjustments.
  16. If you ask for feedback, be open to receiving it. It's not productive to ask CDs their thoughts and, when we give helpful notes, argue with us. We're trying to be constructive and help, not hurt you.
  17. Don't maul or inappropriately touch the reader, even if it's written in the script. Ever!
  18. If you have a bad reader, get over it. Just do your best and focus on your performance. Many readers who aren't actors are not going to be at a Shakespearean level when you audition, so don't expect them to be or get mad when they're not or if they mess up the lines or miss cues.
  19. Invest in researching relaxation techniques so that you can overcome any nervousness previous to your entering the audition room.

Put this new knowledge to work at your next audition by browsing our film audition listings! And watch the video below for more casting director advice!

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.

Jackie Reid
Jackie Reid owns and operates L’il Angels Unlimited, a talent management company, which specializes in placing young actors in films, theater productions, commercials, print media, on television, and with voiceover work. Reid works extensively with agents in New York and L.A.