3 Facts You May Not Know About Casting, According to a Casting Director

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There’s no reason actors would know these three things about the casting process. Unless you work in casting, you wouldn’t even think of them. But they’re impacting your career and progress, nonetheless. Here they are:

You’re Not Getting All the Breakdowns
With the incredible online tools we use for casting, we can choose exactly who sees our casting breakdowns. For some roles, we don’t even need to put out a breakdown. We already know who we want for a role and just offer it to them. If they pass or can’t do it, we go to our next favorite choice on the list. You have no chance of booking those roles unless you’re on it.

When we do put out a breakdown, we can choose to release it only to agents and managers and also specific ones. If your reps aren’t on our favorites list, they’ll never know we were casting. Who is and isn’t on our lists depends on an agency’s reputation, roster, specialties, and our relationship with them.

If you, the actor, see a casting breakdown online and can submit on it, it’s because we opened the job or role up for public submissions. We know, going in, it’s going to be a nightmare of wading through thousands of mostly unprofessional photos, reels, and résumés to find what we’re looking for, but for some jobs we just need to cast a wider net to find new faces or something specific that we couldn’t get enough options for from reps.

Some agencies and managers are known for being very professional, available and responsive to our needs, targeted in their submissions, and having great talent on their roster. Obviously, if you and I were casting something, we’d want to work with reps like that instead of ones who are lazy, rude, and submit their whole roster on every role hoping to get lucky. Sometimes we have no choice, though, because an actor we want is repped by a bunghole.

Public submissions are like those of the worst reps: Actors just submitting themselves on everything, even if they’re the wrong type, race, or gender, just hoping, sometimes begging, for an audition. You wouldn’t want to deal with that either unless absolutely necessary.

We Choose What to Show to Our Clients
Just because you came in doesn’t mean your tape will be seen. And just because you messed up a take doesn’t mean you blew your chances.

Casting exists to help our clients find the right person for a role. If you come in and you or your work isn’t right, in our subjective opinion we’re under no obligation to present it. If you come in and we think you’re a great fit for the role, it doesn’t matter if you botched every take in some way—we will still pass your tape along and you could still book it. Usually, we’ll only keep your best takes anyway. We want us both to look good.

Auditioning is not about perfection. It’s about finding great options for a role. Period. So stop worrying about little flubs. It doesn’t matter. Unless, of course, your work betrays that you can’t handle the requirements of the job, like being able to act, handle lots of complex copy, or taking specific and necessary direction.

You can safely assume that your work won’t be passed along to the client unless we think it is a worthy option.

We Don’t Choose Who Books—the Client Does
Remember, casting directors are hired to secure or find great options for a client’s project. Whether it’s a commercial or theatrical project, the client makes the final decision, be it the showrunner, director, producers, or network or client company executives. The casting director directs the casting process and presents their clients with options. The CD weighs in on casting choices, but cannot dictate.

The fact that you were called in for an audition means the CD is already on your side. They chose to bring you in and that’s all they can do. The rest is in your hands to do great work, and the clients’ hands to choose who to hire.

So when building a team, work with great reps in hopes they’ll be on more of our favorites lists. Focus on doing your best work in the room, and let the chips fall where they may.

(By the way, Westside Acting Studio is proud to announce that both Jolene Kay and Reece Rios, top commercial session directors in L.A. are now teaching their own amazing commercial workshops alongside mine. Check them out. And casting director/associate Natalie Ballesteros Cohen (Narcos, East Los High) just launched an ongoing TV/film acting class with us as well, one of the few friendly to native-Spanish-speaking actors.)

Ready to keep all this in mind for your next audition? Check out Backstage's movie audition listings! And for more audition advice, watch the video below!

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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Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
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