7 Tips for Interacting With Casting Directors

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Photo Source: Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

As a casting director, I’m constantly meeting and communicating with actors. I very much enjoy these interactions; my admiration for actors has sustained me during three decades in the entertainment business. Yet, as with any human interaction, one should observe etiquette and respect boundaries. We’re all in this together, and there are not “us” vs. “them” divisions, but here are some tips and suggestions of what to do and what not to do. It’s always better to err on the side of restraint, and a lack of presumption.

1. Don’t email a casting director—unless he is a good friend—on a weekend. I often get unsolicited emails from actors who send me their reels on weekends. I’ve also gotten emails from actors I don’t know, asking me to look at their headshot proofs (and they attach them). This is rather presumptuous, especially on a weekend, when all of us need time to regroup, recharge, and detach from work whenever possible.

2. If you do email a casting director (on a weekday!), please make sure you spell her name correctly, and also check for spelling errors in the body of an email. It is so apparent when an actor is sending out a form letter to many casting directors. And additionally, any correspondence that’s riddled with errors doesn’t get taken seriously.

3. When you encounter a casting director in a social situation, or outside of an audition situation, don’t begin or end the conversation with, or put this sentence anywhere in the middle: “You didn’t call me back for the last project I saw you on.”

4. Warmth and friendliness are always welcome, but if you hardly know the casting director, don’t embrace her or kiss her, however innocently. However well-meaning or non-sexual the gesture is on your part, it’s not appropriate. An actor I hardly know recently kissed me on the lips when we met in the street, and I was rather uncomfortable, to say the least. If in doubt, just extend your hand.

5. Don’t bombard the casting director’s office with phone calls and mail. It’s wonderful to write a thoughtful, smart note or letter, but don’t send headshots, postcards, etc., more than every so often. Casting directors can barely get their heads above giant piles of mail, both of the snail and virtual variety.

6. In a conversation with a casting director, don’t just talk about you, your career, your problems with your agent, and your last or current job. A conversation is a like a good tennis game: an enjoyable, lively give and take. Taking the time to listen and be interested in another person is invaluable, and it shows that one has excellent manners, too.

7. If you’re new to acting, or think you’d want to act, don’t email casting directors you don’t know and ask them how you can get an agent. That is premature and not at all productive. Most casting directors are terrifically supportive and loyal to actors, but you must first have great work to show them before asking them to suggest representation. Priorities first: Focus on becoming the best actor you can be, and then you can take further career steps.

Everyone is busy, pressed for time, and usually, in our business, working under tight deadlines. Be mindful and respectful of that; be friendly, but not overly forward, or impervious to the fact that casting directors and other professionals need some time of their own to rest and regroup.

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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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Ilene Starger
Ilene Starger has been a casting director in New York and Los Angeles for nearly 30 years and was the vice president of casting for Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures.Starger is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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