The Casting Couch

I am now an experienced Casting Director – and it’s nowhere near as glamorous as it seemed to be in the heyday of Hollywood!

Having been showered with praise for the amazing casting on Mr King, I was appointed Casting Director for 3 films being made simultaneously. This taught me so much – but not in the way I expected.

First, I’ll recap on the casting process for Mr. King:

  • I posted details of the project on Spotlight and checked this and emails regularly for actors to indicate their interest and make contact;
  • I did a quick visual check and shortlisted actors with showreels;
  • if there were not enough suitable candidates with showreels, I searched the actor’s bio for relevant experience;
  • I shortlisted the actors and passed the list to the Director for discussion.

Depending on the Director’s feedback/discussions, actors may be asked to attend an audition or provide a reading of a few lines from the script. Eventually, there will be face-to-face auditions and maybe call-backs, then the selected actors will be offered the roles.

For short films with a tight budget, it isn’t unusual to rehearse with the actors for an hour before filming starts.

Considerable effort went into watching showreels, reviewing each bio and corresponding with applicants to ensure that the most suitable actors were short-listed for the roles, resulting in a high quality performance from the whole cast and crew.

By contrast, trying to apply the same quality guidelines across three films with three separate production teams was an eye-opener. I’ll admit that I wasn’t prepared for varying disciplines within each team.

I posted the projects on Spotlight for all three short films, spent several hours shortlisting the actors and then…

Team 1: On the day I was due to submit the shortlist, the production team sent me their shortlist of actors to contact, which someone else – possibly the 1st AD as it is often part of their remit – had prepared.

Team 2: Similarly, two of us were shortlisting actors. There were some additional issues on this project caused by missed communications and available turnaround time.

Clearly, the team roles were not so clearly defined as I had assumed as, for two of the films, there were at least two people working independently on the same task.

Team 3: I had worked closely and successfully with the 1st AD on a previous project. We understood each of our responsibilities and kept each other informed of our actions. Casting throughout pre-production on this project worked efficiently and effectively.

Some really important lessons here – nothing new but stuff that gets overlooked when your brain is overloaded with a number of things:

  • Consider how much time is required to do three jobs well, compared with one job, in the same timescale – is it manageable?
  • Efficient teamwork requires clearly defined responsibilities;
  • Communication is critical – don’t make assumptions!

& be a leader, not a boss.