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"real" people - pinocchio real boyWhat’s up with “real” people casting calls?

During our January seminar in Los Angeles, the subject of “real people” casting came up. As budgets shrink and more and more productions shift to non-union, casting calls for “real” people seem to be everywhere. What does that mean for you as an actor?

There’s a reason we put “real” in quotes. First off, you are all REAL people. Don’t let the role descriptions trick you into thinking that “real” person unequivocally equals non-actor. Sometimes projects will call for real doctors or dentists or medication users etcetera for legal reasons. If that’s the case, please do not submit unless you actually have the license, credentials, or condition the casting director is looking for. But what about a casting call looking for real skateboarders or real estheticians or real anything you could be in addition to being an actor? Submit! If you have been skateboarding since you could walk and can perform that skill at the level requested, don’t assume that you won’t book the job because you’re an actor. In these instances, you’ll have an edge over the people being pulled in to audition off the street. You know how to read a breakdown. You know what to expect in auditions and callbacks. You’re comfortable on camera and on set. All of these things make you more bookable than someone lacking that experience.

Back when I worked in casting, we had a job casting “real” people for a non-union PSA. We needed to find women and children of several different nationalities. Do the clients what the real thing? Of course they do. But when it’s a non-speaking role in a commercial or print ad, are they going to know if you were actually born in South Korea or simply look like you could have been born in South Korea? No. In this instance, as with most advertisements, the clients were going for a certain look that would convey their message and promote their organization. (So what if the last three generations of your family were born right here in the States.) We did do a lot of street casting and flyer posting in local communities around Los Angeles to find “real” people, but we also brought in a whole slough of actors who submitted on Casting Networks. In the end, a few non-actors booked some roles, but the majority went to actors.

Sometimes it’s as simple as casting needing “real” pet owners or “real” *insert auto manufacturer here* drivers. Can you be both a car owner and an actor? Of course you can. If you fit the role description in its entirety, submit. Always submit when you fit.** Auditioning is like dating; it’s a numbers game. The more you get out there, the better your chances are of finding a match.


**Disclaimer – always submit when you fit AND are willing to work for the posted rate, are available for shoot dates, have no conflicts, and have discussed the project with your agent (if you have one).


Erin Jennings is a human person with bangs. She used to work in casting, and was abducted by Casting Networks in 2010.