by Casting Director, Terry Berland
I’m always asked what changes are going on in the business. A big change is that commercially, it is now the norm for Casting Directors to receive over a thousand submissions per role. The following article is food for thought, no opinions, no advice, no solutions.
Let’s do the math. Example, a breakdown has seven roles, [five ethnic categories or more to cover everyone: Caucasian, African American, Asian, Latino, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern (olive skin)]. We usually cover a sixth; multi-ethnic or ethnically ambiguous. Each role with all the categories can easily average out to 1500 submissions. Seven roles at 1500 submissions could average 10,500 pictures to look at. Yikes, pretty daunting.
Fact #1. Multiple ethnic considerations are asked for on most castings today which are referred to as the American Scene.
Fact #2. Budgets are tight and casting days are squeezed down to a minimum.
Fact #3. Jobs are awarded and start quickly. Usually the next day, which leaves very little time to prep.
Which poses the question. How does a casting director look at so many choices with one day to prep? The answer is we do, and each casting person finds a system that works best for them to get it done.
One way is if there is a special skill involved, many times casting directors ask agents to write notes on the submission. Why are notes asked for? We need to save time due to the huge amount of submissions we have to look through. The note will eliminate having to click and look at every resume. However, the fact is that most agents do not write notes. The photos that have a note tend to get priority.
You might pose another question, shouldn’t every person submitted have the special skill asked for? The answer is “no”. I can attest to that. Many times when I like the look of someone and there is no note, I look at the resume and don’t see the skill, I’ll call the agent and ask about the skill. There are many times the agent does not know and first has to call the actor to find out. You might be asking what I ask myself. Why was the talent submitted? I don’t know.
Are some agents and managers really thinking through their submission selections when many selections have nothing to do with the breakdown, or do they just have different taste than the casting director in a particular instance? My concern is that sometimes upon questioning agents when their choices have nothing to do with my breakdown, I have gotten the answer “oh I’ll look into that, my intern did the submissions”. What? Your intern submitted? Obviously, this is a certain “type” of agent who runs their agency a certain type of way.
There are many agents who pride themselves on checking before submitting. These agents submit variations of choices that are in the ballpark of what is asked for. A casting director will get to know who those agents are. The agents who pride themselves on their submissions based on research are not going to write a note on every submission. That would be dumbing themselves down. Therefore, a casting director needs to learn how certain agents work and whom they can trust. The job of the casting director to bring in “the right talent” and they’ll do it how they know best.
The following information is food for thought regarding the number of submissions. Are submissions being thought through? Are there really so many more actors in the game? Is part of the reason there are so many more agents and managers?
All of the above, none of the above, some of the above? You be the judge.
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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”