by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Who are the staff people working with the casting director that you come into direct contact with, sometimes even more than the casting directors themselves?
I’ll start out by saying it takes a team to get sessions prepped and the casting day organized and running smoothly. In my organization, we watch each other’s backs checking and re-checking each other’s tasks, always on alert to avoid any errors that will negatively effect the final product of what our client receives. An error of a forgotten detail, later down the line can effect the booking. One person out of sync is a weak cog in the wheel, making for what otherwise would have been a seamless positive result.
The first person you come in contact with is probably the Session Runner. That is the person running the outside of the door and the sign-in process. A good session runner can keep their calm, is organized and will not buckle under pressure. The pressure comes at those pockets of times in the day when people come late or early and the session gets packed; usually around 11:30AM and 3:30PM. Actors are asking the session runner to let them in early because they have something else to go to, people are telling them their stories as to why they are late and want to get in ASAP, and are asking how long is their wait or can they go in before this one or that one. It is our session runner’s job to be as accommodating as possible with their main focus on not keeping anyone waiting over an hour. A sign out over an hour means our client has to pay and they become very unhappy with the casting director, as we are hired to protect the client from any overages. At times the session runner has to get very stern to meet this bottom line demand. That means at times they cannot meet the request of the actor. It is our intention, as a Casting Director, that you get called into the room as close to your appointed time as possible. It is not a free for all of who signs in first.
The session runner has to be able to multi-task; check that your name is on the list to avoid crashers, get your paper work in order, keep the session on-time by figuring out who is early or late to work you into a time slot, and cue you up to go into the room. In addition to that, they sometimes take instant photos at callbacks. They are constantly getting communication from our back office giving them new names of people coming in. They have to keep their cool. For all the reasons mentioned, we have to be careful who we put out there to run the session. Beginners can run smaller session or non-union sessions, but the more experienced runners are appointed to the fast and furious sessions.
The Session Director. That is the person inside the room directing and running the camera and uploading video and talent images onto the website through FastCapture. A casting director has to trust the way this person directs. As a Casting Director, I am in the room at the beginning of the day directing for the session director to show how I want it directed. I know what I want because I’ve talked directly to the director, the writer, or producer who is telling me what they want. It is the Casting Director’s interpretation of these instructions that needs to be communicated to the session director. Another thing about directing the first five or six people is I get to see the “pit falls” of the direction and the common choices the actors make from the way the spot or our direction is written. This is our time to make adjustments and work out the kinks. It’s interesting that when we (the casting director and session director) get clear on what’s going on, the direction goes smoother and the actors get it quicker too. My session director takes over the directing with me in the room and I can absolutely tell when they have “clicked” into the direction. I can then leave the room feeling confident and go on to the other tasks at hand that I have to do.
You might be asking yourself, “Does this mean I’m at a disadvantage if I’m one of the first ones in the room?” The answer is “no”. I have seen many actors get call backs who are amongst the first to audition while we are working out our communication.
We also have a team of assistants or associates in the back office (who at some point you might meet) manning the session. That would include implementing the changes the production company is making throughout the day, perhaps putting out new breakdowns and making new selects, getting the appointments out, manning cancellations and putting in new appointments to fill in the gaps, and manning emails and phone calls for pitches.
There are times the assistant or the session director definitely gives the casting director suggestions, so be nice to everyone. We are all working as a team. And always remember, you are a very important part of our team.
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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.”