by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Where is the Casting Director, why are they not in the audition? Why is a Session Director directing me and not the Casting Director? Why do audition calls go out so late? Perhaps some insight as to what the Casting Director does will help answer all these questions and add to your comfort level during the auditioning process.
The following is a compilation of what a Casting Director does to service their clients, keep work flowing in and auditions flowing out to you, the actor. I have taken creative license (you know what that’s like) and put all the possibilities into one day “a day in the life of a Casting Director”. I’m going to use my office as fairly typical, knowing there are definite variations from office to office.
You will quickly learn that the process takes a group effort with excellent people as part of the team. I work hand in hand with my Casting Associate in a delicate dance of sharing responsibility and cross checking everything to avoid errors. It is a day of MULTI-TASKING.
Before the casting session starts, Exhibit E’s are prepared, signs and directions prepared, printed and everything else gathered to prep the outside of the audition room.
Casting Director/Casting Associate (CD/CA) meet with Session Runner (the person running the outside of the room) to go over characters and the rhythm of the day. The Session Director is shown the story boards and Director treatment. Also, any ideas for props and blocking are discussed. All technicalities of equipment are gone over by Session Director and any direct feed into CD’s office is checked.
START OF THE SESSION
The Casting Director has received their direction from the Director and must translate the direction to the Session Director. At the start of the session, the Casting Director (CD) is in the room with the Session Director (SD) to direct the first couple of people for both CD and SD to see how the direction is working out. It could be a matter of a subtle glint in the eye of recognition as opposed to an “out there excitement” that makes the difference. If the direction is wrong, the session is wrong. When the direction clicks in, the CD can then leave and go back to the office. The session is fed into the office on a monitor to be watched throughout the day by the Casting Director and the Casting Associate.
BACK IN THE OFFICE
While the CD is in the room with the SD, the Casting Associate is in the office manning the phones for production company calls, talent cancellations, change of times and new jobs coming in. The production company has an uncanny way of calling and changing things (like direction) at the last minute. Other typical calls could be production company asking for an estimate for a new job they are bidding on. These estimates can be simple or can get complicated, taking up to an hour to prepare. The number of characters and ethnicities determines the number of casting days. Sometimes the CD is asked by the production company Producer how many days it will take to cast, but in these times of tight budgets, the production company ultimately figures out how many days realistically fit into their competitive bid.
The storyboards and Director’s treatment are sent to the Casting Director beforehand, then when the job is actually awarded, the CD is included on a conference call with the production company and ad agency creative team where all the character details are gone over again in more realistic detail than the Director’s treatment. Many times, details such as run and conflicts are missing and the CD then has to speak to the business manager at the ad agency to gather the final information to be able finally get the breakdown out. All the details are then entered on the preferred breakdown service of the Casting Director and finally sent out. The casting session is usually prepped to be cast the following business day.
In the beginning of the session, we are acutely aware of who is coming in by going out to the reception area, in addition to watching our monitor to see that our choices have fulfilled the client’s needs. Right from the beginning a tone is set. On the rare occasion that something is “off”, we take a look at the rest of the session online to make sure we are on track. Something will be off when we call in people who we don’t know well and they do not look like their photos. You can see why it is very important to look like your photo. We congratulate ourselves for putting together a good session because our choices can come from weeding through over a thousand submissions per character, with too many of them very off base.
The breakdown goes out and within a couple of minutes, submissions start coming in. At times, we see from the submissions that our description has been misinterpreted and we then have to tweak the description to shape the in-coming submission more to our liking. There are times the production company adds more characters or changes the characters, and we add additional characters to our breakdown. Many times, you get your calls late in the day for the following day because of this arduous process.
When we start a job, it’s like surfing a wave. We change with the current and veer in certain directions to avoid errors that will protect ourselves, agents, actors and production. Clear communication is key.
FINISHING OTHER JOB DETAILS
Other jobs that are finishing up need avails put out, bookings done, and clearance reports sent to the Union. Taft Hartley reports need to be taken care of, if needed; information received from Agents and letters written. Station 12’s have to be followed through to protect ourselves and the ad agency we are working to avoid fines.
WHILE ALL THIS IS GOING ON, YOU ARE AUDITIONING and we are watching our monitor to see that the direction has not gone off track. We also take a visit out to the reception area to see that the session is running in a timely manner. It’s a good opportunity to touch base with some actors, say hello and then go back into the office.
We also monitor the morning session and determine if we are sparse on any character due to many unexpected drop outs. If so, we have to put more people in the afternoon. This, of course, causes possible back logs. But we have to come through for our client and bring them what is expected from us. There is no time for another session and this is not a dress rehearsal for us.
Paper work is involved on every job. Copies of Exhibit E’s having to be sent to the ad agency and original copies to the union. We also take responsibility if the union is fining our client for a Taft. We jump in and fight for our Taft to go through to avoid any fines to our ad agencies.
When the job is booked, we remove the avails from actors who are still holding. Bookings are put out and clearance reports sent to the Union. Terms of agreement and conflicts are gone over for the booking.
NEW JOBS COMING IN
In the best of all worlds, a new job comes in and all the aforementioned steps take place and we are again sifting through thousands of photo submissions.
The production company and ad agency have to feel they are being taken care of. It takes a good team that works well together to bring all the elements together both behind the scenes and at the audition room. It takes organization and team work to complete one to several jobs. In one day we are organizing, selecting and inviting as many as 275 people to come to the audition at 5 to 10 minute intervals.
It’s a great time for me to thank everyone who works for Berland Casting. I especially want to thank my trusted associate Casting Director, Karmen Leech.
Thank you all for coming to your appointments with such little notice and doing a good job for us. And thank you for canceling when you know you can’t come in order to keep our numbers up and meet our obligation for our clients.
So the next time you walk in the reception area, you’ll be a little wiser knowing what it takes to put this casting session together.
Any reproduction or usage of this article on other websites must be credited to Terry Berland, Casting Director and linked back to here.
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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.”