Originally written for Backstage
Actors have it tough. I’ve always thought the way we apply for jobs is crazy, I mean, we take the most sensitive people on the face of the earth and ask them to perform something in front of strangers, only to be rejected again and again until they make that break and get cast.
It’s a weird, brutal cycle and I can’t think of a better way, so when I got the chance to work in casting I was surprised by how it helped me see the audition process in a new light, but even more surprised at how it can help actors have more success finding work on set.
Working in casting changed my perspective on the audition process. I’ve never been a fan (clearly) but what I didn’t realise is those who are sitting in the casting room, whether it’s the Casting Director or the Reader, they want the actor who walks in to be the one for the job. At least that was my experience.
I work for an independent film company and been the Casting Director for every feature film and several of our short films. After ever actor left the room, we’d have a quick discussion about what we liked about each actor and give our initial thoughts on whether or not we thought they’d fit for the role we were casting or not. I can’t tell you how many times the director and I wished we could write someone a role because we liked their audition and in some cases we did just that. Or if it didn’t work out for that particular film, we made a point of specifically calling those actors back for a different film or role.
More than that though, it helped me build a huge network with both acting agencies and fellow actors. I had the opportunity to get to know my fellow actors, to help put them at ease in the casting room and to get to know them a bit too.
For some of the films I’ve also been the Reader and I found it a great opportunity to play. I’m not the kind of reader who just reads flat, so I’d used the time to bounce off of what other actors gave me and the best part was I got to explore those roles with several actors over the span of a few hours, because each one would have their own take on the character. With each new person I was able to bounce off what they gave me and do what I could to make their job easier. It helped hone my skills for cold reads, as well as helped me find more confidence as an actress.
Now this may not be allowed in some casting agencies, but if you find yourself a great indie company, this will be more of an opportunity. OR you could consider starting your own small business and run castings for indie films and shorts.
One of the coolest aspects of working in casting was connecting with several different acting agencies and getting to know them through the sometimes long, drawn out process of casting. Which is a huge benefit for any working actor. Connections are huge in this industry, especially if you’re being genuine and real with people.
If you’re wanting to start your career, or feel like you’ve hit a wall and aren’t getting anywhere, consider applying for a job in casting. You never know, the Casting Director may here you read the part and be so moved by it that they decide to hire you for the part over the actors who’ve come in to apply. Regardless, it’ll get your foot in a door more solidly than just auditioning again and again.