My Notes On Casting

Our casting director has casted for short films and commercials so she has a good relationship with a few of the local talent agencies.  She’s also an actress so she knows unrepresented talent as well.  Our first two casting calls were strictly agency references and friends of our casting director.  (For our last casting call, we opened it up to Craigslist, MySpace, and other online resources…more on this later.)
We used a friend’s office (just a big open room) for the auditions.  People would show up, sign in (first come first served), and sit outside (we didn’t have a waiting room).  We also had them fill out an information sheet: name, agency (if any), special talents, looking for paid or unpaid roles (very important as it turned out), etc.  We found out what part they were reading for and give them the appropriate sides to look over.
Inside, we set up a table for the casting director, co-producer, and me (I actually stood to the side and videotaped all the auditions for future reference).
Once we called people in, they would hand us their headshot and resume.  We taped a slate mark on the floor where we had them stand and say their name and agency into the camera.  Then they’d do their take on the part.
I’ve learned a lot from the process so I thought I’d share a few things.
-Even if you’re dealing with agencies, you’re going to see a WIDE range of talent.  We saw some very talented folk, and quite a few less than talented folk.  Be ready for anything.
-Be prepared.  Even if you’re low budget, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be professional.
-Be courteous to the talent.  Even if they’re not that great or don’t look the part.  It’s tough putting yourself out there.
-Come up with a signal with your collaborators so you can silently tell each other “Yay!” or “Neigh!” without saying it out loud.  We used Post-it notes to show we liked someone.  This saves time during the reads since you don’t have to have the performer read more than you want them to.
-Don’t be afraid to mix things up.  Get actors you like to try reading for a role other than the one they came to read.  One actress we really liked for a certain role, but it wasn’t quite working.  We were bummed, but then the casting director suggested she read for another role.  We weren’t even thinking that way and she killed it.  You never know.
-Craigslist and the like… Okay, we saw some scary people from the old Internet, BUT we saw some very cool and interesting people too.  You can never close the door on any option.
-If you like an actor… If you LOVE an actor, read them again.  This is when videotaping comes in handy too.  You might feel differently upon repeat viewings.  And have them read different scenes if you think they’re getting it.  Make sure they can play all the beats the character needs to hit.
Casting is hard.  You have this idea that the right person is going to walk through the door, and maybe they will, but you’re going to have to see a lot of wrong people first.  It can be disheartening, but you just have to push through it.  If you find the right people, the rest is cake… hard, chewy cake.