Child Actors

Most Important Things to Know Before Attending Casting Calls

Holly Bissonnette| September 17, 2014

Casting calls kickoff careers of those who want to be in the acting, music or modeling business. It’s a process that involves selection of talents may it be for a role in a TV commercial, an extra for an upcoming movie or a model for an upcoming hair expo. Casting calls are a big deal because they are great opportunities to finally land a job in show business.

There are things that need to be set straight when it comes to casting calls. Generally, anyone can be on them whether they’re professionals or just starting out. It’s a common practice these days to announce castings through the Internet, audition sites, newspapers, talent agencies and many more.

The Differences between Auditions and Casting Calls

Auditions are often confused with castings as they are closely linked to each other. Technically speaking, casting calls are less rigorous as compared to auditions. We can define them further as:

  • Casting Call

This process of selection is less structured and more targeted towards a broader scope of talents. Most casting directors, or CDs, use this to scout for a variety of talents that fit the roles for a project that are waiting to be filled out. It is common practice for filling out minor roles and film extras in movies and TV shows.

Regular casting calls require talents to send their resumes to the CD or casting offices along with their headshot to get an invitation. They can email these applications and at the same time ask some questions about the project. The emails will be reviewed and the applicant will have to wait for their invitation.

Open casting calls, on the other hand, are general announcements for the public. Talents do not need to send in their resumes to get an appointment. They line-up, fill-out the forms that the team will give them, have their Polaroids taken at the venue and wait for their turn.

Reality TV shows often use this method to call on to the general public to be part of their show. Shows like American Idol, Survivor and The Bachelor call on to individuals who want to compete in their show and hold castings in various cities to get more people to try out.

  • Auditions

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Auditions are more systematic and they usually involve specific roles for actors to try out for. CDs and the production team will either require the actor to come up with a monologue, memorize some excerpts of the script or prepare a taped audition material prior to the audition.

Actors may be asked to read more lines during the audition to gauge the abilities of the actor and their facial expressions. For musicals, they will have to sing particular song to be considered for the role. The whole process may last for 10 to 15 minutes and actors may be called back for another reading until they can convince the team that they’re perfect for the role.

With a thin line between them, both terms are loosely interchanged with one another. Both events will involve, but are not limited only to, the directors, producers, agency representatives and the CD as part of the pre-production casting team.

The Job of a Casting Director (CD)

Casting Director
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Casting directors, or CDs, are regarded as unsung heroes of TV and movie productions. An aspiring actor needs to know who the CD for the project is and what they have already accomplished because they are very influential people. One of the most renowned CDs of all time, Marion Dougherty, propelled the careers of big names like Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Glenn Close.

Not all productions require the expertise of the CD. For a short film or other minor productions, producers and directors take over the headhunt for talents. As for big productions, they need the artistic expertise of the CD.

Part of what the CD does is assist in selecting talents, but their day does not start and end there. They man the whole screening process from calling out names in the main room to conducting the interviews during the screen test. That is just for their pre-production task.

Once the selection process is over, CDs are responsible for negotiating with agents and talents to seal the deal. They furnish contracts and make sure that both parties are happy with the deal.  Any type of dispute or disagreement goes through CDs as well.

When cameras start to roll, CDs maintain a close working relationship with the cast, directors and the rest of the production. They act as middlemen between the director, the actors, writers, the talent’s agent and the studio.

What Goes On During Castings 

Acting auditions
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The minute Disney put out open casting calls in late 2013 on Twitter, actors of all ages were all in frenzy.  Knowing that Disney has recently acquired Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise, people took it as the big announcement for the new Star Wars movie. The big search took place in many cities in the US as well as the UK.

The venues in every city that the team went to were always packed with many hopefuls, but most of these hopefuls were probably clueless of what they were to during the day. To avoid that feeling of being lost during castings, an aspiring actor needs to know the common events during these calls.

The Big Announcement. When announcements for open calls are made or invitations for castings have been sent out, the actors will have to be ready for it: physically, mentally and artistically.

Things to Bring. Actors need to be ready with their resumes and headshots EVEN IF they’ve already been sent. IDs are important to confirm the age of the actor (and their identity of course). Minors will have to bring along a document stating consent of their parents to participate in the activities.

It pays to be on Time. Talents need to be on time for their schedule, or for open calls, they have to be there as early as possible. There are always long lines at open calls and slots can be limited. Getting to the venue early will secure a place in the auditions.

Checking-In. Upon arriving to the venue, talents should check-in right away with the receptionist or the receiving team to let them know that they’re ready for their screen test and interview.

Forms. For open calls and some regular casting protocols, talents will be made to fill-out a form where they will be indicating all their personal details (almost like a resume).

Polaroids. Polaroid pictures of talents are taken and attached to the forms. This will serve as a memory aid for the team to recall at the end of the whole process what the talent looked like and how their screen tests went.

Sides. When forms are done and polaroids have been taken, talents will be given sides to familiarize themselves with. These are lines or actions that the actor needs to perform during their screen test. Talents are not required to memorize the lines; sides are used to gauge how the actor expresses the emotions of the character and actions indicated.

It’s Your Turn. The CD or their associate will be calling names out and usher them into the audition room. These rooms are often very-spacious with an area for the team, and a well-lit area with a video camera set up for the screen test.

Introductions. Talents will have to sit or stand in front of the camera while the CD gives instructions and asks questions. The actor will be asked to introduce themselves and answer questions like what acting jobs they’ve had in the past, who their agent is, and many more.

More Questions. CDs will continue to give instructions and ask questions. The purpose of these questions is for them to hear how the actor enunciates their words and how the actor moves their face while speaking.

Screen Test. Actors will then be asked to read or perform their sides in front of the camera. It is at this time that the actor can start asking questions on how the team wants the character to be portrayed or the acting style that they prefer. Though sometimes, these instructions will go together with the handing out of the sides.

After the Casting Call

Acting auditions
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The whole process does not take too long as it can be over in a matter of five minutes or less. Once they’re done, the CD will usher the actor out the room and call on the next applicant. Results can either be announced right after an actor’s screen test or after they have called in everyone.

Sometimes, the team does not get to pick who to cast right away, but they always have a list of people whom they will consider for a callback. Actors lucky enough to get a callback are notified after the auditions and will be contacted for their schedules.

Knowing who’s who and how the process works will give actors leverage because they are prepared for the events during the day. Therefore, their chances of getting the role are greater. With so many casting calls announced each week, it’s difficult not to land a role in a TV show or a movie especially if an actor has ample knowledge of how to make it in the business.

Are you interested in becoming an actor? Check out our Acting Auditions. 



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