What Is a Casting Director?

Definition & Examples of a Casting Director

A casting director selecting actors for a theatrical production.
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Casting directors find talent for roles in film, television, theater, and commercial work. They negotiate contracts, manage a casting budget, and coordinate and hold auditions.

Learn more about casting directors and how they work.

What Is a Casting Director?

Casting directors play an essential role in entertainment, including television shows, films, commercials, theater, and videos. They work to find the best talent for every part while staying within the casting budget. They typically don't make the final decision on who's cast (that falls to the director and producers), but they provide a shortlist of candidates for consideration.

How a Casting Director Works

A casting director's work starts well before meeting any actors. They typically start by meeting with the producers, director, and possibly the writer, to learn more about the project and the roles involved. They'll also closely read the script, making notes on the various characters.

Once they know the scope of the project and the roles, the casting director gets to work. In some cases, lead actors may not need to audition, so the casting director may contact those actors' agents to determine availability and interest.

For other roles, they'll set up auditions with actors or agents. They may also send information about open roles to talent agencies and Breakdown Services, a service that provides daily lists of acting opportunities to actors and agents.

The casting director then holds auditions, looking for actors who are a good fit for the production and sending information on the top candidates to the director and producers.

Requirements for a Casting Director

Like many careers in entertainment, there's no one path to becoming a casting director. Some start with a degree in film or theater. Acting classes help aspiring casting agents learn about the acting process.

Business classes could also help future casting directors, as managing a budget and negotiating contracts is a critical part of their work.

Many aspiring casting directors start by looking for work as a casting associate for an experienced casting director. They may also start as a production assistant

Here are a few more essential skills for casting directors:

Eye for Talent

A good casting director can tell right off the bat whether or not a given actor is right for the role they are auditioning for. This is usually an innate skill but can be fine-tuned and developed over time. Casting directors also keep a pulse on upcoming talent by seeing shows at local theaters, colleges, and universities and watching short and independent films.

Patience

It often takes a lot of time to find exactly the right person for a role, so casting directors need patience. The contract negotiation process can also be taxing. Casting directors need to be able to keep going until they find the right person for every role.

Making and Maintaining Connections

Casting directors need good relationships with directors, producers, writers, actors, and talent agents. This helps them land their next job and perform each job to the best of their ability since they have an established pool of talent to draw from.

Organization

Casting directors can't afford to be disorganized. They need to know what's happening with multiple roles at any given time and be flexible enough to make changes if actors pull out at the last minute. They may also be supervising casting associates, so they need to have a handle on several moving parts at all times.

Some casting directors start as actors, which gives them an understanding of how to work with actors and how to make them feel comfortable during auditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Casting directors find talent for roles in film, television, theater, and commercial work. 
  • They develop a shortlist of actors to present to the director, producers, and writers. 
  • Their work starts before meeting with any actors. They begin by meeting with the director and producers and reading the script.
  • Once they know the roles, they contact actors and hold auditions. They also negotiate contracts. 
  • Casting directors need an eye for talent, patience, the ability to network, and organizational skills.