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Answer: Casting directors rarely work alone. They usually have a team of people working in the casting office, most notably a casting associate, who does…. (continued in David’s answer below)
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Answer: Casting directors rarely work alone. They usually have a team of people working in the casting office, most notably a casting associate, who does much of the scouting and administrative work to get the pool of actors in and auditioned for a role.
The role of a casting director within the production team is to identify and present a group of actors for all of the roles in a project, from which the producers choose the actor to play the role. This process is an involved one, and usually is not done without the aid of one or more casting associates.
Casting associates execute much of the day to day work that the casting office needs to actually accomplish their goal of casting the project. They spend much of their time seeking out and identifying actors with the right look, appropriate skills and who fit the roles the office is given to cast.
You may see the casting director’s names in the credits of the television episodes, the films, the theatrical productions and other various projects, but it is the casting associate that really makes it possible.
A casting associate may actually be responsible for any or all of the activities that we usually assume a casting director does. The associate might be responsible for breaking down the script, marking up audition sides for use in the casting session, supervising the activities of the interns that work in the office, and spending huge amounts of time on the computer. This time is spent on Breakdown Services, IMDB, individual actors’ websites and other resources, looking at headshots, resumes, and demo reels. Rarely these days do casting associates (or any other member of the casting team) go through reams of random headshots, at least until the actual auditions are held.
Once the audition pool is in place, it’s often the casting associate that calls agents (and fields pitches from those agents) to schedule the actors they want to bring in for auditions. Casting associates are on the phone a lot, listening to agents, talking to the production teams of the shows on which they are working, getting availability on parts for which the producers ask for particular actors to play the roles and so on.
Casting associates are far more likely to be in the trenches daily – knowing how the episode or scene is shaping up, watching the development of the script, and, through seminars and workshops, meeting actors like you who they can pull out of the abyss of the unknown and place in the audition room – changing your life forever.
I often hear actors say that, especially when making decisions as to what casting events or workshops they will attend, that they avoid those that feature casting associates as opposed to full casting directors.
I couldn’t disagree with this flawed analysis more.
Getting to know the people that are actually creating the lists of actors to bring in for a particular role is often more critical than meeting the person whose name is on the casting office’s letterhead. The casting associate often has more to say about who gets seen, and who doesn’t get seen, than the casting director. If they are the ones doing all the legwork, wouldn’t you want to be as familiar with them, and they as familiar with you, as possible?
Casting associates are often the people in the audition room, reading with you, running the camera if your audition is video taped, deciding which takes are shown to the production team and making the deals with your agent when you book that paid acting role. They are also the ones with the most intimate knowledge of the character, and can give you vital clues as to how to play, or to adjust, your audition performances.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get to know each and every casting director in town. After all, the casting associates work for them, and if the casting director asks the casting associate to bring you in, they will. But getting to know and to respect the casting associate, who is often doing most of the work so that the casting director can shine, is a critical part of your business contact list, and a group of people you should cultivate as partners in your acting practice.
What’s your answer to this acting question? Let me know in the comments below.
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There is a woman named Natalie Ballesteros who claims she is a casting director and works exclusively on feature films and takes credit as being a casting director of successful feature films, such as the film Pearl Harbor. Natalie Ballesteros IS NOT a casting director. Her function is limited as a casting associate who’s work experience is marginal at best.
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