THE CASTING DIRECTOR'S ROLE
Good casting is not an isolated process; it is based on communication and intuition. It requires first-class people skills, an ability to read between the lines, a vivid imagination and a unique "eye".
CASTING DIRECTOR vs. CASTING AGENT
There seems to be some confusion with regard to the difference between these two roles. Although this may appear to be splitting hairs, it should be noted that these roles, though co-dependent, are very different.
A casting agent represents a base of talent - be it characters, models, actors or children - putting them forward for suitable jobs; negotiating on their behalf and handling their administration, e.g. invoicing, signing of contracts, etc.
A casting director receives and interprets a brief. Based on this interpretation he or she will draw on talent from the casting agent's resources and put them forward to the client. Some casting directors are also casting agents.
The aim of the production of a commercial is for the director to realise the vision of the creatives in his treatment of their brief. The 'secret' to the realisation of this vision is all in the brief and how that brief is communicated to the relevant parties. When time and energy are put into communicating a brief succinctly then you are on the road to a successful, creative, entertaining and award winning commercial.
The General Flow of information
- The brief is a central factor in the process.
- And the casting director's role as the interpreter of a brief is as crucial as the brief itself.
Factors that will assist in the communication of a brief:
- First off the casting director is given a storyboard and written script.
- The casting director should also be handed a director's treatment of the storyboard (language permitting).
- Ideally the casting director should be able to talk to both the director and the creative director - in other words the final decision makers (language permitting).
- Failing this he or she should be presented with a dossier of references - especially if the commercial requires a foreign feel. Producers have no idea how much these references help in making the initial casting more effective. This dossier can then be handed to the wardrobe department for their sourcing.
How far can a casting director go? Successful casting direction depends on minimising the 'sausage-machine' approach ("Profile, full face, smile, name, agency, thank you, next!").
Casting directors should be encouraged to take on a contemporary and creative approach. Make an impression: the ad. agencies/directors watch endless casting videos and this is your opportunity to stand out. A creative approach will help you to satisfy your clients.
Scouting means accessing all available talent, from the tried and proven performers to the new and undiscovered. Good casting is reaching out and discovering talent, not simply waiting for it to walk through the door.
Advantages of Scouting:
- Broad, untapped talent base.
- Assists in making more appropriate matches to the brief as one doesn't wait for the right talent to walk in the door - you go out and find it.
- At present South Africa has no Equity/SAG-type unions which would restrict access to the extended talent pool.
- Street talent is cheaper than agency based talent.
Disadvantages of scouting:
- Performers are frequently not professionals.
- Scouting for talent is more time-consuming than using casting agencies, and is therefore also more expensive. However, you do find 'new looks', and new talent is often less expensive than professional talent.
- Non-professional performers don't understand the demands of the industry and require close management and co-ordinating. Good communication and inter-personal skills are required in order to make the most of this rich source.
Good casting is made easier given adequate time. This also helps to eliminate the need for recasting. Very few production companies expect the art department to build a set overnight - from conception to realisation but will think little of expecting casting directors to do the same.
We all know that a storyboard has often been in existence for some months, being fine tuned - but when it comes to providing one of the most essential ingredients for the realisation of that brief i.e. the protagonists, little regard is given for timing.
A professional casting needs:
- Time to interpret the brief and visualise the concept.
- Time to talk to the decision makers and give dimension to their interpretation.
- Time to source talent to match brief (if necessary, to scout for talent).
- Time to plan in-studio casting and source props, etc.
- Practical casting time
- Administration (negotiations with agencies, etc.)
Problems encountered when insufficient time is allowed for casting:
- Imaginative treatment of brief is difficult.
- Recycling of same people time and again.
- Good talent is already optioned or confirmed for other productions.
- Insufficient time to source new talent if necessary.
Legal issues are addressed in the International Performers Agreement. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view the document.