From time to time I get to sit in on casting sessions. Sometimes I know the casting director, the director, the writer, or producer, and I get invited to sit in, usually to give an opinion.
Seeing casting sessions from the other side are quite interesting and I’d like to share some observations here.
A casting session can be just as nervous for them as for you.
For one, it can be quite stressful for the casting director. They are bringing in actors to read for the directors. There are so many slots and only a certain amount of time, they can only see a certain number of actors, so each slot is important, and time is money. That puts a lot of pressure on them. What if the actors aren’t good? What if it’s not the type the director wants? What if only one two are any good and they brought in 50? That’s a lot of wasted time and poor judgment on the casting director’s choices (especially by the producer who is paying for the time). An entire day of casting can be lost, and what if they have to push into another day? It can cut into the production budget.
Another is, they give time slots for the actors. What if actors are late, don’t show, aren’t prepared, have an attitude, or are difficult to work with and can’t take adjustments? This is one reason why casting directors under certain time constraints only bring in actors they know. They are confident that these issues are not a problem. A casting director’s next job can depend on how successful they are with the director. By bringing in the best actors, professional, and prepared, they look good, and trust me, they see everything! Not just the reading.
To me that gives the actor a lot of power. Just think actors, the casting directors are actually for you, they want you to be good, they want you to do a great job! They are counting on you. You have a lot of power. You can make their day, save their budget, and be a part of them getting their next job. The director feels the same way, as most directors will admit that 80-90% of their job is in the casting.
One time I was in the office with a director and his casting director, they had set up special time to see one more actor. The actor showed up, the director gave him sides and told the actor he could go out and look it over for 10 minutes. The actor left. For the next 10 minutes this director was a in a panic. He lit up a cigarette and started pacing around the room. He stopped and looked at me, “I’m so nervous,” he said. “What are you nervous about?” I replied, “he’s out there with all the pressure, he has to perform and be great”. The director said, “I need him to be great, I’m praying he’s great, I have to get this project cast or I’m in deep trouble, he can just go to his next audition. The pressure is on me today”. He paced more then, “God, please let this guy nail it and be great.”
Wow, actors are constantly trying to impress the director with their talent and seeking approval. The casting directors and directors need us! They want us to be good; they want to get their job done. We are there to help them, to make their job easier.
If you can wrap yourself around that, the pressure you self impose on yourself might be lightened. You are an expert, a professional, a talent, and they need you to help them. You are there to help them, to make their day. Lighten up. Take some of that pressure off yourself. It might make your auditioning experience more effective, and maybe even fun. Break a leg!