What Does a Casting Director Do?

Danny spoke with Voice One Founder Elaine Clark, who has over 30 years experience as a casting director in video games, anime, toys, corporate narration, documentaries, and commercials, about what it means to be a casting director.

Elaine Clark


DANNY: Let’s talk Casting Agents!

ELAINE: Let's talk Casting Directors, instead. It’s more accurate to say “casting directors” because they play the middle-person whodirects the flow of the casting. An “agent” represents talent and connects their actors with jobs and audition opportunities requested by casting directors, producers, and clients.

DANNY: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly does a casting director do?

ELAINE: A casting director meets with the client, advertising agency, or production company to find out what the specs are, i.e. who they’re looking for. This meeting can be in-person, over the phone, through email, Zoom, etc.

Then they come up with the casting parameters: cost, time, specs, vocal range, gender, comedic ability, improv skills, or acting depth. After all of this is discussed, they come up with the number of auditions they’d like to receive (the number of people they’d like to hear).

The casting director usually sends out more audition requests than needed. Say they want 6 people in each category. In order to get the 6, the casting direct might send audition notices to 15 people. When the mp3 files are received, the best auditions “get into the envelope” or the folder that is the best for that grouping. So even if you audition, your submission might not make it to the client. If there are 8 people who are incredible, and it’s hard to boil it down to 6, then 8 will probably be submitted. But among the 15, there’s usually someone who totally missed the boat, someone who’s really incredible, a bunch of auditions that are somewhere in-between, and a couple people who failed to follow through with their sample recordings.

DANNY: You’re saying that the casting director isn’t looking to find “that perfect person,” they’re looking to find a variety of options that the producers can really consider?

ELAINE: Yes, their job is to submit a range of people. For example, when I cast, I use the Voice One database, then I go to people who are taking classes at Voice One who haven’t gotten into the database yet but I’ve personally worked with feel they would be a good fit, and then I reach out to the talent agents. From there, I listen to all those auditions and then compile a group that I believe hit the mark based on the conversations I had with the client, and then I present whatever number has been determined, whether that’s three, six, or ten.

Sometimes I'll throw in a wildcard. Say they’ve asked for a “low gravelly voice,” but someone has a medium smooth voice and does an amazing read. Say they wanted a male, but I realized it didn’t need to be gender specific, I would then get a couple of low-voiced females and throw them into the mix. On numerous occasions, the wildcard got cast!

DANNY: So you can get kind of creative?

ELAINE: Yeah, but like I said, they’re the wild cards. And they can either look at you and go “oh, you didn’t understand the specs” or “well that’s a really creative, unique way of looking at it!” You have to open up their mind to different options and find out if it is very specific to one ethnicity, regionalism, accent, or dialect. Does it need to be from a general mid-America talent pool or could it be someone with a Boston accent? So, that way you could throw in someone who’s a good actor but they have a bit of a regionalism. These are things to look at and consider wisely.

DANNY: What should an actor do (or not do) to get in the envelope?

ELAINE: Well, if the read has no heart, those get thrown out. If it’s very wooden and just sounds like they’re reading the words, those get thrown out. You know, it’s all about the “who, what, when, where, why, how,” and using the M.I.N.E. method of Motivation, Intention, Needs, and Emotion. It’s about knowing the world that you live in and feeling like you’re really there, so it makes sense when we add the music, sound effects, and visuals. It’s about trusting choices and not pushing.

Then, when you put all the auditions side by side, it becomes really clear who’s got it and who doesn’t. And that’s why as the actor, when you’re just sending in your auditions in isolation, it’s really hard to figure out how you fit into the whole scheme of things.

What I do is I create three different folders: one “no”, one “maybe”, and one “definitely.” Then, let’s say I can only submit 6, and I have 10 in the “definitely” folder, I’ll listen to those 10 again, and move two over to the “maybes.” After listening to them all side by side, I also want to make sure they don’t all sound the same, that they’re not clones of one another.

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