Becoming a Casting Director

Final year History of Art and Design student Lydia Gray on developing a career in the entertainment industry

I realised not long into my degree – through writing essays and presentations about film and photography – that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. I applied for a week’s work experience in July 2016 on the set of Teletubbies. It was great: at the start of the week, I worked in the Art Department and helped to make props, to place them on set, and then to clean them afterwards. I ended up cleaning a lot of tubby custard off props! I also helped the researchers, the scriptwriters, the producers, all sorts. It was really fun, and I learnt lots.

I decided that the summer after second year was the right time to get internships and work experience to secure a job immediately after I graduate in June 2018. I had developed a great interest in the talent side of the entertainment industry. I discovered the job position, ‘Casting Director’; they’re hired by the production to cast all speaking roles, and sometimes even the extras as well. They begin by posting on social media announcing they’re looking for actors. These actors’ agents will contact the casting office and hopefully secure them an audition. The actor will then be sent a script with lines to learn. Each role has very specific characteristics and only a handful of actors will fit the bill.

I wanted to get my foot in the door of this industry. From the website ‘The Casting Directors’ Guild’, I made a long list of all the casting directors in London. I realised London was the hub for casting in the UK, so it would be sensible to apply for work experience there. I emailed all of them, expecting hardly any replies and would have to email them all a couple more times. However, I heard back from twenty offices out of about 200! Most were notifying me they’d keep my CV on file, while some actually wanted to offer me some work experience, or to meet for a chat about the industry!

It is important to mention that I signed a confidentiality agreement so I cannot disclose any of the actors or projects that I knew about during any of my work experience. I got myself a week’s work experience at Mad Dog Casting in London. It is a casting agency which casts all non-speaking roles in films, TV shows, theatre and adverts. This was a good introduction to casting. I answered the phone and helped clients register at the agency to become an extra. I learnt lots, and it made me want to get more experience in casting.

The next internship was at Dan Hubbard Casting in July 2017. I interned for three weeks. I learnt so much. I was given scripts to read and character breakdowns, listing the characters and a brief description about each one to ease the process for Dan, as he selected the actors for roles. I also had to come up with a list of actors for a role and to go through it with Dan, then to call all the agents and ask for the actors’ availabilities. I was nervous about this as I wasn’t very confident with my phone manner! Another exciting part of the internship was to go to two casting sessions. The auditions were for one role in a film, and a role for an advert for a company.

I wanted to get experience at a talent agency. Working in casting and at a talent agency are similar, but also opposites. As a casting director, you work for the production and get hired to find the right actors for the roles. As a talent agent, you work for the talent. You represent various artists and find them work. You are often negotiating pay and different roles and scripts, which have been released with casting directors. It is highly rewarding. I managed to get work experience at The Artists’ Partnership in London. I assisted other agents with sorting paperwork, reading scripts and doing breakdowns and research on upcoming artists and productions. I also helped with filming two actors who are represented at the agency discuss their career progress. I edited and uploaded this video to the agency’s YouTube channel.

Now that I’m in my third year, I have a decent amount of experience on my CV so that when I graduate in June, I will be ready to start applying for jobs, rather than applying for more internships. I will apply for jobs either as a casting assistant or as an agent’s assistant at a talent agency.

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