Casting Is...


Casting is the term applied to the process of finding the best actors for roles in your movie, whether a short or a feature, for television or broadcast, theatrical distribution or film festival entry. It breaks down into two majors areas: principal and background casting. Let’s look at each.

Principal Casting

Principle casting is all about who has lines and how many. Any character in your movie with lines will need to go through principal casting and have a reading with you, the director. You will want to see choices.
Principle casting is divided into lead roles, supporting roles, Day Players, and Under-Five. Lead roles are evident: the story revolves around your leads and they appear on screen the most. Supporting roles can be in every scene, even as much as a lead, but the story isn’t about them. Supporting roles can be anywhere from more than one day on-set to everyday on-set.

A Day Player is just that: an actor on-set for one day only. You can film everything that character is in on one day, usually just a few scenes, perhaps only one, and not a huge line load. An Under-Five generally means an actor who has under five lines, all in one scene, and who will only be needed half a day. Identify each character in your script when creating your audition notice so actors know for which type of role they are auditioning: a major supporting role with multiple scenes and two weeks on-set, or a two-day role requiring only three days on-set.

Background Casting

Background casting, or extras casting, involve actors who do not speak. If an extra is given a line and therefore noticed in a scene, the extra becomes an upgrade. On union shoots, the upgrade is a bump in pay rate and must be noted. Sometimes non-union extras given an upgrade can become eligible for union standing if they have other union projects they’ve worked on.

If you need many extras, assign someone on your staff to do the hiring or contract with a background casting company. Background casting professionals find everyday people to fill the street scenes, crowds, stadiums filled with cheering fans, roadside rubbernecks at the scene of a crime, and police officers wandering around in the background.

When you get into big-budget Screen Actors Guild (SAG) projects, there will be a quota of how many union extras you need on-set to fulfill your contract. The ratio varies according to the type of contract you are using. If you need a hundred extras, a percentage of them will need to be union and the rest can be non-union. Your local SAG office will negotiate exactly what the ratio should be for your contract. Non-union films have no quote and no limits.


Casting is not about you; it’s about making a great film. Nor is it about hordes of gorgeous people around you seeking approval. While it may feel good, it’s a waste of time. Things casting is not:

…a Party.

During casting sessions, be professional, polite, respectful, and prompt. Also, learn to say no. When someone in your life wants to audition for you, only do so if the person is also right for the role. This will prevent heartache in the future. Ask yourself these questions: Can you fire your best friend for not knowing lines? Will you still love them tomorrow? Keep your friends. Hire actors.

…About Your Ego.

Casting is about finding the perfect actor for the role. Don’t call people in for a favor to audition. Don’t call people who might be right, only those who are right: who fits the character type, communicates well, and can create the person you see in your mind.

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