What Are You Casting?


Evaluate your casting requirements. Your job is to filter actor submissions and find those who are right in regard to the required skill set, whether that is a real French accent or the ability to jump hurdles on the track. If you need a stunt athlete, know that too.

Preliminary Considerations

Casting procedures vary according to the type of project and the market. Commercials tend to cast fairly quickly. If you’re hiring one or two actors for a pharmaceutical spot, you need less time than you would for two leads and five supporting actors in a short or feature narrative film. If your commercial is airing nationally, you are going to look for actors who can carry a national audience, appealing to the broadest demographic in the advertising target audience.

If your spot is a local used car lot, you are more likely looking for someone who appeals to your local market. If your leading actor is tall, you probably will be looking for tall supporting partners. If your scrip calls for someone who has particular athletic skills, you need to put that specifically in the casting breakdown.

For example, if you need someone who can do tricked-out skateboard moves, be sure the dude standing in front of you can deliver. Have the actor bring footage which shows him doing the moves, or hold the audition at a skate park. If you have to have a redheaded woman, and the blonde is a better actor, remember the wonders of hair dye. You can change an actor’s hair color. Changing ethnicity is more difficult. Express exactly the special skills and acting attributes required to shoot the job.

When it comes to industrial training film, you can screen for assorted special work environment skills, such as medical terminology or legalese vocabulary. If you’re casting a commercial requiring someone to play a doctor, you can state specifically whether the actor must be a doctor. Advertising rules have changed, and hiring someone for, say, an arthritis medication advertisement may now require that the actor actually have the ailment the pharmaceutical remedies. High blood pressure medication advertising, for instance, now requires that the spokesperson and actors in the spot have high blood pressure.

Families and Lovers

If you are creating the true look of a family, you need to consider physical attributes and externals—hair and eye coloring, facial bone structure, etc. You want plausible family relatives where there is blood relation. Look at the casting on Meet the Fockers with Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. The actor playing their son, Ben Stiller, physically looks like someone this couple would produce. When there isn’t blood, and it’s an in-law, for example, you can go to extreme opposites with great results. Review the ensemble casting on the television series. Everybody Loves Raymond, for example.

Remember that old phrase “opposites attract”? Consider how well these romantic pairings worked: Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets; Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball; and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.

A thorough casting breakdown is in order for your project to go any further. So get specific with everything. Gender, age range, and ethnicity are the easy parts. You’ve got to know what is in your script, and who these people are.


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