One of the first things you learn as an actor is the power possessed by casting directors in landing you roles. This tends to furnish casting directors with an almost divine aura of omnipotence which can seem, from the outside, both mysterious and intimidating.
But casting directors aren’t forever scowling into their laptops, hovering an outstretched thumb over the keyboard ready to make or break your career.
They’re people too. Busy people – people fighting constantly through a blizzard of headshots, self-tapes and reels – but people nonetheless.
And people can be influenced and persuaded – and so dazzled by your flair and commitment that you leave a lasting impression. Here’s how you’ll do it, edging gently onto the radar of the casting directors who may one day be unable to ignore your talent.
A little knowledge is a powerful thing
In your lean periods, get to know major casting offices. You’re looking to get a feel for what makes casting directors tick – something to give you an edge when you come into contact with them.
At the very least, get to know the names and faces of UK casting directors. You don’t want to end up accidentally snubbing one of them at an event in favour of the hors d’oeuvre platter.
The same goes for casting associates and casting assistants. You will bump into them in the future, and they too have a say in the casting process. And first impressions count, especially if you can display an interest in – or ask an intelligent question about – a casting professional’s latest work.
Grit your teeth and network
This gets us on to networking. Some actors love it; others loathe it. But it’s a part of your career you can’t afford to overlook. There’s simply no substitute for being seen in person, dropping elegantly into high-stakes conversations to introduce yourself and what you’re about.
That said, networking isn’t all about schmoozing with a glass of bubbly. Casting directors are more accessible than you think, often dropping into workshops, drama schools and seminars to share tips. And you’d better believe their eyes are open to talent during these encounters – that’s their job, they can’t help it.
A short one-to-one with a casting director, available through courses and workshops, can be a career-defining opportunity – a chance to quiz them on their approach and to nurture a flash of recognition next time your headshot lands on their desk.
The cold approach
Then there’s the out-of-the-blue email or DM. Bear in mind that casting professionals are perennially wading through a flood of correspondence. Unless your message is directly relevant to the project they’re working on, your moment of introductory triumph could end up, well...
To avoid burning in the cruel lava pool of the trash/spam inbox, crafting a concise, relevant and eye-catching email is key. If you match with a role a casting director’s looking to fill, an email introducing yourself won’t irk them. But an essay will. Get to the point in your subject line, which should contain the production and the role you’re getting in touch about. Include your headshot prominently in the body of the email. Be polite, and use as few words as possible to get across your message. If you’ve already submitted a self-tape, let them know. If you want to include a relevant reel you think they’ll love, go ahead. You may not get a response from cold-approach emails, but if they’re short, informative and well-timed, they could help you get the nod for an audition.
Self-promotion via the CV
Recruiters joke that a CV is only as strong as its first line – and sometimes its first word. With literally thousands to get through, casting directors would tend to agree.
Imagine you’re in their shoes, glasses perched on the end of your nose, vision drifting in and out of focus as you consult the day’s hundredth CV. What would you want to see?
A perfect headshot that matches the role. Your statistics: hair length, age, height and voice character. A very brief summation of your training and career. But most importantly, any credits that have some bearing on the role you’re now after. If you’re after a TV role, consider whether your commercial experience really needs to feature. As with all casting calls, a CV that’s tailored to the role you’re chasing will work better than a generic breakdown of your credits to date.
At FlairBox, we’re big on self-tapes. They’re the best-possible way to provide equal access to casting opportunities, whether you’re self-isolating in a student flat or taking a break in the Scottish Highlands. It goes without saying that they’re the shop window for your acting potential. Keep that window clean, well-lit and handsomely decorated to gain the most traction with casting directors.
We’ve already compiled a helpful guide on self-tapes. But in the context of this how-to, it’s worth bearing in mind how extra touches – beyond you knocking the script out of the park – can stick in the mind of a casting director. Is your voice crisp and clear, with no background noise, in their headphones? Is the light and video quality doing justice to your work? Is the background in that sweet spot between not-too-busy and not-too-dull? Give them the luxury treatment to impose yourself on their memory as a serious contender for the present role and for future opportunities.
Remember: every casting director is your ally
It’s natural to feel intimated by casting directors – until you realise that they want what you want. Their raison d’être is sourcing talent. They earn their stripes among their peers and bag industry awards for unearthing the next star. They’re searching for you. In a nice way.
Seeing casting directors as allies can be a great source of confidence, silencing the jangling of nerves as you await your turn to stride into a casting office. They may not show it, but casting directors really are pleased to meet you. Their entourage are out to make you feel comfortable and able to perform at your best. Their feedback is gold dust: gather it into a mental hanky and pick through it once you’re back at home to perfect your approach.
Casting directors know the team you’re pitching to work with, and they know precisely what the director's looking for. If you can act on their feedback next time out, you’ll be remembered as versatile, responsive and professional. With their reputation at stake, these are key qualities casting directors are looking to pass on to productions.
When we at FlairBox say we’re your digital stage, we mean it. Perfecting and nailing your self-tapes is still your best way of getting discovered by casting directors. But that’s not to say there aren’t important moments that unfold backstage, behind the curtain and in the wings, that can influence your career.
Here, we’ve teased out the key touchpoints you’re likely to experience with casting directors, outlining how to leap between them with the poise and grace of a gymnast. These moments really do matter. They’re chances to imprint yourself upon the memories of casting directors. Use them wisely and you never know when that moment of recognition might fast-track you into your next role.