Becoming A Casting Director
Becoming A Casting Director
Paul De Freitas (Casting Director) gives expert video advice on: What does a casting director do?; Is there any specific training you can do to become a casting director? and more...
What does a casting director do?
A casting director has to find a selection of people that are right for specific parts, and introduce them to the director and producer. At the same time, we have budgets. So we have to find people who are an appropriate person for that budget. There's no point bringing in Catherine Zeta-Jones when you've only got 25 pounds in the budget. You have to find a 25 pound (in price, not weight!) Catherine Zeta-Jones -- not easy.
Is being a casting director a full-time job?
It's very much a full-time job being a casting director. Because being a casting director involves your day job: meeting agents, getting actors in; then a casting director has to meet actors, often out of office hours; go back into the theater and the cinema, and watch the telly. A casting director is never off duty. Being a casting director is like being a policeman.
Is there any specific training you can do to become a casting director?
There isn't really any training, apart from just watch productions and see how people are being cast. And that, once again, involves just watching the telly and thinking, "Is that person good when they were cast as Henry the 8th? Did they have the right qualities?" And if they didn't, ask yourself why not and start applying those sort of things to your thought process when watching TV. I never just sit and watch a program anymore. I don't even just sit and watch the commercials anymore. I sit and think, "Are they right or are they wrong for what they're playing?"
At what age can you become a casting director?
I mean, there's no real sort of age when you can become a casting director. I personally was sixteen and the sooner the better if you feel that that's your calling. The sooner the better, because young people have great memories and strong memories and I remember holding onto a lot more information when I was sixteen than I do today. And I was a child actor, and that put me in great stead. I was working with people when I was ten and remembering them. I took that forward when I became a casting director - or an assistant at sixteen - and certainly when I set up my own company at twenty-two.
What roles can you combine with being a casting director?
There really are no other jobs you can combine with being a casting director. It's very much a 24/7, 7 days a week job, if you allow it to be. And you never really switch off, as I've said before, sometimes out of London, you might find someone being a casting director and running an agency at the same time, but I would be very very cautious of that situation.
Do you have to have been a director or actor to be a casting director?
You don't have to have been a director or an actor to become a casting director. I personally think it's very beneficial if you have been. As I said, I was an actor and it makes you understand, really, what actors do go through and their insecurities and their kind of, sort of funny little ways. You can put them at their ease when they do come in for casting sessions because you're that much more sympathetic. As for being a director, you do find yourself directing casting sessions, so it happens quite organically. I have never directed a production and at this stage in my career, I'm not planning to.
Is there a casting directors' union?
Fortunately now, there is the Casting Directors Guild, so you'll often see my name, Paul De Freitas, CDG. And the Casting Directors Guild was formed about ten years ago, and I was very instrumental in that, and we all got together and decided that it was quite important to a) dispel the myth of casting directors and their behind desks smoking cigars, very difficult to get in contact with. We wanted to make ourselves much more accessible, and set a standard, and maintain a standard, or behavior and of professionalism. And fortunately, we've been able to do that, which is a great achievement. All the top, leading, casting directors are members of that guild.
What advice would you give to an aspiring casting director?
The advice I would give to an aspiring casting director is to constantly watch actors at work. And then, as I've said maybe before, just think how they would cast them in something and try and take it on to another level, not just, "I like Jude Law, I think he's a great actor. What would you cast him in?" And then start pegging things down a little bit and watch the bill. Just watch a jobbing actor and think what would you do with them, do you think they have something special that, maybe in a year or two's time, that they would become the next Jude Law.