When you’re casting for a project, it’s important to craft a casting call that attracts the “right” actors for the roles and adheres to industry standards. In this post, I will outline some, if not all of the most important elements of a casting call, and provide a downloadable template for your next creative adventure. You can thank me by subscribing to this website and by connecting with Mighty Tripod on our social platforms.
First, whenever possible, I encourage you to hire a bona fide Casting Director, someone who is a member of the Casting Society of America (CSA), if possible. A professional casting director will know many of the best actors in the region they are based, which will make it easy for you to assemble a great roster of talent to audition for your roles. Additionally, hiring a true casting director will lend credibility to your project and CDs are great liaisons between the production (you) and talent agents (where most of the best actors tend to be). If you have a budget for your Washington state project, but can’t afford to hire a member of CSA, I recommend Sandra Scragg Casting. Other WA CDs: Jodi Rothfield Casting, Kalles-Levine Casting, Nike Imoru Casting, Denise Gibbs (Foreground Background, LLC – casting service for background talent).
Now, I imagine you are reading this because you are doing the casting yourself. You have a limited budget and you have no intention of hiring a casting director. That is just fine. I have been producing since 2012, and most of my projects have been put together without a casting director. It’s absolutely possible to find great talent for your project without a casting director, but you do need to create a call that attracts the cream of the crop. If your casting call is missing key information or is put together haphazardly, good actors might not submit.
Below is key information that should be included in your casting call, no matter what kind of production you are assembling. The next time you post a casting call on a social networking platform, or create a casting call as a PDF, I hope you use the guidelines below.
Here are the most important elements of a casting call:
POSTING DATE – When did you first publish your casting call?
PROJECT TITLE – I think this one is self-explanatory.
PROJECT TYPE – What are you creating? Short film, feature film, commercial, internal video, video game voice over, music video, etc.?
PROJECT SYNOPSIS – Give the actors a brief idea of what you are producing. This is big-picture stuff, not a character description (that comes later).
UNION STATUS – Is the project working under a SAG-AFTRA contract, or will it be non-union?
PRODUCTION DATES – When does your project take place?
PRODUCTION LOCATION – Where will the project take place?
TEAM MEMBER DETAILS – I encourage you to list the name of the casting director and a few other key team members (like the director or a producer, possibly the writer if’s a theatrical [film/TV] project).
COMPENSATION/RATE – What is the daily rate of pay for the role(s) listed? Typically “day” = 8 hours of work. If you are not able to pay actors, what will compensation look like? It’s crucial that you are detailed here, as actors need to know what to expect before submitting for your project. If you are producing a non-union job, I suggest creating contracts for your actors, even if compensation is not monetary. If you are not paying a daily rate, typical compensation for student films and no budget projects is Catering (meals on set), Copy, and Credit.
RATE (CONT.) – When you are working with talent agencies, a 10% – 20% agency fee is common. Occasionally this fee is waived by talent agencies, but producers who want to work with the best actors (who are typically represented by agents) should include this expense when budgeting for their production.
USAGE (commercial projects) – Where will the final product be aired and for how long? And what is the monetary compensation for such usage? Actors working on commercial projects usually are paid Rate + Usage fees, but this is not always the case.
CHARACTER BREAKDOWN(S) – Details about each role you are casting, which might include age range, ethnic description, and characteristics. If you are extremely specific about the role description, you might receive fewer applications. If you are too broad with your description, you might receive too many submissions. Craft carefully. If there are any special requirements – stunt work, stage combat, nudity of any sort, intimacy – these details must be included in your breakdown. Whenever possible, include how many working days for each role.
SUBMISSION DEADLINES – When must actors submit their headshot, online profile, etc.?
SUBMISSION DETAILS – What do you need actors to submit to be considered for a role? Typical information for actors to include with a submission: Headshot, Resume, Link(s) to Reels, Agency Information (when applicable).
CALLBACK DETAILS – When will callbacks occur (if any), and will callback auditions be on Zoom, in-person, or via self-tape?
ON-SET SAFETY INFORMATION – SAG-AFTRA productions (which set the gold standard for safety) will hire a COVID Compliance Officer (CCO) to keep actors safe, and actors will be required to be fully vaccinated (with some exceptions) and test negative before coming to set. Non-union projects should adhere to similar standards whenever possible, or at least provide clear and concise safety precautions around COVID. Additionally, if there are stunts or other hazards, details should be provided, including whether stunt coordinators or intimacy coordinators will be present for performer safety.
Below is a sample casting call to give you an idea of what things tend to look like on the page.
If you take the time to create an industry standard casting call, not only will actors appreciate it, but you will receive submissions that are of a higher caliber and more suited to your casting call and breakdowns.
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