Inside The World Of A Casting Director – Part 3

By Marci Liroff

In Part 3 of this series I talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of being a casting director along with finding balance in your life. Good advice for all walks of life!

“What does a Casting Director actually do?” Well, I’m here to tell you all about it! Joy Wingard wrote to me from college saying she’s interested in being a casting director and wanted to know what really goes on in the world of casting.  Since I was crazy busy, I asked her to jot down a few questions and I’d answer them over the ensuing weeks.  She asked quite a few insightful questions that I wanted to share with you all. 

Q: What do you enjoy the most & the least about being a CD?

A: The most?  Getting a script and lovingly working with the filmmakers to put together a fantastic cast.  Finding someone new, or thinking of someone for a part that is totally outside the box and getting my team on board and hiring them.
Making the call to the agent/mgr and actor to say “you’ve got the part!” brings me such joy!
Another part I truly love is working with the actors. I love to help them create a great character and guiding them through the audition process.

Enjoy the least?  The politics.  There are way too many politics involved in my job. Enough said.

Also, it’s not my favorite thing to negotiate with a lawyer. In the old days (when I first started) I’d negotiate with the agent. Nowadays, the agent hands it off to the client’s lawyer and I’m spending days on end going back and forth with the lawyer. Seems to me that’s Business Affairs’ job.

Q:  I understand having passion for a job and loving it enough to embrace it wholeheartedly and spend most of your time doing it, but do you find that you’re able to have enough time away from the job to embrace a life outside of work?

A: Finding a balance between work and your “life” is key to any career.  For me, even when I’m not officially working, I keep my eyes peeled – I’m always ‘looking’ in a sense.  When I’m reading a magazine, the newspaper or online, I’m constantly clipping out (or bookmarking) articles about actors on the rise and adding them to my database.

But, you do have to know how to totally “unplug” and live your life or you will be just a shell of a person!  This holds true for an actor.  Whenever I meet an actor who feels burnt out or wants to walk away, I tell them to make sure to do something you love.  You need inspiration from somewhere right?  Go to the beach, a concert, kick up your heels and go dancing, paint, be with your kids, dogs, loved ones, cook, eat great food, meditate. How can you be an actor (or a great person) if you’re not living a full life?

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!

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  1. Hi, Marci – What’s the best advice you give you young actors right out of college who want to transition from a fabulous college theater program, to the real life world of auditioning for film and TV? Any specific classes you recommend? Thanks!

  2. Entering the “real world” can be daunting. Coming out of the cocoon of school is a big transition for anyone. I suggest you find a group right away – people you can relate to and draw from creatively. You can read a play a week, or go over scenes, compare notes and experiences and use your resources as a group to help make the transition easier.

    In terms of classes – it all depends on where you live (you didn’t mention it in your comment).
    Finding the right class/teacher is like finding the right shrink. A teacher/class that works for your friend may not work for you. I suggest you audit as many classes as you can to find the right fit for you.

    Hopefully you can surround yourself with healthy and supportive people on your journey.

  3. Marci,
    when you are casting, do you find that you are drawn more to the characters or the story? Have you ever had a casting experience where the characters were all intriguing but, you found the script/storyline to be less than compelling? or the other way around? the story to be wonderful but the characters fitting strangley into the story, and what do you do in such an instance? do you always undertake the task or do you ever just say “no thank you” because you can’t relate to characters and/or story?

    • I like to read the script and evaluate just the writing at first. Is it cohesive? Is it well written and does it speak to me? I then think about whether the characters have well defined arcs and will I be able to interest the actors (and their reps) in this project.

      I don’t like to take on a project that doesn’t mesh with my morals or isn’t written well.

  4. I absolutely loved reading this. Thanks for sharing!! I think you give such wonderful advice.

  5. Michael Aiden says

    Awesome three part series. I’ve interned at a talent agency and I have had to make calls to casting offices or receive calls or listen to the agents hassle casting directors for auditions. I now have some insight into what a casting director does, thank you for that.

    I didn’t realize that CD’s had so much control over deciding the budget of the offers given out. I don’t even want to try to imagine the politics. I saw it from the agency side, but the casting side has to be ridiculous. You are dealing with a ton of agencies and then the studios and producers and ugh. It takes a special kind of person to deal with that.

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