By Marci Liroff
UPDATE 2:30 pm PST April 2:

As of 2:30pm PST we have word that the Casting Directors have taken the audition tapes off the auction block and instead are donating them to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You can read the story first reported on Back Stage Magazine here. This addresses the “for profit” issues on these tapes, but donating them to the Academy still doesn’t address the privacy issues of these auditions. 

The Daily Variety articlequotes SAGAFTRA as saying “Auditions are not public performances, and under SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements performers are entitled to expect them to remain private,” said SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “Our collective bargaining agreements include protections for performers against exploitation of audition and interview tapes, which must be erased upon performers’ request. Failure to comply with such a request will result in formal legal action pursuant to the agreements.Unauthorized use of audition and interview footage may also result in claims against producers and casting directors under right of publicity and/or privacy laws.”   

I’ll say again: these audition tapes were not meant for public consumption or scrutiny by people outside of the production. Period.


The casting community has been swirling with outrage the last few days over the news that two of our own are auctioning off several lots of audition tapes they’ve made through the years in Los Angeles on April 4th. Here’s the story.

Personally, I think the audition space is a sacred place and should be treated as such. When an actor comes in to audition, there’s an implicit agreement that the work they do in an audition is a work-in-progress and is only meant to be seen by those directly involved on the production in a contextual manner. It is not, and has never been, meant for mass consumption, sale, or distribution for profit. I have been asked countless times for audition footage – I’d never do it – and believe me I’ve got some doozies! I can only hope, and depend, that actors who come in to audition for me trust my discretion to not sell these work sessions.

I’ve spent the last few days alternately nauseated and enraged by this. Talks on Facebook within our casting community largely echoed sentiments of disgust and most were appalled. There were a few, however, who felt that by exposing these audition tapes to the public it had educational value and shows the public what we, as Casting Directors, really do. I agree with the “teaching moments” – just wish it had been approved by all concerned and if there’s profit to be made…then everyone deserves a piece of that pie.
Casting Director Matthew Lessall suggested that tapes like these should be archived and exhibited in a museum environment. I love this idea! Again, let’s get everyone involved to sign-off first and if there’s profit to be made everyone should share in it.
My contracts say that all work (including lists, videos, everything emanating from my office) belongs to the production and/or studio. Since this is all older footage they seem to be selling, perhaps the contracts didn’t have that clause in it yet? One can only hope.
Back Stage Magazine wrote a piece last night about this. The President of the Casting Society of America, Richard Hicks gave this statement:
“Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, condemned the auction in a written statement to Backstage, saying the organization “does not condone in any way” the sale or distribution of audition videos. “Actors who audition for the projects on which we work should have the reasonable expectation that their creative efforts during the audition process are treated with respect and used only for their intended purpose,” Hicks wrote. “Legal and rights issues aside, there is an ethical understanding among casting professionals that actors’ auditions are private.” He added that CSA “has always promoted and expected the highest of ethical standards of our members and will continue to do so.” Jenkins and Hirshenson are both CSA members.”
Many of the actors I spoke to were furious and worried about the future in terms of what rights they have over their audition footage. Will this be the new normal? I certainly hope not and judging by the CSA’s swift and harsh statement condemning those involved, people will think twice before doing this ever again.
I keep reminding myself that this is (hopefully) a “one-off”. This can’t happen again. I don’t know what the circumstances were that brought this casting team to think this was appropriate. I know there are two sides to every story. As of this time, Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson have not weighed-in yet. I have always held them in such high esteem for the countless movies they’ve cast so beautifully. I’m trying not to be judgemental but I’m losing the battle. I still can’t wrap my mind around this one.
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Inside the World of a Casting Director – 3 Part Series

By Marci Liroff

People always ask me, “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: I’ve heard that casting for films is a lot of budgets, negotiating, and handling contracts.  Do you feel the position is mostly business or is there an equally creative side to it?  How about for a Casting Associate?

A: It is the CDs job to (sometimes) put together the casting budget.  It is sometimes done by the line producer, but they want our input (i.e. how much do you think it’ll cost to get a good actor in this part).  The CD negotiates all the actor deals (not the extras).  It differs from studio to studio, but some studios have the CD negotiate everything up to a Schedule F deal ($65,000 and under) and Business Affairs does the deals higher than Sched. F, and Warner Bros has the CD negotiate everything up to $250k.  The CD (and associate) need to know how to read a Day out of Days (the shooting schedule) and formulate a deal.  In television the deals are standard.  Business affairs negotiates the test deals for pilots and series deals, thank the good lord. There’s so much to do on a pilot, at least we don’t have the added pressure and time-suck of having to negotiate and paper (do the contracts) for all the test deals and series regular deals. The CD does the weekly/daily deals on the series, but like I said it’s a standard “top-of-show” formula for guest stars and SAG-AFTRA scale for co-stars.

The creative side comes in when you are assembling the cast and coming up with ideas in terms of putting together the perfect ensemble.  I try to think of creative ideas that are unexpected and outside the box.  There is a LOT of psychology involved in handling the large groups of the creative team (producers/writer/director/executives at the studio).  You want them to hire “your guy” and you have to get them to feel that it was their idea in the first place! The CD is part of the team that makes the final decision on who gets cast.  It is ultimately up to the head of the studio/network to approve our choices.  The CD is an invaluable part of this decision making process.

Some jobs are more creative than others.  Some jobs you feel like you are just a glorified taping facility. I try and stay away from those situations! Depends on what you’re working on and who you’re working with!

Q: This pertains a bit to the prior question, but what is a typical day like for you – and for a Casting Associate?

A: ME when casting a pilot:
Up at 6am. Read and answer as many emails as I can that came in throughout the night and early morning. Remember, we’re a global casting community now. Submissions are coming in from everywhere around the world via the internet. Check submissions on Breakdown. View TONS of demo reels and self-taped auditions. Return calls. Exercise (very important) and walk the dogs.
9am-10am – get to the office and continue the above.  Check-in w/producers/director/network execs and answer questions and get answers to questions! Pre-reads and general meetings for upcoming auditions.
Sessions w/producers for several hours. Return calls/emails throughout. View MORE demos and auditions. Negotiate deals. Go over the budget. Meet with producers. Talk to studio execs and network execs.  Keep everybody informed and on the same page.  Go over more submissions. Try to be creative and come up with people to flesh out the cast.  LUNCH – usually in the office – working lunch trying to catch up.  Afternoon – more of the above.  Leave work around 7or 7:30.  Come home, walk the dogs, make dinner, return calls/view submissions/demos/return email while eating dinner until 11pm go to bed.  6am…wake up, rinse/wash/repeat.

Associate: get into office 9am, check messages, return calls/emails.  View demos and auditions.  Upload anything that wasn’t uploaded last night to our website so the team can weigh in. Go thru submissions.  Schedule auditions.  Check avails. Check $$ quotes to give to biz affairs so they can negotiate series test deals. Fill out test deal forms for biz affairs. Maintain and update master lists on ALL roles (meaning who we’ve seen, who we’re thinking of, who we’re getting tape on, who’s pre-read….and ALL their avails. This is an incredibly tedious process and must be kept up-to-date for the studio/network.).  Field calls all day long.  Take agent/mgr pitches.  Schedule Marci’s pre-reads and general meetings.  Negotiate co-star & guest star deals.  Videotape auditions, edit, and upload them.  Working lunch and catch-up. Clearing actors w/front gate to get drive-ons. Go over submissions w/Marci and pick who’s coming in to our next session.  Brainstorm new ideas.  Leave around 8-9 pm.

As you can imagine, trying to be creative during this process – not easy! I think it’s nothing short of a miracle to get a brilliant cast during pilot season. Imagine that there are probably 60 other pilots all trying to get the best actors for their show simultaneously. It’s like a giant race trying to get the actor you want into your office before the other guy gets him!

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

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We welcome your comments and suggestions.
Glad you’re here!
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