TOP 10 CASTING DIRECTOR QUESTIONS ANSWERED!
As Hollywood Moms we take our kids on auditions if not several times a day, at least several times a week. I know I’m not the only one who has asked themselves, “What in the world do these casting directors want?” and “How can I best prepare my child for each audition?”
Fortunately, Hollywood Mom Blog has friends in all the right places and Casting Director Katie Taylor has generously agreed to answer our most pressing casting questions along with revealing the ever important “do’s and do nots” of the business.
Question: “When casting kids [child actors] is their look more important than their talent?” – Suzette
Answer: It completely depends on the project. For print jobs where no specific skill is involved, yes, their look is more important. Each brand has a certain demographic they market their product to, as well as an “image” they are trying to portray. The “look” of the talent they feature must align with both their targeted demographic and their advertising image and support the creative concept.
In commercials, there tends to be a tiny bit more “image” flexibility due to skill requirements, whether it be acting chops or sports related skills. Most of the time they’re looking for a child to match parents or make a family. But sometimes skill is paramount, and it’s just a mater of finding a child who has the strongest skills and the “look” is sometimes secondary.
Then other times, they may not even have a specific “look” in mind, just a general “feel” or personality trait and an ability to bring those to a character. So you may see a variety of ages, ethnicities and even genders all going out for the same role.
So never doubt your reason for being called in! We often try and sprinkle in a few “curve balls” that take the character an few alternate directions, and occasionally the client goes for it. That is one of my favorite parts of the job!
Question: “When choosing attire, what look should we avoid so our kids don’t blend in with the rest?” – Rosemary
Answer: I usually tell people to avoid muted tones like light pastels and greys. I also think it’s best to avoid clothing that draws the attention away from the child and onto the outfit.
A mix of bright solid colors with maybe one bold pattern thrown in the mix is the best go-to combo. But honestly? I have seen kids book who have come to casting with messy hair and a dirty shirt with tons of graphics on it and made by a competing brand. Everything you would consider a big no-no.
So, while certain audition clothes can certainly help you get noticed, they won’t be the reason a child will or won’t book. We are booking the kid, not the outfit.
Question: “What can help make an actor stand out from the crowd?” –Jackie
Answer: Be prepared and polite, dress the part, do your homework and book the job. If I book a child once, and they get glowing reviews from a client, they have a permanent place in my heart. I will bring them in for everything they are right for, every single time they are submitted.
Also, a more specific tip, if there is an obvious joke in a script, trust that the other 25 actors that came in before you noticed and made the joke already. Don’t be #26. Be original and unique. Find a less obvious way to make the material your own. If you do, you will absolutely stand out.
Question: “Do you look at kids online demo reels, websites, etcetera prior to bringing them into an audition? Or do you just select from head shots?” – Tami
Answer: The overwhelming majority of the time I only look at kid’s headshot and resume. We receive 500-2500 submissions per category and rarely have the time to look at reels and websites.
There are a few instances where the role requires more serious acting chops or a specialty skill, like a sport, so then I will absolutely review reels and demos to narrow the choices to only the best contenders.
The majority of the time however, I only look at the photo and resume. That’s why it is so important to keep those two things looking sharp and up to date!
Question: What does a casting director recommend when a actor films as a day player for a few days with a known director and all of the scenes are cut because the feature film is too long – Put it on the resume to show experience or not? – Tami
Answer: On the resume 100%. If an actor books a job, and works the project, it absolutely should go on the resume. A resume is about experience, not recognition. We want to see a child has worked and with whom. If you get a job designing shoes for Prada and none the shoes you have designed have made it to the production line yet, you’d still say you design for Prada, right? Credit where credit is due.
Question: “Do Casting Director’s recommend kids get professional coaching prior to a big audition or do they prefer raw talent [and] less polished?” – Yessica
Answer: Again, it depends on the project, on the coaching and the age of a child.
On a spokesman type role or big theatrical role with lots of dialog, yes, coaching with a highly respected and qualified coach can make an audition shine.
If your child is young (3-6 years old) or brand new to the biz, taking CD workshops is a fantastic idea. But always keep in mind that there are many times when a natural, authentic and more conversational performance is required and kids can actually be “over-coached” which detracts from a child’s natural charm. Sometimes we need a kid to just be themselves and too much coaching can cause the child to constantly be “on” which is a big turn off to clients as it reads as forced.
The kids I have seen win clients over time and time again are the kids who are just comfortable in their own skin and can bring their own true authentic self to a character.
Question: “Does having a particular agent help kids get booked?” -Tami
Answer: Help them get booked? Nah. Help them get more auditions? Yes. In advertising, CDs and clients rarely care WHO represents a child as long as the child is skilled, well behaved and a great fit for the role. I even book quite a few non-represented kids every year on their very first job.
When presented with two talent options who are equally talented and one has a “better” agent than the other, I have never seen the quality of their representation come into play when making a final decision.
Their resume or level of experience? Yes, absolutely. Quality of the agency? Never.
HOWEVER, having a particular agent CAN get you more opportunities. Some agencies have better relationships with casting offices than others and the CDs will allow them to fill cancelled spots last minute. Also, some agencies have such great relationships with brands and producers directly, they will direct book their talent (no casting), while other agencies won’t even get the opportunity to be considered.
Question: “What behaviors set off your ‘Stage Mom’ radar?” – Tami
- Helicopter parents who hover over their kids or over coach their kids in the lobby before a casting.
- Parents that dress their kids in outfits that are super flashy or inappropriate for their age.
- Parents that have a desperate disposition or aggressively demand attention or recognition at castings or on set. It is also not appropriate for parents to “pitch” their children to casting for jobs. Creating websites and social media accounts are fine, self submissions are great, but aggressively pursuing a CDs is not only inappropriate and unprofessional, it’s not a parent’s job. This behavior also puts the CD in a very uncomfortable position.
Of course, you think your child is talented, they are your child. There would be something wrong with you if you didn’t! But we would rather hear it from your child’s representation who has a more objective and well-rounded perspective, so it’s best to leave the marketing and pitching to them. It’s what you pay them for!
Question: “How is it determined which actor is the best choice for telling the story?” – Yvonne
Answer: A brand’s marketing department provides the advertisers with the exact demographic they need to market their brand to. But beyond that? Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and I have mostly found that it is all a mater of taste.
There is no magic formula or “trick” to booking other than being prepared and doing well. Beyond that, it really is as simple as, some people like vanilla, some people like strawberry and some people like peanut butter fudge ripple with sprinkles and a cherry on top.
“After a full day of casting are they checked out by the time the last actor is seen?” – Kelly “Is it better to be seen [audition] first, middle or last?” – Annalisa “Does the last actor seen have an advantage?” – Michelle
Answer: I see a lot of talk about this one. And yes, on very rare occasions, audition order can come into play, but the overwhelming majority of the time it does not.
Yes, clients CAN get what I call “casting fatigue,” which is when they have watched days and days and hours and hours of footage, and sometimes get a little exhausted by the time they get to the end of day seven, disk 14. They will pick tons from the beginning or tons from the end.
But the overwhelming majority of the time, they very carefully pick talent from all over the links. Not just the beginning or end. In fact, some clients will first scan all the snapshots and then only watch the videos of the people they like the look of, while others will watch every single audition.
There really is no rhyme or reason to the selection process and I would never recommend trying to get put on tape towards the beginning or end of a casting session with the notion that it will somehow “help” your child.
Bonus Question: “Is it really necessary to put so many people “on avail” until the very last, freakin second?” – Kelly
Answer: I hear ya sister, and completely agree. I often tell my clients that they need to chip the list down further, as no, I will not be putting 25 people on hold for 2 roles. But many times there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen or they want to present several options due to all the different directions a creative concept may take…Which means they ALL get put on hold. And we casting directors often keep everyone holding even after booking in case there’s any fall out. I have had talent get injured or sick the day before a shoot and thank goodness for the backup who’s still on hold!