What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Casting Producer, Assistant Casting Producer, Assistant Casting Director
Career Overview: Casting Assistants hold a largely administrative role in the casting process. They report to and support Casting Directors. They work with Actors’ schedules, schedule auditions, construct casting lists, do interviews with potential cast, and do any additional research or administrative work that may be needed throughout the casting process.
General Salary Range: $46,000 to $60,000
Become a Casting Assistant
Casting Assistants and Casting Producers research, find, and interview Actors and non-professional talent for televisions shows, often for reality and or documentary series. Casting Assistants are usually a part of a team with any number of Casting Producers, Casting Associate Producers or Casting Assistants. They report to Casting Directors and work alongside Casting Associates.
Long-time Casting Producer Jeffrey Marx says every show he has worked on has had a different feel, but there is a fair amount of consistency to the job. For example, “in the morning I usually catch up on any emails from the night before. The day never really ends in casting,” he muses. “Then I will usually do some outreach. When searching for candidates I often use social media like Instagram and Twitter. I might even look at local news articles and reach out there, as well.”
Marx explains there’s also a selling aspect to being a Casting Producer or Assistant: “You have to give a bit of a sales pitch of the show you are working on, especially if you are making cold calls. It might feel weird for the person you are reaching out to out of the blue when someone calls from Hollywood asking you to be on a show.”
Marx stresses the biggest challenge is finding the exact right person for the unique show you are serving: “Often times you will need people for a show that do not necessarily have that entertainment drive, but then again, you might be working on America’s Next Top Model and you need that influencer type. Each show is really specific and different and you have to tailor your outreach accordingly.”
Marx also stresses great interviewing skills are a must: “After you finally find that candidate you will Skype or Facetime with them over the computer. You will then interview them with questions that you want certain answers to. Basically, a casting person’s job is to assess who someone is at their core and elicit answers from them. Ultimately, you will deliver a package to execs. Your job is to show who is good on camera, who that person truly is, and ultimately this will help decide who makes it on the show.”
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Like so many entertainment careers, there’s no real set path or track for advancement. Marx says he gets asked all the time how he got a job in casting. “It’s such a small community of people, people hire who they know, and hire who they’ve worked with previously, so establishing relationships is really important,” Marx says.
As with much work in the business, it’s often about working hard and connecting. “Keep showing and keep doing a good job,” emphasizes Marx. “Everyone starts as being a Recruiter or Assistant and the more you work on that level, then you can get moved up to being an Associate Casting Producer. Often times you just work with the same people over and over again in some way, shape, or form. They continue to recommend me for work. Casting is almost like a ‘you are grandfathered in’ kind of thing. A good way to keep momentum going is just keep doing a good job and being nice to people. Also, if you can, find yourself a great mentor.”
Education & Training
In the world of casting it’s all about hard work, and Marx believes you don’t need a degree at all to be successful. “If you were to get a degree, maybe something like Communications or Theater would be helpful — something that shows you are able to work with people in a positive way. You just have to have a natural ability to talk to everyone. Be warm and approachable. Get people to open up and talk to you.”
A wide variety of life skills can help you as a Casting Producer or Casting Assistant. “At one point you could be a Therapist, at one point you’re a Graphic Design Artist, sometimes you are a Lawyer when dealing with background checks,” Marx reflects. “But you have to be able to be someone who can talk all day and not be exhausted. Most importantly, you have to get the best quality responses from people in interviews.”
Experience & Skills
Marx says the true keys to success in casting are patience and kindness: “Things get really stressful in a casting office. People don’t know all the mechanics of things that happen throughout a casting process. Sometimes things change in a split second and that can be exhausting and irritating if you are working with people, especially if they forget to be nice.”
Additionally, Marx says you have to learn to trust your gut instincts. “You have to determine what makes a person interesting, what about their story is compelling that many people will find an affinity with and that speaks to them. What kind of universal message do they have that might be applicable to television.”
Ultimately Marx reminds us that the job can indeed be life-changing: “TV does have the power to change people’s lives one life at a time, if you create good content that helps progress, so to speak. There’s a lot of criticism about reality, but ultimately it’s a tool that can used for good if you do it right.”
Most importantly, a Casting Director or Casting Assistant has to be a people person. “You have to be approachable,” says Marx. “You have to have a certain magnetic element to your personality that makes people want to talk to you. You also have to get answers from your subjects that works for the show. Sometimes you also have to really think outside the box. If you can’t find a certain person that a show needs you can’t do the same thing over and over again — you have to think outside the box to find the perfect people. You often have to get creative with doing your outreach. You also have to be very organized. This is a job where you have to cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s and then do it again.”
Those looking to get into Casting should consider that the work is freelance. “It’s a future of instability,” emphasizes Marx. “You don’t know when you can go on vacation, or if you’ll have a job next week, or next month. Each show is a job and each show staffs accordingly. Every 3 to 10 weeks I am looking for a new job. It can be a psychotic cycle of anxiety. On the upside, because the job is freelance you do get to make your own schedule. You do get to pick what you want work on, and who you want to work with. I don’t have to work with jerks anymore. Once you get to a certain level you have a little bit of freedom and that feels good. Being a Casting Assistant is being an artist. You are using the personalities you cast as your canvas.”
As mentioned, the life of a Casting Assistant or Assistant Casting Director is freelance. Marx says the most important thing you can do for yourself is to get everything in writing. “So many times I’ve been in the position that someone has told me the job will start in two weeks, and then in two weeks they tell you two more weeks, and it will be another week, and in that time you could’ve had another job. Always take what’s right in front of you. You don’t know how long it will be until the next one comes.”
Earnings can fluctuate largely in the Casting Assistant and Casting Producer arena, largely depending on how long the job lasts. “I am still figuring out the best way to negotiate rates,” says Marx. “That’s an excellent reason to have a mentor. I would also never take a casting job that pays less than a thousand dollars. Some companies might try to get you to do $800 or $900. This might be acceptable for someone who is brand new, but if you know you are good at something, don’t let them low ball you,” Marx offers. Marx also says good and well-known Casting Producers can make as much as $16,000 to $18,000 per casting job.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
There is no union for people in the world of casting. Marx says it’s a problem that there is not yet organization for workers’ rights in the casting arena. “It’s literally the wild west of television.” Marx does recommend the Facebook group “I Need a Casting Producer” and the website Staff Me Up when looking for work. The Casting Society of America may also be a helpful resource.
- Build your skills (and resume) by casting student films.
- Apply for internships or entry-level roles at a casting office.
- Get involved in your local film community or relevant online groups to build connections.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Make a really clear resume. When there’s a stack of resumes in your inbox and they all look the same, it’s easy to get overlooked. Keep sending it, until you get a response. Don’t be afraid to be a little bold and maybe follow a Casting Producer on Instagram and introduce yourself.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Thinking that it is going to be 100 percent awesome all the time. You have to genuinely love it and have a passion for the genre you are working in. You also have to genuinely love talking to people, and if you don’t truly care about it, people will know it, and it will show. Genuinely love what you do.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“There are no health benefits or anything, you pay out of pocket for everything you need in that department. The money you make is supporting you for literally everything, and I think a lot of people might not know that or think about that.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Jeffrey Marx has worked in the world of casting since 2013. He has worked on a wide variety of shows such as America’s Got Talent, Bad Girls Club, and MTV’s The Real World. Marx believes that discovering people and developing their vibrant stories helps to shape and change society one living room at a time.