How To Become a Casting Associate
What Does A Casting Associate Do?
“There is no real ‘typical’ day in a casting office,” says Elise Buedel, Casting Associate with Rene Haynes Casting in Burbank, California. But she adds that there is a process when they first start on a project.
When Buedel’s office receives a script, they immediately break it down by highlighting every character, who they are, and how large their role is. Then she pulls sides from the script. Sides are the scenes that will be used for the Actor to audition with. Those sides will be sent to the Producers for approval, and once approved, Buedel puts together the audition packet.
Buedel’s office has a very specific niche: they specialize in Native American casting. Because of that, they rarely hold in-person auditions because many of their Actors are not in Los Angeles. So those audition packets will be mailed to the Actors with instructions on how to tape their auditions. A breakdown of their casting office’s needs will also be posted online so that Agents can view those needs and submit their acting clients for them.
Once Buedel and her Casting Director receive those submissions, they’ll choose the Actors they want to audition. On average, the audition tapes will start coming in a week after the initial casting post. At that point, Buedel and her Casting Director will then watch each audition tape and make any notes the Casting Director believes will be of value to the Producers while watching the tapes. These notes, as well as the Actor’s photo and contact information, are sent to the Producers and Director with a link to all the auditions.
Buedel’s professional career began in acting. But as time went on, she became more interested in the other side of the camera. She worked for a while in a photography studio, and once she decided to make the leap into the casting world, the Photographer she worked for was able to recommend her for a position within a casting office.
“There’s no right way to get in the door,” says Buedel. Her path to becoming a Casting Associate isn’t necessarily typical, but her time both as an acting and photography professional provided the industry experience and connections that eventually helped her transition into casting.
Education & Training
Buedel states, “There isn’t really a linear way to go into casting.” Getting a foot in the door is as tough as any other job in the industry. While in college, try to land an internship in the casting department of a studio. Many of the studios offer this and then they will keep you in mind when they are looking to hire.
As far as college itself, nearly any degree that relates to film or television can help someone towards the goal of one day becoming a Casting Associate. However, Buedel states that she was an English major in school. So it’s not absolutely necessary to study film or television, though to someone who might be looking for Interns, that connection to the industry could help in successfully getting an internship.
Experience & Skills
“It might sound clichéd,” says Buedel, “but a positive personality and strong work ethic are key in this industry.” Casting isn’t glamorous and can be very fast-paced. Some days it’s a lot of waiting, “but once those audition tapes roll in or the Producer gets back to you, you need to get your work done—and fast.” Being organized is key. The more a Casting Associate can anticipate what is going to happen, the better.
Also, because of the amount of time spent creating lists, organizing files and editing audition tapes, Buedel states that someone who is comfortable with computers and has some editing software knowledge can do well in this position.
The person who most likely will succeed in a career as a Casting Associate is someone who doesn’t get flustered easily. The job can be stressful, so being able to stay calm and positive under pressure is important, especially when communicating with important colleagues like Agents and Managers.
Also, someone who has a strong work ethic and is highly organized will also do well in this position. For instance, a Casting Associate must be able to pull at a moment’s notice any Actor’s file, which means that they must be proactive in keeping that information available and up-to-date at all times.
Lastly, Buedel emphasizes that a successful Casting Associate must “LOVE Actors.” The job of an Actor is difficult. Be kind and helpful to them. They want to do well and a Casting Associate should want them to do well because it only makes their casting office look better to Producers when they’re being sent great options for their film or television show. Says Buedel, “It’s our job to be the champion of Actors.”
“Every office is different,” states Buedel. On a typical day, she might wrap up at 6 p.m. But when there’s a deadline, her casting office will work until they meet it. And while she often does not have to work on weekends, she must always be available to her clients. So if there’s a last-minute casting need, weekend hours might be necessary.
Buedel might also put her evenings towards seeing one of her Actors in action. If her casting office receives an invitation to an Actor’s play or the screening of their film, it’s important that she attend to support that Actor. Adds Buedel, “I love seeing what our Actors are working on. Because we rarely do in-person auditions, we like to attend as many events as we can to see Actors face to face.”
In some cases, Buedel might also head out of town for work. Her casting office occasionally holds on-location open calls, which means a call for anyone interested in acting to audition, to look at new talent. She states that she might travel for these events two to three times a year.
Because casting offices work hand in hand with talent agencies and management companies to help cast Actors for film and television, Buedel recommends that someone looking to get into casting get a job with an agency or management company. As an Assistant, an aspiring Casting Associate will learn industry lingo, as well as how to communicate and interact with professionals who work in casting.
Just knowing how a film or television show is made can also help in one day transitioning to the casting world. So for someone brand new to the entertainment industry, getting a job as a Production Assistant can also help in gaining valuable real-world experience. And once they apply for a job with a casting office, they’ll likely go to the top of the interview list because of their background in agency or production work.
Buedel is considered freelance, which is typical for nearly any private casting office. She is paid per project, and that income can vary greatly depending on the week or month. Sometimes her casting office is working on one project at a time; sometimes it’s three projects, and sometimes it’s no projects. So trying to determine a yearly salary from this position can be difficult.
She notes that studios may offer a more stable career for their casting employees, as they are considered salaried with benefits.
Unions, Groups & Associations
CSA (Casting Society of America) is a great place to start. It has really helpful information on casting careers. Also, CSA offers a job mailing list. When a casting office is hiring, it will send its posting through CSA and anyone on the mailing list will receive a notification. It’s not necessary to be a CSA member to receive its job notifications, so “be sure to get on that mailing list,” notes Buedel.
Also, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) is a great place to learn about Actor contracts. Deal memos and contracts are a huge part of casting. A Casting Associate needs to know how much a Day Actor makes versus a Weekly Actor, etc. All that information can be found on SAG’s website, so someone looking to one day become a Casting Associate can use it to learn more about the business side of the casting world.
- Sign up to receive job postings from CSA.
- Research talent agencies. Know the big ones and be familiar with the others.
- Talk to people about working as a Casting Associate. You never know who might have an “in” in the casting world.
- Watch movies and TV shows. Lots of them. Get to know Actors. Remember their names.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“When you get your foot in the door and land that first job, don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Buedel also advises to speak up. Casting is a subjective career. The ultimate decision is always made by the Director (in film) and the studio/Showrunner (in TV), but casting offices can have enormous influence on who gets major consideration. Also, Casting Directors value the viewpoints of their Associates and Assistants, and when asked for their opinion, a Casting Associate just might be the deciding factor when it comes to recommending that an Actor go through to the next round of auditions.
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
A lot of Actors think that going into casting will help them with their acting careers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Casting offices will not let their employees go on auditions or take time off to shoot a film or a co-star role on a TV show. And they certainly will never suggest one of their Casting Associates for a role for which they are casting.
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“Why do I want to do this?” Being a Casting Associate can be a highly rewarding job, but it’s not easy. And it requires the ongoing nurturing of relationships with Actors. Buedel stresses that anyone considering a career as a Casting Associate be certain that they are enthusiastic about working with Actors and putting in the time and energy towards their acting success.
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Elise Buedel is a Casting Associate with Rene Haynes Casting in Burbank, CA. A native of Brookline, MA, she moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue a career in acting. She entered the world of casting in 2016 and has worked on hit shows such as Yellowstone and the British series Jamestown. She also has a few upcoming exciting projects releasing in 2019, such as the Netflix series Chambers and the Canadian horror film Blood Quantum. Elise’s love for acting and Actors has spilt over to her casting career and makes her a true cheerleader for the amazing Actors that put their heart and soul into their work.