What you do in the job?
Good casting is crucial to making characters credible on screen, and is fundamental to a film's success. Casting Assistants tasks include general running duties around the Casting office, and assist with specific casting related jobs. They are employed as freelancers on a film by film basis by Casting Directors.
Casting agencies vary in size but are usually quite small, comprising of the Casting Director and Casting Associate. As work on casting a film usually lasts no longer than ten weeks, Casting Assistants must be continuously on the look out for their next job, and should be prepared to work hard in this role for many years before they are offered the opportunity to become Casting Associates.
What is the job?
The duties of Casting Assistants vary according to the scale and budget of each film, and also according to the willingness of the Casting Director to delegate responsibility. Casting Assistants are usually hired during development casting; their first responsibility is to read the script and to help the Casting Associate and Casting Director to draw up lists of possible actors for the main roles. Casting Assistants then call the actors' agents to check availability, so that the lists are kept up to date with all relevant information.
Casting Assistants duties in the office include answering phones, sending faxes and e-mails, liaising with couriers, making teas and coffees, etc., as well as assisting during casting sessions when actors perform screen tests on camera. Casting Associates usually operate the camera during these tests, and Casting Assistants ensure that the sessions run smoothly, by making tea and coffee for the actors and providing general support. After each casting session, Casting Associates make selections, and edit together the best takes. These must be labelled correctly and sent to the Director, Producer and/or Financiers by the Casting Assistant. Casting Assistants finish work on a film when most of the cast have been contracted.
What qualities are required?
Casting Assistants must have a wide knowledge of cinema and actors. An interest in the theatre and stage actors is also a prerequisite. A basic understanding of how to operate a video camera (framing, focus, etc.) is also an advantage. Casting Assistants must be computer literate.
Key Skills include excellent communication skills, an ability to recognise talent, a good memory, excellent organisational skills, precise attention to detail. An ability to take direction and a knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
Training and qualifications
There are no specific training or qualifications for this role, but Casting Assistants are usually graduates of Arts, English, Film, Theatre, Communications, or Media Studies, for example, with an active interest in film, theatre and casting.
How you start and where you can go with it?
There is no typical career route for this role, but most Casting Assistants are graduates with an interest in acting and casting and they will generally have managed to enter the film industry at junior levels as Assistants in Talent Agencies, thereby gaining experience of selecting and working with actors, or as Runners for Production companies and/or on feature films. Those involved in Casting should constantly keep up to date with new and interesting actors, and must develop the confidence and taste which are vital for any Casting Director.
Acquiring casting credits on feature films is important for Casting Directors' career progression, but as Casting Assistants are not usually credited it is difficult to develop a good reputation. Many talented, hard working Casting Assistants work for many years for the same Casting Director, before they are offered more responsibility, e.g., running a casting session on a modestly budgeted film, and before they are promoted to Casting Associates.