If you’ve ever wondered how TV companies find people to be on their shows, it’s all down to the skill, imagination and hard work of the casting producer. Casting producers find the ‘cast’ for the programme, whether that be amateur cooks, gameshow contestants, people sharing problems with health, house-hunting or financial issues, or individuals with an incredible story to tell.
Casting producers need to understand everything about the show, the content, the channel and the time it will be transmitted, so they can cast a suitable and diverse range of people. They have a huge contacts book and spend hours on the phone and email to companies, agencies, societies and clubs, sending them ‘casting’ material like flyers and posters to communicate what sort of people a show is looking for and why. They create Facebook pages and application forms, building in data protection measures and taking into consideration the production’s duty of care to any potential contributors.
They often lead a specialist casting team of assistant producers and researchers, organising roles, a schedule and overseeing the process. Once people start applying to take part, the casting producer decides who to interview. They usually record and edit the interviews, making short, concise ‘taster tapes’ along with a written research ‘brief’. These get shown to the series producer and then the channel commissioner, who usually gives final sign-off.
Casting producers stay in constant contact with a show’s contributors, before, during and after filming, to ensure they are clear and happy about their role in the show and to deal with any concerns. They often have to deal with very sensitive issues.
Casting producers are mainly freelance, but can be staff at some larger production companies that make a lot of factual entertainment programmes.
With such a specialist position there are a variety of routes. A good one is to start in an entry level role like a runner and work your way up to researcher, assistant producer and producer before specialising as a celebrity producer. You need to have a very good understanding of the production process and what makes good television.
At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in any subjects you enjoy. You might like sociology or psychology if you want to focus on understanding people.
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. Some of the major broadcasters offer apprenticeships. Check out the schemes with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.
Get a degree:
There’s no specific degree for this role, so if you decide university is the right path for you then consider which subjects would arm you with transferable skills such as research or communication.
For a degree that is most closely related to the TV industry, go to ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the unscripted TV industry.
Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.
Look outside the industry:
You never know where you might stumble across the next unscripted star, so treat every situation as a casting call. If you can’t get into TV straight away, it might be useful to gain experience in the recruitment industry, for example. Take every opportunity to learn as much as you can so you can transfer your experience to TV when you get a break.
Take a short course:
This is a role that involves concern about the welfare of the cast. You may therefore wish to improve your understanding of mental health by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is one in mental health first aid.
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales Screen, Northern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.
Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes that they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. You can also send in a short speculative letter with your CV to the head of talent. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry
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