Film and TV drama

Casting director

Casting director

What does a casting director do?

Casting directors find the stars to bring the characters in a film or TV drama to life. They are hired by the production company to match actors to roles.

Casting directors read scripts and meet with producers and directors to get a sense of the type of person they are looking for. They have to find someone who looks right for the role as well as acting it well. They need to understand the art of acting. Sometimes producers will have a lot of demands. Other times they won’t give much guidance at all. Casting directors consider the actor’s availability, fees and how much box office buzz they’re going to create.

Casting directors need to know the talent that’s out there, so they attend theatre productions and graduation shows to spot potential actors. They organise auditions and look at headshots, demos and reels. Then they present a selection of candidates to the producer and director, and together they make the final decision.

The casting director’s job also involves negotiating actors’ deal points or conditions which they put into a casting advice note, or deal memo. Then the production team can draw up the actual contract with the actor’s agent.

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What’s a casting director good at?

  • Knowledge of the industry: have strong knowledge of and a passion for cinema or TV drama and an appreciation for changing trends in the industry
  • Knowledge of actors: understand the art of acting and be aware of a wide range of new and existing talent, have a good memory for actors you have seen in the past
  • Eye for talent: be able to spot actors with star quality and who will fit well into individual projects and roles, have the patience to conduct a long and thorough search for the right actor for each role
  • Communication: communicate well with the producer and director to understand their requirements and be able to give direction to actors
  • Negotiation: be diplomatic, work with agents to negotiate contracts, have good financial skills, stick to a budget

Who does a casting director work with?

Casting directors work with producers and directors (and sometimes writers), and with actors and their agents.

How do I become a casting director?

There are no specific qualifications or training to work in casting. The most important thing is to have a wide knowledge of film or TV productions and be well informed about new and existing actors. You need good taste and an eye for talent. You also need experience of working with actors. A casting director is a senior role so you need a lot of experience and connections before you can become one. ScreenSkills' Trainee Finder will help you make these connections. A good route into this role is as a casting assistant. Go to the casting assistant profile for details on how to do this.

At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in drama and theatre, English, film studies or media studies are useful. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:

  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Performing Arts
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Performing Arts
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production

If you want to go straight into a job, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
  • RSL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative and Performing Arts
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts

Get a degree:
A degree in media studies, film production or film history will equip you with knowledge and experience of cinema or television and production sets. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in film and 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 film and TV industries.

Look for a job as a runner:
Many people start their careers in casting as production runners. For details of how to do this, go to our production runner profile. Apply to ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. Get the skills, make contacts and start working as a production trainee. Sites like The Unit List and The Talent Manager and the Facebook group People looking for tv work: Runners are good places to find work. TV Watercooler gives advice from production companies on how they recruit runners. Some will advertise on their own careers site like ITV.

Look for a job with a talent agency:
This will help you develop a taste for talent and give you experience working with actors. Look for a junior role or enquire about work experience. The Production Manager’s Association (PMA) provides a list of their member agencies as well as advertising vacancies.

Go to ScreenSkills’ events like Open Doors to meet people working in development departments. Go to how to network well for some tips. Getting a job in casting is often down to word of mouth, so making connections in the industry is essential.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making films or TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. Engage with production and talent companies’ social media accounts. The Talent Manager also have a twitter account you can follow. 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.

Become a trainee:
Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. This will help you make the contacts and build up the industry knowledge to get work in film or TV drama.

You might also be interested in…

Working as a talent agent or a director. Alternatively, you could consider being a celebrity producer or casting producer in the unscripted TV industry.

Further resources