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Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Do Casting Directors Do?

I just read a fabulous article by Bonnie Gillespie answering, in detail, “What do casting directors actually do?” (Hi, Bonnie, if you found this blog via Google Alert!)

One of the parts that beginning actors know little about is the casting director’s role in negotiating the contract with the actor’s agent. I wanted to mention this, in particular, to give you an idea of the kinds of things that get negotiated “above scale.” It’s a good idea to get a glimpse at the process in the event that you land a decent sized role without the benefit of an agent. Here’s an excerpt:

“A casting director will send over the first version of the offer letter and SAG contract for the actor and the agent will come back with a counter. Maybe they need to be assured a specific kind of rental car at the location. Maybe they need to be provided companion tickets for the location shoot off days so their loved ones can visit. Maybe they need more money than originally discussed. Maybe they'll take less money if they're given better billing in the opening credits. Maybe they require approval of all photos taken of them on set for use in promotional materials. Maybe they need assurance that their head will be larger than everyone else's on the poster art (I'm not kidding!) or that the font in which their name is displayed is a minimum point-size larger than the one used for other actors' names.

Point by point, an agent and casting director will hammer out these deals. On larger-budget projects, we'll let the production attorney handle the back-and-forth, but on smaller ones, we'll do the heavy lifting and then just be sure everything gets attorney approval before going over for the signatures. Back to the "handicapping" aspect, above, this is where CDs will go back to producers and discuss whether what is being asked for is "worth it" for what the actor brings to the project. So many producers want to believe casting is DONE once the decision is made, but every now and then the negotiation process is what kills a deal. The actor wants "too much" or the producer will give "too little" and everyone walks away.

And then the CD begins the process of offer-making again, after heading back to the list and going to the second-choice actor. One film I cast earlier this year saw four different actors under contract for the same role within a week. Each of the first three fell through for various reasons. (One wanted WAY too much money, one booked another role after saying yes to us and backed out of our deal, and one tried but couldn't make our dates work and we were way too close to the shoot dates to change them.) Happily, the fourth time was the charm on this one and the dailies on this guy look terrific! So, there ya go. Three deals negotiated and finalized and ultimately put through the shredder, but we ended up with the best possible actor anyway!“

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