What do actors and producers do


How to find the face of the film

In reality, casting has very little to do with the casting shows on television or the secret promise of being discovered and hired 'on the spot'. It also includes not just auditioning for a film role, but the entire selection process up to a coherent ensemble.

Actors auditioning for a film role. (& copy 123RF)

1. Introduction: The Art of Communication Casting

In reality, casting has very little to do with the casting shows on television or the secret promise of being discovered and hired 'on the spot'. It also includes not just auditioning for a film role, but the entire selection process up to a coherent ensemble. A casting director should not be confused with an acting agent who has individual actors under contract and markets them. Compared to this, a casting director is much more independent in the search for suitable cast and new talent.

Although casting plays a key role as an early stage in preproduction, there is still no special training for it. Most casting directors are lateral entrants who are characterized by strong nerves, diplomatic skills and the joy of contact with people. In addition, they must have a precise knowledge of the theater, film and television industries and be able to promote young talent and recognize talent and trends. American director Robert Altman once claimed that 90 percent of a film is a casting - but it is often only noticed if it has failed.

2. Knowledge: Between the demo tape and the audition

2.1 Historical stations in the casting industry

Although no separate name for casting could establish itself in the German language, the profession also has a tradition in this country. Since professional theater actors rejected the new, 'inferior' medium of film, they were forced to search systematically for actors even in the early days of German film. As a result, early silent films were initially cast with laypeople, who primarily counted charisma and acrobatic skills. Only with the rise of narrative cinema did the search shift in favor of experienced character actors who could convey the content of a story.

Please click to open the PDF. (& copy BPB)
2.2 The casting process

Castings, like the films to be shot, do not always follow the same pattern. Depending on the production, the budget and schedule allow a more complex search for the right actors.

Usually issued by the production company or director
When a casting director or his casting agency has been asked to find suitable actors for a planned film, a lengthy process of coordination begins between the producer, director, actors and TV editors, which the casting director moderates and promotes as a result-oriented mediator. Since, unlike acting agents, he does not participate in the actors' fees, he can look for the ideal cast for the speaking roles independently and with open eyes.

Script reading
As a working and discussion basis for the occupation
In order to be able to develop good casting ideas at all, an understanding of the dramaturgical context and the content-related discussion of the film material are essential. That is why the casting director reads the script, develops the first role ideas in his head, develops his own conceptual and artistic cast concept and discusses it with the director. In detailed discussions, it quickly becomes clear whether both sides already have similar ideas and what fees the budget potentially allows.

Initial selection
In the talent database, in internet archives, agency catalogs and according to the wishes of the director
Whether you are a freelance or employed casting director, the basis of any casting proposal is your own talent database. Ideally, the casting director will find what he is looking for here and can quickly present initial suggestions - around 5-10 per speaking role -, compile photos, organize demo tapes and check to what extent the actors are available on time. Specialized casting agencies are usually responsible for extras or children and young people.

At drama schools, theaters, on television, circus, at festivals, on the street, etc.
If the director consciously decides on an as yet unknown cast, existing demo tapes, agency catalogs or internet archives are often not enough. In such cases, the casting director extends his search to training centers, acting meetings and the like. or, in rare cases, switch off a casting call in the media. However, a star actor is often important even for a film that is not featured prominently. It is more likely to attract viewers to the cinemas and convince potential donors.

Before casting director, director and producer
After potential actors have been invited, the casting director is responsible for the organization, implementation and management of the audition, during which the actors have the chance to briefly present themselves, e.g. through a 'cold reading'. A distinction is made between open castings, in which anyone can participate, and closed castings, to which special invitations are made and which the actors often have to prepare with selected scenes from the script

After coordination with the casting director, ultimately by the director and producer
The casting director always makes the decision for or against an actor in dialogue with his clients. Whether an actor can convince those responsible depends ...
    ... from his acting performance and the credibility with which he embodies the respective role and makes a figure tangible.

    ... of personal charisma, the external appearance and his presence in front of the camera.

    ... on his ability or suitability for the desired film genre.

    ... of individual skills (e.g. dialects, dance, sports).

    ... from the interaction of the actors. A successful ensemble is very important for a functioning film. A casting director therefore also pays attention to tension, dissonance or harmony between the applicants.
2.3 Preparing for a casting

Even good actors are not satisfied with their talents, they also have to be able to present them. This is done primarily with a meaningful application and good photos. In order to convince visually with their acting skills, many actors also produce a short demo tape on DVD, which, above all, has to convince in its entirety like a successful business card.
  • On the tape there should be a coherent compilation of film sequences from previous acting engagements. It is important to select expressive scenes that are characteristic of the type of acting.

  • In order to additionally underline the personality of the actor, a musical background to the recording can sometimes be helpful. However, it should be carefully chosen and harmonize with the respective role interpretation.

  • At the beginning of the demo tape the name of the performer, at the end contact options and the supervising agency must be displayed.

  • The DVD case and the booklet also offer the opportunity to draw attention to yourself in a creative way, in addition to formal information such as the name and the length of the tape with photographs and graphic elements.
If the application documents are convincing, the first major hurdle has been cleared and the actor has the chance to introduce himself to his technical skills during an audition or in a personal conversation. Often some script scenes selected by the director have to be prepared for this. In order to get as close as possible to the desired film role, in addition to the support of professional service providers such as voice and breathing teachers, above all an intensive examination of the film character and the script is required.



How do you develop a film role?

  • Ask yourself in which mental and physical state your character is in the scene and what you want to express with your interpretation and why.
  • Orientate yourself in your mind spatially in the scene: Where does the figure come from and where does it want to go?
  • Imagine what the figure might be dressed in and how it will change your posture, for example.
  • Keep in mind what your character is doing (smoking, cooking, reading ...) and how he acts in the relevant scene.
  • If possible, collect additional information about your role and work out the milieu or historical time in more detail.
  • Work intensively with the dialogues and make the language of the role your own.
  • If necessary, draft a fictitious résumé for your role, in which you record specific features and formative stages in life.
  • If it is not noted in the script, invent the subtext yourself and learn at least the basics of your partner’s text so that you will get credible reactions.
  • Repeat the scene often enough in advance and have your authenticity checked by critical friends - you should act, but in no way appear theatrical.

3. Teaching materials

4. Further reading and web links

Vierundzwanzig.de: Interview with the casting director Simone Bär

http://www.vierundzwanzig.de/casting (link to the trade on 24 with interview clips, film excerpts and background information)

http://www.vierundzwanzig.de/glossar (From A as in end credits to Z as in subtitles - explanations on all technical terms in the dossier)

http://www.castingverband.de (Homepage of the Bundesverband Casting e.V.)

http://www.casting-network.de (current contact details and information on the casting and film industry with a directory of German young talent agencies, child and youth acting schools, workshops for young people and open casting calls)

http://www.filmmakers.de (Large German-language internet platform on which actors can present themselves professionally and directors, producers and casting directors can search for suitable actors and contact details)

Thiele, Tina: Casting, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, Konstanz 2005. (Detailed introductory volume with many examples from professional practice)

Created by the German Film Academy with technical support from the casting director Nina Haun and in cooperation with the Federal Agency for Political Education and Vision Cinema - Network for Film and Media Competence.