In the performing arts industry, a casting (or casting call) is a pre-production process for selecting a certain type of actor, singer or dancer for a particular role or part in a script involving a dramatic production meant for an audience.
The casting process involves a series of auditions before a casting panel, composed of individuals such as the producer, director and/or choreographer. In the early stages of the process, performers often may present prepared audition pieces such as monologues or songs. These audition pieces are usually video taped, attached with resumes, and head shots and then shared with producers, directors and studio representatives. Later stages may involve groups of actors attempting material from the work under consideration in various combinations; the casting director considers both the talent of the individual actors and the chemistry of their combination.
Depending on the prestige of the role, casting calls may go out to the public at large (typical for community theater), to professional and semi-professional local actors (for supporting roles in theater and film) or to specifically selected actors (for leading roles, especially in films). In the production of film and television, a similar process is followed.
Character breakdowns, part of the script breakdown, are often provided to auditioners, and provide a brief summary of a character (age, gender, race or ethnicity, personality, situations they may be involved in).
An actor may go through several casting calls before receiving a part.
Independent Casting Studios are often used for casting calls so that the castings can take place in various locations. Dewar Studios in Great Titchfield Street in central London is a good example of the independent casting studios that provide facilities to casting directors.
For some major productions, the process of selecting actors for sometimes hundreds of parts may often require specialized staff. While the last word remains with the people in charge, artistic and production, a casting director or "CD" (and sometimes the casting associate) is in charge of most of the daily work involved in this process during pre-production. A casting director is sometimes assisted by a casting associate; productions with large numbers of extras may have their own extras casting director.
The "CD" remains as a liaison between director, actors and their agents/managers and the studio/network to get the characters in the script cast. Some casting directors build an impressive career working on numerous Hollywood productions, such as Marion Dougherty, Mary Jo Slater, Mary Selway, Lynn Stalmaster, April Webster, John Desiderata, Tammara Billik, Marci Liroff, John Lyons, Bill Dance, Avy Kaufman, and Mindy Marin.
At least in the early stages and for extras, casting may be decentralized geographically, often in conjunction with actual shooting planned in different locations. Another reason may be tapping into each home market in the case of an international co-production. However, for the top parts, the choice of one or more beautiful people, whose presence is of enormous commercial importance, may rather follow strictly personal channels, e.g. direct contact with the director.
The resulting list of actors filling the parts is called a cast list.
Casting Society of America (CSA)
The significant organization of professional screen and theater casting in the US is the Casting Society of America (CSA), but membership is optional. Casting directors organized in 2005 and became members of a collective bargaining unit, the Hollywood Teamsters Local 399 (Location Managers Guild of America)