How Casting Directors Work

By: Diane Dannenfeldt

Becoming a Casting Director

Casting directors often hold auditions such as this one for the TV movie "Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story."
Casting directors often hold auditions such as this one for the TV movie "Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story."
© Bob Strong/AFP/Getty Images

As with most entertainment jobs, if you want to be a casting director, you'll need to start low, aim high, network and have some luck along the way. And while no specific training is required to be a casting director, you'll be more likely to succeed with some education, experience and the right personal skills.


To understand the industry, you'll probably want to study at a two- or four-year college that offers classes in film and theater arts, such as acting and directing, as well as business management. Casting directors need to know how to negotiate contracts and understand the complexities of working with union employees.


You should also take acting classes. Casting director Kim Petrosky notes in the book "100 Careers in Film and Television" that acting classes will help you understand actors and the acting process, recognize talent and put actors at ease for better audition performances. In fact, starting as an actor can lead to a career as a casting director [source: Crouch].


Becoming a casting director usually means starting at the bottom in the industry. Look for an internship with a casting agency, or a casting director who would take on another assistant or low-level helper. From there, you can work your way up to associate casting director. Remember that producers, directors and studios won't be willing to hire you unless you can show you have the experience to do the job well.

For an updated list of casting directors and agencies, go to Breakdown Services. The Casting Society of America, a professional association for casting directors, offers a member directory and a glossary of casting and film production terms.


More than other entertainment jobs, this one is about who you know. Making connections will help you move up in your career, and it'll give you the contacts you need to make good casting decisions. You'll need to be able to quickly and easily find the right actors for the roles, which means knowing the actors and keeping good relationships with talent agents.


Is being a casting director a woman's job? Casting director Juliet Taylor makes the argument in the book "Women in American Theatre" that women may be especially suited for it. Here's what she says you need: curiosity and patience to get to know people well, as well as an instinct about whether an actor will project a certain quality" [source: Chinoy and Jenkins].

But as a casting director, you'll also need:

  • excellent communication skills to work with both sides -- studios and directors, and actors and talent agents
  • negotiation skills
  • organizational skills to juggle projects and keep them all on track
  • good memory for script details, actor abilities and contact names
  • careful attention to detail
  • patience and persistence


If you're an empathetic person who is good at sizing people up but also tough enough to handle contract negotiations, maybe it's time to start moving toward a casting director career.

For lots more information about casting directors and related topics, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • "A Star is Found: Our Adventures Casting Some of Hollywood's Biggest Movies." Janet Hirschenson and Jane Jenkins. Harcourt Trade. (,M1)
  • "The Holiday." Internet Movie Database.
  • "Women in American Theatre." Helen Krich Chony and Linda Walsh Jenkins. Theatre Communications Group.,M1
  • "Hollywood 101: The Film Industry." Frederick Levy. Macmillan.­%22casting+director%22&lr=&sig=cnWCAnxTZKhku6CbSyomlrIMV0I