New York Film Academy’s Tips to Becoming a Casting Director: You Asked – We Answered

January 24, 2012


Check out these great New York Film Academy tips for casting your own films:

DETERMINE WHAT ROLES YOU WANT TO CAST: The first step of casting your film is to decide what roles you need to fill. Focus on the lead roles (larger parts) first, deciding which factors are important for each character. 

  1. Questions to consider for each part: Age? Gender? Height? Ethnicity? Any unusual personality traits? Do they need any special skills such as ability to sing or play an instrument?
  2. You do not need a breakdown for every character. Many smaller roles can be cast from people that you auditioned but didn’t end up casting as the lead.

CREATE A CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: For each character, create a breakdown that lets an actor know what you are seeking. More descriptive adjectives help to paint a picture for actors to let them know if they are right for the role. A good description can also give them more information to prep for the audition: 


“Micaela – FEMALE. 18-24. Any ethnicity. Sally is a slightly-overweight, pessimistic person with a gambling problem.”

“Robert – MALE. 35-40. White. Must be bilingual in Spanish/English. Sharp-tongue. Manipulative con man masquerading as a Spanish teacher.”

SUBMIT YOUR BREAKDOWN ONLINE: TIP: Create a free email account such as [email protected] where actors can send their resumes and headshots. Emails can get bulky and you want to avoid spam in your inbox!

  1. There are several places to post your breakdown for free. Consider posting on, Actors Access, NY Castings, and Craigslist. You can also check out Backstage, a paid casting service that has some great talent (and many Union actors).
  2. When posting, have a sentence or two about your film ready to go, including the genre. If you there is any nudity in the project, you MUST post this in the writeup. Also, some sites will require you to indicate if the project is Union/Non-union and Fully Paid/Lo/No-Pay.

SCHEDULE YOUR ACTORS: Expect the resumes and headshots to start pouring in. Keep in mind that it may be more difficult to find some types of actors through these free casting services (i.e. Japanese 7 year old kids, 64 year old men) but you will receive a high volume of resumes for more common actor types including characters in the 18-24 range. 

  1. Determine which actors you want to audition.
  2. Book a room or space where you can cast the project (try to avoid using a living room, as this can make actors uncomfortable).
  3. Email or phone each actor and book them for a time slot of 10-15 minutes. You can book two actors at the same time to read against each other. Try to space out actors with breaks every 45 minutes in your schedule so you can discuss the auditions and collect your thoughts.
  4. Be sure to email every scheduled actor a reminder with the time of their audition, the location of the audition, and anything extra they should bring (IDs are required for some buildings. If you are required to give a security guard an advance list of names, ask actors if their name is the same as that on their ID – many use stage names and may not be let in if the name you provide doesn’t match the name on the license). 
  5. Send sides if available. A side is an excerpt from a script that has lines you would like the actor to read at an audition. You do not need to send the whole script – just a scene or part of a scene. Make sure to save this as a PDF so that it can open on any computer.
  6. Optional: You can leave a voicemail reminding actors of their audition 24 hours in advance. Though a bit more work, these personal voicemails can be the difference in an actor showing up or letting you know if they are running late.


  1. Come early. Get there in advance to set up the room. Consider bringing a camera (though ask your auditioning actors before you film anything).
  2. If there is security in the building, make sure they have the most up-to-date list of actors that will be coming. If you are allowed, post signs showing where to go in the building.
  3. It can be helpful to have all auditioning actors fill out an info sheet that says NAME, CONTACT, CONFLICTS (if you already know your shooting dates), UNION/NON-UNION, HEIGHT, etc. In this way, you have a record of every actor even if they don’t bring a headshot, and a place to take notes on their performance. Also put out extra copies of the sides for actors to study and use in the audition in case they did not print them.
  4. If you have time, let every actor read twice. Even if they are great the first time around, give the actor a direction to read differently to see how they respond to your feedback.
  5. DON’T HIRE AN ACTOR ON THE SPOT. Be sure to thank the auditioning actors on their way out. Be honest about when you hope to cast the film if they ask. However, you don’t know who will walk in next. AGAIN, NEVER HIRE AN ACTOR ON THE SPOT.


  1. Consider ever actor you saw. How was their performance? Are they good to work with? If you are casting characters that play family members or have a romantic relationship, you may want to consider a callback with your top choices to have different combinations of actors read against each other. 
  2. When you cast the project, keep your second and third favorite actors on file as backups. 
  3. If you have the time, it is always nice to shoot an email to actors that simply says, “Thank you for auditioning for our film. We do not have a role to offer you presently but appreciate your time and will keep your headshot on file for future projects!” Though it is not required to send a thank you, even hearing a “no” can sometimes make an actor’s day, since many casting directors will never contact them again unless they booked the job. And do keep good headshots/resumes on file – you may have a friend casting a project or an actor fall through and need to refer to these. Even if an actor isn’t right for the role you are casting, they may be perfect for the next one!!


Have more questions? Contact New York Film Academy’s Industry Blogger Mandy Menaker at [email protected] or Tweet at #NYFA! We want to hear what you have to say!