image of casting agent

VoiceTalks AV Series: What does a casting agent do?

What does a casting agent do? People ask us that quite often. Well, have you ever wondered how actors end up in a particular movie? Who chooses these actors? And what about voice actors? Choosing the right actor is crucial because an actor can make or break a part — let alone the whole movie/AV production.

While a director often chooses the main cast of a film, many directors don’t have the time to audition several actors for lesser roles. We’re not referring to supporting roles, here — supporting roles resort under ‘main’.

What exactly is a casting agent?

what does a casting agent do?
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A casting agent (also known as a booking agent) shortlists suitable actors for a particular production. As noted above, casting agents rarely select lead roles simply because the producer and director usually have vested interests in the production and will try to draw actors who have enough star power to ensure wider public interest.

The producer, director, or end-client hires the services of a casting agent. It’s important to remember that a casting agent makes recommendations. Inevitably, the director makes the final decision on who will play a particular part.

The role of the casting agent

Because the casting agent can play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of a project, they involve themselves from the preproduction stage to the just before shooting begins. Let’s take a closer look at the overall role:

  • The casting agent meets with the production’s director to understand the story and the characters within the story. They read the script thoroughly and get an in-depth understanding of the role that each character plays.
  • Casting agents understand budgetary constraints and ensure that the castings they propose fall within the production budget.
  • Most casting agents have a range of actors on their books – with auditions and images lined up. Productions are often under pressure and because time is money, having all the possible choices at hand is important.
  • Once they have tentatively decided on the actors who will play each of the characters, they contact the actors to find out if they’re available for the production. Actors frequently involve themselves in projects simultaneously. It’s therefore critical to ascertain whether they can devote enough time to the production at hand.
  • If an actor is not available to play a particular role, then the casting agent must find someone else who is available but who also fits the role of the character. It’s only when an actor can commit to a project that the casting agent will recommend them to the director.
  • For smaller parts, the casting agent might hold auditions on their own. Several actors will audition for each character — as is the case with voice actors. The casting agent then shares the auditions with the director. Although they may make recommendations for a particular actor, the director or the producer makes the final decision.
  • The casting agent might need to negotiate contracts between the production and the actors. Most times, the actor or the actors agent will do the negotiations. If an actor doesn’t have representation, the casting agent may step in on their behalf.
  • The casting agent’s next job is helping the actors understand the characters they will play and help actors prepare for their roles.

How do casting agents choose voice actors?

what does a casting agent do?

Casting agents inevitably have an extensive database of voice actors and their audition clips or samples. So, when a production requires specific vocal traits or abilities, the casting agent can immediately pick the most appropriate actors and put their names and auditions forward.

Of course, there are times when there is no voice actor within the casting agent’s database who will fit a particular role. When this happens, the casting agent holds audition rounds. Following these, they send the clips to the production, and the selected candidates receive a call-back for another, more detailed test. The director makes the final decision and the casting agent tells the actors.

In this age of online casting sites, are agents still relevant?

This is an intriguing debate. We discuss it in more depth in this article: Online platforms vs. booking agencies. Who’s more relevant?

How do casting agents find voice actors?

Before the internet became so ubiquitous, there were both agencies and agents who specialised in finding and booking voice actors for every kind of production. In 2003/2004, Voice123 changed all that. Despite casting sites like Voice123 having very vocal detractors, most industry players admit that change was inevitable and not a bad thing.

Final thoughts on casting agents

what does a casting agent do?
Image: Shutterstock

In many instances, casting agencies and online platforms complement one another. Casting sites have certainly demolished borders across the world. From the comfort of your armchair in downtown Boston, you can book an actor based in Pune, India!

In the days before the internet, casting/booking agents would typically find their clients by word of mouth. They would also talk to other voice actors, producers, casting directors, and directors.

Today, casting agents are very active on social media as well. They can plug into a community of voice actors and make it known that they are on the lookout for specific talent.

Particularly in video game casting, casting agents and agencies are still very active in the voice over industry. It’s unlikely that this will change anytime soon.

(This article is one of a six-part series; the other articles cover: What does a producer, a director, a scriptwriter, a sound engineer, and an editor do? Don’t forget to have a look at them as well!)


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