May 15th, 2023
Written by Kate Santos / TinDragon Collaborator
Discovering the right talent for your project is one of the most crucial aspects of creating a compelling story. The right cast of actors can make your material more engaging and bring more depth and complexity to your story. Without the right fit, you may run into problems during the shoot. Stale and boring delivery. Lack of chemistry and connection. If you don't believe it, you can't sell it. Knowing that you can rely on your cast and crew to produce the project of your dreams is a great feeling.
Much more than hiring actors with reputable skills, casting is a process that considers many elements, such as the director’s vision, the script, the actors’ practical skills and the casts’ chemistry. Casting the right person can even come down to the feeling you get when an actor reads the lines. Rather than promising the role to a friend or someone with the character’s look, you must spend time considering a number of factors on whether they are the right fit.
So let's dive into how to cast the right people for the right parts in your video. Consider me your Virtual Casting Agent!
1. Understanding The Story
The first step in casting any project is fully understanding all the elements at play in a story. Even with social media videos or short-form content, recognizing the entire scope –from the story to the setting to the tone– is imperative before you begin the casting process. Rather than choosing an actor based on a short character description, it’s important to understand how the character will move throughout the entirety of the story.
As the project comes into fruition, some things are bound to change but without acknowledging the core story and intention behind the project, you cannot start the casting process. If you understand the feeling you want to convey to the audience and what you are trying to say then you can understand how to find the right on-camera talent. Having a clear vision will allow you to choose the right person for the job and will save you headaches when shooting.
2. Consider The Practical Skills Needed
Although you could be tempted to cast someone who looks like the character you had in mind, you must consider any practical skills the actor will need in order to fully tell the story you want to tell.
When casting TinDragon’s Smooth Sailing, the ability to be bilingual was important to the script. Finding the right actors who connect with the intended audience (in this case, it was high school students learning about the college application process) required us to consider the language requirement a practical skill that was absolutely necessary. In the end, the animation was voiced-over in both English and Spanish, and can help more students learn the valuable skills it teaches.
Another example is when a script calls for extensive improvisation ability. For actors uncomfortable with improv could suffer performance-wise while other actors with that experience and ability would be able to bring something new to the project. Other physical practical skills, whether it’s sword fighting, swimming, playing the piano, also should be taken into account.
3. Lights, Camera, Cast!
You’ve posted the casting calls, you’ve received a plethora of actor’s headshots and resumes, and you’re ready to wade through the picks that meet the practical skills you need– what’s next? Book a room (or virtual room)! It’s time to schedule these actors to come out and audition. In the room, you can get to know an actor’s performance and even give them direction on how you’d like them to play the character.
That being said, direction is imperative! It’s not the responsibility of the actor to completely understand the character just from reading the script. The right actor may have a few ideas on how to play the character and without providing direction, you won’t be able to see the many different faces the actor can give to the piece. Even for unscripted content, adding direction can help guide talent to the best possible performance. This is where understanding your “story” (even for unscripted projects) comes into play. For smaller projects, in the room –or virtual room– is also a great place to reiterate availability, filming dates, and other requirements needed. For larger projects, those details can be communicated to the person’s agent or manager.
In recent years, more casting directors have opted for video calls and self-tape auditions versus in-room auditions, which opens up the casting to actors who might otherwise not audition (including those who reside further away or those actors that are busy with family or work other jobs). Although both are great viable options for casting the right person, if you are able, there’s nothing like physically being in the room that will allow you to get to know your talent.
4. Consider The Chemistry Of The Cast
People often discuss the “it factor”, that undefinable intangible quality, when describing celebrities or actors but when multiple actors or talent work together on a project, another type of “it factor” is in play: chemistry. On set, chemistry is everything! When casting more than one character or on-camera talent, it’s crucial to consider how the talent will interact. Since these individuals are responsible for bringing a script to life and authentically capture the interest of an audience, it’s important that they can work together harmoniously. Especially for projects that will require individuals to work in close-knit environments, chemistry is the key component that could directly affect your final outcome.
The most direct way to grasp whether a group will work well in combination with one another is to bring them all together in one space. Whether that’s a video call or a physical casting room, learning how the talent interacts and communicates with one another will help you determine the locked-in cast. Often you can determine a casts’ chemistry just by introducing them to one another but having them act out a scene together or participate in a discussion about their processes could expose how well (or possibly, not well) they will work together when on screen.
Many times with ensemble casts, a few reasons that the final content was successful was because of the chemistry between the players. A great present example of this is the HBO show Succession where the actors often improvise and develop their character’s relationship with experimentation. Without that “it factor,” you’ll lack believability or take your audience out of the scene. Lack of chemistry can also affect even the best actor’s performance.
There are scenes in Succession where the show's main characters (Roman Roy, Kendall Roy and Shiv Roy) put aside their corporate backstabbings to celebrate Shiv's wedding is so wholesome and reminds you of their familial connection. Despite the siblings all competing for the CEO position at their father's media empire, you can imagine how the Roy kids grew up together as kids and young adults. This could only be sold with the great dynamics, written on the page and by the actors.
5. Make The Call! (Or Callback!)
From script to screen, casting could be your magic ingredient for a successful project. When you’ve made your choices, it’s time to communicate that to the actors in a timely manner. A considerate practice is also to notify the actors who won’t be making it to the next step. In this business, you never know who you will be working with in the future so it’s best to keep those relationships on good terms and communication is a key factor in that. If you’re still on the fence, consider hosting callback auditions to get to further know their performance. This is especially helpful when you are deciding between a few actors for the role.
Casting has a direct impact on the success of a project and a great way to be certain you will cast the right people for your project is to connect with TinDragon Media for their casting services. With experience casting actors, social media talent, unscripted talent, and voiceover actors, TinDragon Media has you covered no matter your needs. Let’s bring your project (and casting!) to life!
About Kate Santos
Kate Santos is a casting director for unscripted and scripted content based in Los Angeles. She works as a casting director for everything from reality TV to commercials to independent films. In TV, she has worked on casting teams for nearly all the major networks and streamers like CBS, Discovery, National Geographic, Peacock and HBO Max.