There are a lot of very smart actors, directors, and producers out there, but for some reason, people continue to confuse the role of the casting director and the talent agent. I get emails daily from actors asking for representation or producers looking for me to submit my clients for consideration. So, let’s end the confusion and state clearly the difference between casting directors and talent agents and see how they work together.
Talent agents represent actors. A talent agent may see an actor in a film, a showcase, or an off-Broadway play, and call him/ her into the office for a meeting. A casting director or a director may recommend you to a talent agent who will then call you in for a meeting. Also, an actor currently represented by that agent may recommend you as well. These are the main ways that one finds representation by an agent. Once represented, your agent will submit you for casting opportunities. If you land a job through your agent, he/ she will receive a predetermined percentage of your earnings (usually 10 %- 15%). Talent agents can submit you for projects that you normally would not be able to submit to directly. They also can negotiate contracts on your behalf.
Casting directors work as part of the creative staff for a specific project. When casting a film, a casting director will post casting notices, contact talent agents, arrange auditions, and sort through submissions. The casting director chooses which actors will be brought in to audition. The casting director does not have final say in the casting decisions, but he/she has influence in the process and works with the producer and director to find the strongest cast. The casting director makes the offers. In some cases, the casting director will negotiate the talent contracts on behalf of the production.
So those are the basics. I think the whole confusion stems from the common use of the term “casting agent” which for the most part is considered an incorrect term. Also, on film, tv, and commercial projects, the producers will hire an extras casting agency. These companies do not represent actors, but they do have large talent databases from which to pull background talent, so in the case of extras, the extras casting agency serves the role of both talent agent and casting director.
Now with any luck, I’ll stop getting letters from actors asking me to represent them!