The casting process is extremely fluid and varies widely depending on the type of work (commercial, tv/film, theater, voiceover, etc). Please take this page as general overview of how it *might* work.
A breakdown is essentially a job notice. Another word for this would be casting notice. The term “breakdown” comes from an old process of reading a script and breaking it down into workable pieces. One of those pieces is the list of characters with brief descriptions. For example, it might say something like “Tori, female, age 7 – 10. Asian preferred. Tori is outgoing and aggressive. She tends to be the bully in the group.” Breakdowns are created by either the film maker, casting director (CD) or the company called Breakdown Services. Most breakdowns are copyrighted, so you should not share them.
A word about Open Calls: Generally, open calls are a publicity stunt. They range from long shots to outright scams. Before you attend an open call, make sure it is legitimate and will be attended by the real casting directors working for that project. For example, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Netflix are often mentioned as having open calls, when they very rarely do. Here’s an article on Legitimate Disney Auditions.
Agents and managers receive the breakdowns online from a variety of casting companies, and they submit the talent they believe fit the job description. Most breakdowns are not available to the public to be seen and are only offered to licensed representatives. This is why it is important to have an agent! Sometimes, casting directors allow actors and models to self-submit through more public sites such as Actors Access, Casting Networks or 800 Casting. Often these jobs are entry-level jobs, no pay jobs, or are very unique. If they really need a Black 5 year old transgender child who speaks Pig Latin, they are probably going to have a cast a wide net! Read our article on Online Casting to learn more about how to self-submit.
A submission is usually electronic, whether it comes from an agent, manager or a performer. A submission consists of a resume and headshot, and sometimes they will ask for a scene to be performed, or to see a copy of your previous work (called a reel).
First, be aware that only a very few actors will be chosen to audition. The average co-star role draws over 1000 submissions. Only 50 or so will be asked to audition. Maybe 5 will be asked to a callback, and only one will get the job.
- Pre-reads and self-submitted tapes. Since COVID, most of these first auditions are taped and sent in. The casting director will give you instructions and a scene to perform. The actual casting director rarely watches all of them — instead it is often an intern or casting associate that sees the first round and narrows it for the casting director’s viewing. Read here for more on Taping Auditions.
- 1st audition with the CD — this may be in person, or it may be via Zoom or Skype.
- Callbacks — varies heavily by the level of role and the type of work. Usually other people will be involved here, like the director, producers or other stars who have already been cast.
Mix & Match and Chemistry Reads are types of callbacks where several actors are included to see how they work together. The bigger the job, the more callbacks there may be.
**FOR MOST JOBS, THIS IS WHERE THE AUDITION PROCESS STOPS** You will get a job offer with the rate of pay, dates, and terms and you will decide whether or not to accept the job.
- Studio/Testing — This applies to television shows and feature films, and it applies to actors who are crucial to the project — series regulars or film leads. These auditions have more people in the audience, and sometimes the negotiation of the deal precedes the actual audition.
Rehearsals and table reads — You might be asked to attend one of these “working” days. Don’t be fooled…this is the last step in the process and you can still be eliminated from contention. Don’t get too comfortable and don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. Many actors get replaced at this stage.
Then…your child BOOKED IT! A booking means you got the job. They earned it! Congratulations!
How often does this happen? Numbers are tough because YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Variables include the uniqueness of the child, the level of jobs they are competing for, and the skill of their agents and managers, just to name a few. Round numbers? It is not unusual to attend 100 auditions before getting a job. Getting a callback 20% of the time, is really great. Each audition should be celebrated and each callback is a success. Try looking at the whole thing as a unique journey for your family!
Once that job offer comes in, the casting process is not over. Only licensed agents and lawyers are legally allowed to negotiate employment for a child (otherwise it would be slavery, or pimping — yikes!). Your agent will discuss the terms with the casting director and then discuss them with you. In some cases, beginning actors and models may need to accept whatever is offered. As your child’s career progresses it will be important to negotiate details that are important to you. There are also issues at play, such as content. For more on this, check out our article on Extreme Roles = Extreme Decisions. The most important thing to remember is that you have choices. The buck stops with you, the parent. It is OK to say NO.