Casting Around the World
International casting directors share their processes and tips for getting cast in different countries around the world.
We hosted a webinar which gave attendees the chance to understand how the casting process varies in the UK, US and Europe. Whether you’re a British actor with your sights set overseas or an international actor looking to improve your chances in the UK, casting directors Rich Mento (US), Victor Jenkins (UK), Beatrice Kruger (Europe) and Nathalie Cheron (France) were happy to share their advice.
Here's a taster of what was discussed:
Do the craft in your own country first. You need to understand who you are as an actor and work out that bit first.
How do your processes for finding actors vary?
Rich Mento: My job as a casting director is to get to know everyone in the world who is an actor or who may one day be an actor. I’ll never be done and that’s a wonderful thing - It’s exciting! It’s recommendations, it’s agents, it’s people I’ve worked with before, it’s people I meet on the street, it’s theatre I go to, it’s television and film that I watch, it’s people that reach out to me, it’s people I go looking for. You never know what your next project is, and you never know what types of people you’re going to need.
The same is true for Victor Jenkins in the UK, and Beatrice Kruger who casts in Italy and Germany. Self-tapes have been invaluable to all three of them in helping to get a better sense of the actor personally, and in allowing them to get through more actors than they would in auditions.
Nathalie Cheron: In Paris, there are between 16,000 to 18,000 actors, and I think you have 70,000 actors on Spotlight, right? I mean, voila! That’s where the difference is. That’s why we do mostly physical casting, and we love physical because there are less people on the market.
The only times I ask for a self-tape is when the actor is not in Paris. The French are not totally ready for self-tapes. It took me twice the time, because I got the self-tapes, and I had to call every actor to say, "Okay, it’s great, but we will have to do it again because your back is in the window, I can’t see you, the phone is too far, I can’t hear you." You have to tell them to name the videos and it takes an hour with every actor.
Is it important for actors to have an agent in your countries?
Beatrice Kruger: I work a lot with Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Slovenian [actors] – lots of Eastern European countries, and these European countries, they never have agents. An agent is a typical capitalistic job, right? So in the communist times, it was the Writers Bureau or the Work Bureau that took care of the actors. There was never a need for an agent.
There are still many incredibly well-educated, well-trained actors, they come from the really hot ground of all the theatre history and all that, but they don’t have agents. So for me, it’s completely the same, agent or without agent.
Nathalie Cheron: We all know that not everyone can have an agent. It’s okay, we will deal with it. It’s just that people who don’t have an agent complain that they’re not aware of what we’re doing, but we don’t advertise what we’re doing. Except for commercials [which are] really specific searches that are really bizarre.
We go through our files, our data, of course, agents and our Facebook pages. But if we’re looking for a 25-30 years old girl or boy for an important part, we won’t advertise for it because we have so many to deal with.
Rich Mento: It’ll depend on the size of the project. For me, casting always expands to the time that you give it and so if I need someone tomorrow, I will call the agents that I know and trust and who’s available and who can take the job.
If you’re doing a very high profile project, it’s unlikely if you’re not a completely unique type that unrepresented actors will be seen. But if you’re doing a smaller project or commercials and things like that, absolutely.
If you’re an actor who’s doing good work, an agent or a manager will find you.
Victor Jenkins: It’s such a big market here [in the UK] that it’s harder if you don’t have an agent. Agents are the norm. Absolutely in Europe and Russia, it’s about actors just representing themselves and who they know and Facebook is used quite a lot in those countries. But not in the UK.
actors are not always aware [that there’s a difference between] communicating in another language and then acting in the language
How should UK graduates go about entering the market in your countries?
Rich Mento: Yes the world is getting smaller, yes it’s a global marketplace, but there’s a lot going on where you live. Start there. If an American production wants you or needs you, then we will find you. We have colleagues all over the world helping us on larger productions.
Victor Jenkins: In terms of trying to find a market outside of your own country, do the craft in your own country first. You need to understand who you are as an actor and work out that bit first. Everyone has their own actors – why would you have a 22-year-old from the UK who happens to speak French when you’ve got a French actor who’s 22?
Nathalie Cheron: The problem is actors are not always aware [that there’s a difference between] communicating in another language and then acting in the language, and I think that if you speak other languages, maybe you could do a little video with the language that you speak fluently so we have an idea of your level of skill with the language.
Don’t try to overrate yourself. It’s sometimes not that they [actors] want to lie, but they don’t realise they won’t be free enough to act in another language. Do your own job in your own country and get visibility in your country.
Beatrice Kruger: For Italy, and for every country really, if you’re looking for actors, you can go on the internet and find actors. I use a lot of casting sites because I’m curious. As an actor, you should take the time and sit down and really fill in your profile in every single detail. Sit down and think, 'Okay, what can I do, and how well can I do it?’ It might take half a day, or two days, or even a week maybe, but then when you’ve done that, your profile can work for you. Many casting directors use platforms to search for actors. If [your] details aren’t complete, then those details can’t show up in searches. It’s something that the actor can do, and the agent cannot do that.
Apart from America and England, where it’s always the English language, I think that every other actor from another country should, if they want to work outside their country, definitely learn English and should always continue to improve it. Because the thing is, we all have an accent, and depending on what kind of a project it is and what kind of a role it is, people get bored of listening to accents that are strong. The better and more fluid you speak English, the greater roles you can get. If you’re really interested, you have to study.
What advice can you give for Spotlight members who want to find out more about acting in your countries?
Rich Mento: My advice to actors [in the UK] and actors globally would be to take to your search engine and do some searching. There are podcasts and webinars and amazing members of worldwide casting organisations reaching out to actors. You can learn a lot from listening to casting directors talk about their craft.
Beatrice Kruger: We had a Greek agent who decided to come to Italy and present her actors, and invited some of us casting directors to Athens and had all of her actors meet them. She facilitated.
Victor Jenkins: There’s so much stuff online now. What Spotlight offers is great. There are so many conversations and webinars online. You can do your research on individual casting directors and do your research into actors. It’s a constant learning thing. The good thing about acting is that it’s something that will be there forever and will constantly change.
Nathalie Cheron: You don’t want to work in France until you speak totally French. When I work on international projects, if I work for foreign casting directors, it’s because they are searching for a French character. Otherwise, maybe there will be one character once in a while who is Danish or Spanish, and it doesn’t matter if they have an accent or not, but then you have to be totally fluent in French.
About the panellists:
Beatrice Kruger is a casting director based in Rome where she casts Italian and international films. She is one of the founders of the first Italian Casting Directors Association and the founder of www.e-talenta.eu: a multi-language platform for casting professionals and European actors accessible in English, German, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish.
Rich Mento is an award-winning casting director and producer working in New York and Los Angeles. He has successfully worked in theatre, TV, film, and new media and is currently serving as Vice-President for the Casting Society of America.
Victor Jenkins is a casting director and owner of Victor Jenkins Casting. He's based in the UK and has worked on many award-winning shows such as Broadchurch, Fleabag, Episodes, Humans, Unforgotten, The Last Kingdom, and Grantchester, as well as features Brotherhood, Access All Areas, and UK casting on Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted and Into The Woods.
Nathalie Cheron is a casting director working in France who combines prolific work on French-language films with major international titles such as The Bourne Identity, Taken and Luc Besson’s Lucy. Nathalie is a member of the International Casting Directors Network (ICDN) and is also president of the French casting directors association, Association des Responsables de Distribution Artistique (ARDA).
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Image by Kyle Glenn via Unsplash.