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5 Reasons Why You Need To Hire A Casting Director And Not Do It Yourself

5 Reasons Why You Need To Hire A Casting Director And Not Do It Yourself

We recently ran a guest post from indie filmmaker Noam Kroll about what you need to know before casting your film. Not surprisingly, a number of casting directors objected to the fact that the story never suggested the obvious solution: hire a casting director. Casting director Nicole Arbusto responded with her own guest post about why it’s not a good idea to try to cast your film on your own without the help of a paid professional.

There may be reasons you think you should handle casting your film yourself – time, money etc. But there are plenty of great reasons  – time and money among them, that it might be a better idea to hire a Casting Director (CD). Even if you’re working in the micro-budget area, if you look on IMDB there are plenty of micro budget films that used a CD and benefited from their expertise. Here are 5 basic reasons why you should hire a professional casting director:

READ MORE: 15 Tips On Making Your First Micro-Budget Feature

1. Experience Counts.

Let’s assume you’re doing this for the first time. You may not have the best sense of the pluses and minuses of the roles in your film and how to pitch your project to agents and managers. The way a director sees the script they’re shooting is different than the way a CD sees the project. We read a lot of scripts, and we have a sense of how agents see a script. A CD might have a better sense of which roles will be more challenging and need more time, which might be a good cameo etc.
2. You’re Paying for Expertise.

As a general rule agents don’t cover films under 2 million in the way they cover bigger budgeted films. If you hire a CD who works a lot in this marketplace you are also buying their expertise in getting attention on your project. And again, if they work in low budget they’ll know who is within the reach of your project in terms of talent – and who is too hard to get, or needs a money gig or just got divorced and needs to stay close to home etc.

3. Casting Directors Can Guide The Process.

If you’re a writer/director, the experience of hearing your work aloud in all these different voices often for the first time, can be a little weird and overwhelming. Having someone else guide you, help you process what works and what doesn’t work can be enormously helpful. And in a situation where the material is challenging — maybe it’s very dark, emotional or sexual — having another person there can be really crucial in getting the best work from the actors. We know how to figure out who is comfortable putting themselves out there, we can create a safe space for them, and we can help you process what are sometimes very intense or awkward auditions.

4. They Can Help You Cast Kids.

If you’ve got kids in your film, the audition process is going to be a great rehearsal for you if you’ve never worked with kids before. You’ll have the opportunity to try out different ways of explaining your material and to direct kids of various ages and levels of experience. This is invaluable pre-production work and really applies to ALL the roles you’re auditioning. Auditions give you a shot at trying some things without the pressures of being on set. Finding kids is all leg work and prep, – a lot of work happens before any auditions take place. Agents who handle kids are amazing (because really can you imagine how hard that job is?!) and a great resource. But you don’t have the time to talk to all of them. And if you’re doing a search, it’s even more work. Often when casting kids – the vision of who the kid is, the age, the look etc. can change a bit during casting too, so you really don’t want to have to rush this process.

5. They Can Deal With Budgets and Contracts.

Just because you’re making a low budget film and the rate is flat don’t assume the deals will be a walk in the park. They’re often quite complex because there’s no money. People end up really digging in their heels about billing, photo approvals, points, net profit definition etc. It can be disappointing after the excitement of figuring out who you’re casting, to then deal with the details of someone’s trailer – or lack of a trailer.

Nicole Arbusto  is an independent Casting Director and has cast a variety of independent films which have premiered at film festivals in the U.S and abroad, including “Lake Los Angeles,” which premiered in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival; “C.O.G.,” which premiered in the Dramatic Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, won the prize for Best New American Film at the Seattle International Film Festival and was the opening night film at Outfest 2013. Arbusto also cast “Doll & Em,” the series written by  and starring Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells and directed by Azazel Jacobs.

This Article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit and tagged ,


MK Casting

I totally agree with Nicole. Casting Directors are understandable.If the money is small,you just have to let them know and if they are willing,they will do the job. But you definitely need a CD

Elisabeth R.

Jimmy’s story is EXTREMELY common. CDs tell you how much you need them, but take it from me: if you don’t have at least $10,000 for casting, FORGET IT. An experienced CD won’t even return your calls. Then you’re stuck picking from those casting "associates" who read gossip magazines and think that qualifies them for the job. Seriously, either spend $10,000 on a good CD, or spend nothing and do it yourself. No middle ground.


Jimmy!! Thanks!!! A LOT!!!! I felt in my heart it could be done and now I know it can!!!

ramsay palmer



Yes! I would add that even though hiring CDs may cost a little money up front, we SAVE you money, time and frustration the long run. We know the talent pool in depth, including their interests, temperament, skill level, price and availability. We negotiate on your behalf to get the best terms possible. We come up with casting choices you may not have thought of and unearth actors you wouldn't have found on your own. We can find you a local hire and save you the expense of flying someone in and paying their room and board. We'll rescue you when an actor needs to be replaced on short notice, or when there's a dispute between you and the agent. And we can prevent you from getting into the editing room and realizing most of your footage is unusable, because you didn't hire the right actor. Well worth it!!

Darci Warner

Great points! CDs know so much more about the actors than could be known in casting one project. AND they can know which actor moms are easy on set and which are not. Right there is worth at least double money!


I'm an independent filmmaker who has directed three indie feature films, all SAG-AFTRA, all ultra low budget. The first film was a small cast, only 6 characters, but I knew it'd be easier with the help of a casting director. Problem is, all I got were assistants or associates to reply to my request I put up on the CSA website. But hey, I only had $1500 for a casting director so I pulled the trigger and hired a casting associate from a big TV office who wanted to cast her first film. She talked a good game, said she had great relationships with agents and managers and knew a lot of great talent. She came up with some pretty impressive lists.

Two weeks into the project (6 weeks from start date), we finally started to see some submissions via Breakdowns but nothing from Gersh or Innovative or APA. I asked her if she could call and get some ideas but she said "they don't submit on ULB films". I knew that was bullshit because my friend just did a non-union feature and on a $50K budget got submissions from all those agencies. I knew some people at 2 of the agencies so I called – and the next day they submitted. Appears that our casting associate had NO connections with anyone but mom and pop agencies (which is cool, but I was aiming higher). Also, because we were low budget, she was not the most "available" casting person. Because many on our crew had day jobs, I wanted to cast in the early evening and on weekends, but she said no. She was out "scouting talent" in casting workshops where two of my actor friends say she got paid hundreds to audition actors. Red flag.

Now I understand that I'm not paying her shit, but after all, she agreed to do the work and it was now a month from our shoot date and we only had one session. It got worse, because the casting office she was working for got two pilots picked up so she had even less time for us.

So I fired her. I called the agents myself, connected with Gersh and Innovative and the awesome Stone Manners, and they got me some great talent, many of whom came in to read for lil ol' me! We had no kids so that wasn’t an issue. Our casting genius had never seen a contract in her life (thank God I have a legal background). And she had very little experience or expertise (although she lied when she told us she had “tons or experience”. Sorry – 18 months answering phones doesn’t qualify as “tons”.

So in the end:

*Spent $1500 for nothing.
*Got someone who knew fewer actors than I know and with fewer relationships with agents and managers.
*Got someone who was more interested in making hundreds of bucks off of actors to be discovered.
*Had a bad attitude, was totally arrogant, had a serious sense of entitlement, looked down on me and my producers.
*Cost us precious time and money.

In the end we pulled it off. We got a GREAT CAST without a casting director. I'm not saying that with a more responsible person our experience might have been better or different. I'm just saying that it's totally possible to cast an independent film without a casting director. In fact, if this is the new crop of casting people we're seeing, it won't be long that technology will replace casting directors altogether. Save money, save headaches, get a great cast – do it yourself.

By the way, our film has won numerous awards and was just accepted into two big festivals.

See ya at the movies!


Wendy Alane Wright

Great article Nicole. Thank you:)

Mike Ott

Well said Nicole.

Jeremy Gordon

Well said, Nicole. You beautifully touched on 5 important reasons. There may be 100 legit reasons why one should hire a CD and these 5 are tantamount.
Not hiring a CD is like not hiring a DP. Noam's article was written without much thought and experience and sounded more like a whining child. Kudos to you, Nicole.

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