Dear West End Producer: ‘Do casting directors look at actors’ submissions or just those from agents?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Most casting directors will look at submissions by actors as well as by agents. In fact, it can make their job a lot more interesting, and reveals a lot about an actor. Some actors prefer to lay back, sip gin and let their agents do all the work. But others actively try to promote themselves – contacting casting directors, either on their own or collaborating with their agent to give the casting director a double hit.

It’s true that castings can sometimes be put together very quickly, organised at the last minute, when directors and creatives can all be in the same room. So, casting directors will often go straight to agents with whom they have a good relationship.

However, most will usually put a breakdown on Spotlight, where agents can submit their clients. Then, when actors have been submitted, the casting director will scroll through pages of suggested actors and pick out the ones to shortlist for auditions. This decision is based on crucial things, such as what an actor looks like, how good their CV is, or by using the well-trodden ‘eeny meeny miny, moe, can the actor do the role’ technique.

But as well as finding suitable actors this way, they will also respond to personal submissions. Now I’m not saying that every casting director will do this, as some won’t have time or will prefer just to go through agents, but others welcome them.

However, don’t simply send a general email stating how talented your mum thinks you are and how good you were in the last tour of Annie. Be specific and suggest yourself for a role you believe you’re good for. Say why you think you’d be good and list any previous experience that will make you stand out (for example, if the show requires puppetry skills).

If submitting yourself for a role, always check with your agent first. Some agents prefer if it all goes through them, however others will be more than happy for clients to write to the casting director as well. When this is the case, always makes sure that you and your agent are putting you up for the same role – you don’t want to suggest yourself for Romeo only for your agent to suggest you for Juliet (and if they do it’s probably time you moved, dear).

You should also mention if you have experience of working with the director or any members of the creative team, as this can increase your chances.

And on that note, as well as writing to the casting director, it can be worth writing to the director – particularly if you’ve worked with them before. The director can obviously ensure that the casting director brings you in for an audition. Again, just keep it professional, and be sensible about what you suggest yourself for.

But only write once. Don’t plague them with loads of follow-up emails. That won’t result in an audition at all. It will just result in another year of working front of house, dear.

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