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Dear West End Producer: ‘I’ve been told the preferred way to greet a casting director is an open-mouthed kiss. Is this true?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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An open-mouthed kiss is certainly the best way to greet a casting director – if you are their spouse, partner, lover or muse. However, if you do not fit this criteria then it is recommended you take a more ‘hands-off’ approach.

Casting directors are usually very nice and will want your audition to go well. It is normal for them to offer a handshake, or a hug (if they’ve worked with you before). When these are offered you should politely comply. However, this doesn’t mean you should hold the hug for more than 10 seconds, or continue shaking their hand until their wrist breaks.

Auditions are delicate and every one is different. They require an understanding and appreciation from both the casting panel and performers. If one side gets too formal, angry, sweaty or rude, then the strict code of casting directors’ conduct can be broken.

It is a little-known fact, but all casting directors are members of the Magic Circle – and just like magicians they can swiftly make an actor disappear from the entertainment business

It is a little-known fact, but all casting directors are members of the Magic Circle – and just like magicians they can swiftly make an actor disappear from the entertainment business (and force them to be an extra wandering around the Olivier stage). So they need to be treated with respect. A casting director, like any employer, has a strict code of ethics. These include:

Smiling at least once during an audition.

Promising not to text friends, or watch cat videos during boring songs.

Never to deface an actor’s headshot until they’ve left the audition room.

The requirement to use actors from different agencies – not just those on speed dial.

A no-alcohol policy before midday.

Not having auditions running more than two hours behind schedule (unless casting an advert – when this is increased to 24 hours).

Never letting an actor know if they don’t get the part.

Always having a cup of coffee on the table.

Never to accept monetary bribes (chocolates, wine and massage vouchers are acceptable).

Making sure they are casting the right show – it can be very confusing if they start casting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when they’re meant to be casting Hamlet.

The daily challenge of avoiding interacting with actors during out-of-office hours.

You must also understand that personal hygiene can be rather tricky in audition situations. Not only do casting directors often have to sit next to sweaty directors who use long words and spend the day justifying their ‘vision’ for the show, but they come into contact with all sorts of germs from actors. Actors carry many harmful bacteria – including over-enthusiasm, out-of-tune singing, unrecognisable headshots (headshits), old acting fluid, excessive gurning and a desperate desire to impress.

So with this knowledge, be gentle with casting directors – they put themselves in hazardous situations on a daily basis – as the thought of performers greeting them with an open-mouthed kiss fills them with dread. Just try a gentle tap on the head next time, dear.

This week’s question was submitted by @therobwhitelock. Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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