As with any other un-moderated industry, the staffing structure varies a great deal between casting offices. Following is a breakdown of the various job titles in the field of casting.
CDs (Casting Directors) as Film producers / Executive Producers
It is much easier for a producer to find investors to finance a film if name talent is attached to the project. Sometimes a CD will work on an un-financed project ‘on spec’ (for free) or for a small fee, to attach celebrities. Due to the fact that the majority of projects in development will never be green-lit, the CD may be given a ‘producer’ or an ‘executive producer’ credit. This credit is to compensate for the risk the CD is taking by spending time on a project that may never go into production.
Powerful CDs in Hollywood are often able to negotiate producer credits even when they are being paid their full rate. This is simply because the filmmakers are lucky to be working with CDs of this caliber and to have access to the celebrity connections they bring to the film. A producer credit is also often given because the CD actually did produce the film.
President or VP of Talent or Casting
Each studio and network has an in-house casting department. That is, a team of casting executives who hire, oversee, and work with outsourced casting offices to cast the various projects being produced by the network. Although the hired office is the one officially casting the show, the casting executives will still suggest actors for roles, watch the audition tapes, and approve the cast that has been selected. If there is a particularly large guest cast or for some reason the outsourced office can’t run a casting session, the in-house executive CD may run auditions.
Owner / CD
Most CDs own the casting company for which they work. This is made clear by the fact that most casting offices are named after the head CDs. In larger offices, there are some CDs who are not the owners of the company. An example of this is one of the largest casting offices in LA. The three owners (after whom the company is named) are working CDs and owners of the company, plus they have several other casting directors and associates working for them as employees.
Casting Director (CD)
A CD is in charge of sourcing and auditioning actors for a project. Most CDs are members of the CSA. CDs decide or collaborate with the pro- ducers and director on which actors are called back, and are often part of the decision making process regarding who gets the part (though ultimately the director and producer decide).
CDs remember and re-use talented actors they meet and like. They have both the authority and motivation to find new actors because most CDs truly enjoy finding undiscovered talent.
CDs working in TV or working regularly in film will usually have a casting associate working directly under them. The associate aids the CD with organizing and running the sessions, delegating work to the assistants, and dealing with paperwork when actors are booked. Casting associates are generally more accessible than CDs, so getting to know them can be the easiest way to get an audition for some of the impenetrable big offices. Associates are usually only a few years away from becoming CDs, so develop a relationship with them early before they get that big promotion.
Associates are often assigned the task of finding much of the talent for supporting roles in projects, which is one reason many of them attend showcases or workshops. Just because they are paid to be at a workshop (they usually are) doesn’t mean they aren’t actively looking for talent. On many TV shows, the associate is responsible for selecting almost all of the actors for the co-star audition sessions. Associates frequently do the initial selection from the submissions received online. Out of a thousand submissions an associate might choose a hundred actors from which a CD then selects the final thirty who are invited to audition.
Casting offices in LA often don’t have a specific ‘receptionist’. The person you meet at the front desk is often a casting assistant, though it can sometimes be the associate or even the CD. A casting assistant is usually a paid employee. Assistants help the CD with sessions, answer phones, and work with the interns sorting through the piles of mail received on a daily basis. They don’t usually make selections, but if an assistant finds an amazing actor, you can bet she’ll pass that actor’s info to her bosses.
Interns are usually university students, people wanting to get into casting, or actors who are looking to learn more about the casting process and hoping to network with the CDs.
An internship is an unpaid position with little power beyond possibly having the ear of the people in the office and VERY occasionally suggesting an actor for an audition. Interns sort through mail, make copies and coffee, and anything else the paid office employees are too busy to take care of.
Interns may not have much influence, but they are people who care about their goals enough to give their time freely for their career, which means they deserve your respect just as much as any other staff member in a casting office.
Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors