By Alan J Baltes
For most principal acing roles, the process is the same. Casting directors put out a breakdown to talent agents that lists specific roles being cast for a specific production – including age, character type, hair and eye color, etc. The agents submit their clients who fit the description, and the casting directors audition the actors who best fit what they are looking for. However, the casting process in the entertainment industry is ever increasingly looking to open casting calls (sometimes referred to as “Cattle Calls”), often outside the major markets, to fill important roles with fresh undiscovered talent. And this does not include the huge amount open casting calls for extras that now take place across America and beyond.
One of the most frustrating things that talent must deal with is going to an open call only to find out that it is not an “official call” for a film or television show, but rather some sort of sales pitch for acting schools or non-legit talent agency. These companies prey on aspiring actors by charging large upfront fees and other illegal and/or unethical practices. It is of the utmost importance that talent be diligent and only use reputable sources to find legitimate calls that are sponsored by the studios or casting directors hired to audition actors for specific projects.
Contrary to what many self-proclaimed “experts” may say about open casting calls being non-existent for lead roles in major films or television shows, countless stars have been discovered at these calls. One current major film star attended one in 1990 for “The Man in the Moon” with some friends to try out for a role as a bit player. She was instead discovered and cast in the lead role of Dani Trant, for which she ended up being nominated for the Young Artist Award “Best Young Actress”. Now she has an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, People’s Choice Award, and Teen Choice Award. All because she went to that open call with her friends!
Just in 2009 through the first month of 2012, there were open calls for starring and co-starring roles in such films as “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” “Little Fockers,” “A Little Bit of Heaven,” “True Grit,” “It’s Complicated,” “Lone Ranger,” “How I Live Now,” “Mavericks,” “Mud,” “Jack and Jill,” “Donny Boy,” “Labor Day,” “Dolphin Tale,” “Underworld: Awakening,” “Untitled Tupac Shakur Project” “Rock of Ages,” and “Welcome to People”. Other open calls for singers and/or dancers have been held for the productions “Our Idiot Brother,” “Black Swan,” “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” and “A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song”.
Television shows also hold open casting calls occasionally looking to cast specific roles or to scout talent in general for upcoming productions. Disney Channel, for instance, holds a couple of general talent searches each year in various cities. Nickelodeon has also held open calls. It is much more common for television movies (telefilms) to hold these open auditions to cast acting roles than it is for television series. Series are almost exclusively filmed or taped in Los Angeles and would require talent to relocate for what could turn out to be many years, where movies are often shot in other locations allowing local talent to be hired for principal acting roles.
If you ever find yourself attending an open audition, one of the most important things to remember is to not have overly high expectations of the outcome. Many open auditions and talent searches for lead roles in major films come up empty handed in terms of new unknown talent, and the studio or production company ends up casting an established professional actor or celebrity for the role(s). But it is a great trend indeed that there are more open casting calls than ever for starring and co-starring roles in major films and television shows.