How to meet casting directors somewhere other than at their workshops

What, you mean you’re not auditioning week after week for all the top casting directors? Shame on you.
It’s true that getting to see and meet casting directors is very difficult for us all, and for many of us the only chance we have is going to a workshop with the Actor’s Centre or Actor’s Guild. But aside from that, there is an option that I have been using recently that has seemed to prove itself to be fruitful.

I have been to a couple of these casting/audition technique/question-and-answer style workshops in the past, and although they have been good and I have learned some new things, they do seem to be the same sort of thing and what you can gain after having gone to a few of them does seem to me to be limited. However, I do remember hearing one casting director for a major regional producing theatre saying that they do run meet-and-greets now and again with actors to get to know people a lot better and to broaden their horizons, rather than to just audition them for one specific play or part. This was backed up by something I read by Lucinda Syson one time, in which she says that she ‘discovered’ Aaron Taylor-Johnson (he of Nowhere Boy fame) from a meet and greet one time which was set up by his agent, who then subsequently cast him as the lead in Kick-Ass. So I thought that this was worth an option.

I started emailing or sending letters to casting directors of theatre-producing theatres around the country, as well as established casting directors for television and film in London. I did some research on the ones you want to meet, and got in contact with them. I found that a, some will ignore my email/letter, although there is no harm in chasing it up once or twice, b, that I would get a straight ‘I’m sorry but no…’ which you have to accept, or c, they say yes. I have had two yeses so far from two regional theatres, and have had meetings with both of them which has provided fruitful contact with them both, although one more than the other. I receive replies to applications now, and they ask me to stay in touch with them. Yes it’s only email exchange, but I now know that I am on their horizon and they know that I am available for them, they know my passions and where they lie, what my strongest skills are, and that I am ready and very willing to work, and this awareness makes a great difference in putting a personality to the dry Spotlight profile.

So I would recommend you do this for yourself. Obviously there is no guarantee that it will work for you, but it is worth a try as an email or letter only takes a few minutes, and at the very least you do get on their radar and show that you are pro-active about finding work and working. I would say don’t just send one letter; keep pursuing until you get an answer, although if you have emailed/written many times then maybe it’s time to work on someone else. But if you get even a hint that they may have a gap in the future coming up, work on that and go after that gap, on their terms of course. Always be friendly and professional, and if you do get a meeting, try and go for the time they give you – unless you have a really good excuse - like a job, you busy thing you.

When you go to the meeting, obviously get there early. Again be relaxed, friendly and professional, but let your personality shine through – this is what they want to see. In the two I’ve had it’s been more question session coming from them as they are ‘running’ it, but try and keep it as a two-way rather than a one-way street; a discussion/friendly talk rather than an interview. Be passionate, knowledgeable, and make sure you have some questions too. Do your research on them and the place they work at, and try to show that you’ve done this, but don’t try and force it into the conversation. Also do your research on their artistic director as they asked me if I know about them both times, and I err…didn’t. And just go with the flow! Have a laugh, and when it’s all done make sure it’s wrapped up in a friendly way and head home.

Now definitely follow up with a short email or letter the next day thanking them, and now really focus on pursuing any work they may be casting in the future you think you may be suitable for. You now, from all the other faces on Spotlight and letters they will get, will stick out like a massive, very sore thumb, in the best possible way.