Casting Agents UK: What You Need To Know

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Aspiring actors are often searching for casting agents UK, but that’s a rookie mistake.

Casting agents don’t exist in the UK, though you’ll hear the term commonly bandied about. 

Let’s talk about the acting industry professionals who find the actors their work. Don’t get in touch with an acting agency or casting team before you understand what they do!

Acting Agency

An acting agency, also known as a talent agency, is a businesses which represents actors and tries to find them work.

The acting agency may have one agent, or an entire team of them. They may represent hundreds of actors, or be a boutique agency with just a few actors on the books.

A talent agency may represent performers with a wide range of skills, or have divisions for different skillsets.

For example, some talent agencies represent actors, musical theatre performers, comedians, presenters, and writers. Others just represent actors, while yet more can niche down (to just musical theatre performers, for example).

You don’t pay the acting agency, although you do have to pay the many costs of being an actor, such as headshots, showreel, and casting website subscriptions. 

Instead, they get a percentage of your earnings when you get paid for an acting job.

If you’re looking for representation with an acting agency, you need to find someone reputable.

There are a lot of scams around and agencies which don’t have the right contacts or reputation to get your career in the entertainment industry off to a good start. Can you see people getting work through the agency, via Spotlight profiles and social media sources?

Equally, as an aspiring actor it’s no good applying for representation with an agent who will only consider an experienced actor or someone who is a ‘name’. 

If you look at their roster of performers, you’ll get a sense of their ideal clients. 

If there’s one drama school trained established actor after another on the roster, and you’re just starting out as an untrained, aspiring actor, then that agency isn’t for you.

Beginner actors getting in touch with the top 10 acting agencies are wasting everyone’s time.

Tip: Do not refer to acting agencies as casting agents.

Casting Director

A Casting Director, often working with a Casting Assistant and Casting Associate, will find actors for roles in theatre, film, short film, TV, commercials, and other productions.

They work with a production company to establish how many actors are needed for a production, what casting types are needed, and what the fee is.

They draw up a casting brief, circulate it on casting websites, and review submissions received from acting agencies.

For each role, they will receive hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions. The casting team works through each submission looking at the headshot and showreel, chosing just a select few. 

For feature film and television work, previous credits are also a factor in talent selection.

For some jobs, especially theatre and musical theatre, casting teams also take note of drama school training. Actors for stage work must have a high skill set which only specialist training can provide.

The casting team then auditions the chosen few. Usually, a self tape is requested first. These are used to chose the final few invited in for an in-person casting. There may be further casting sessions attended by the director and producer in addition to the casting director.

Theatre casting or young performers casting may involve workshops.

You will never pay a Casting Director. They receive a fee from the production company.

Tip: Do not refer to Casting Directors as casting agents, or ask them for representation.

Extras Agencies

Actors are the performers delivering lines. 

Extras, also known as supporting or background artists, are the people on screen who make a scene realistic for the actors.

For example, it would look weird if the actors went into an empty cafe, right?

The extras won’t speak, and their acting is limited to a little bit of mimicry. For example, a background artiste may sit in the cafe pretending to talk to someone, but without making any sound.

They won’t be delivering lines, acting drunk, or doing anything else to take the viewer’s attention away from the actors, unless they are a non-speaking featured background artiste for which there is a small bump in pay.

To get work, extras need to have representation from an extras agency. These agencies sometimes call themselves a Casting Agency. 

Although extras earn less than actors, and wait between scenes in a crowd tent or hall rather than a personal trailer, there are benefits to choosing this type of work over acting.

Unlike actors, a supporting artist is chosen by their agency headshot and without attending an audition. That saves time, money, and nerves.

Unfortunately, most extras agencies charge fees for representation. That makes it harder to work out which agencies are reputable and which are scams.

So you’ll have to get savvy watching for clues on social media and through IMDb listings. Can you see people getting work through the agency, via other social media sources?

But you must be aware than being an extra is not an alternative route for new talent to launch a successful career as an actor.

If a Casting Director sees you for an acting role, they are not interested in your experience pretending to drink tea behind a famous actor in a feature film.

Child Performers

If your child wants to get experience on set of a television or feature film production, being an extra is a good way to achieve this without having to commit to short-notice long journeys after school into central London or Manchester.

Child actors and their families juggle school work, auditions, training, workshops, coaching, and work into a frantic schedule. And just like any professional actor, a child actor gets rejected from the majority of jobs they are submitted for.

As a child extra represented by an extras agency with an under-16s division, there’s rarely an audition to attend, but competition for child extra work is still fierce.

Since each child is chosen via their headshot, you can keep a submission to a crowd casting brief quiet, and so avoid telling your youngster they haven’t been selected.

Child performers are subject to a lot of child employment rules to protect them, and must be accompanied by a parent or licenced chaperone everywhere they go on set. 

Casting Agents UK

So now you know Casting Agents are really a recognised term in the UK, although some extras agencies providing background talent do sometimes call themselves a Casting Agency.

If you want to be an actor, you’ll need to find representation with a reputable acting agency. Without them, finding acting work is possible but becomes even more difficult. 

Acting work is booked through a Casting Director, who audition the talent for each role on behalf of the production company.

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