Checklist for Casting Extras and Actors for Film and Television

Acting Casting for Extras Actors: Checklist
Casting for extras and actors: checklist - Filmpuls Magazin

Cinema and television are a business for specialists. This also applies to acting auditions for commissioned films. Even in an image film there are actors, extras or extras who have to carry a film. Especially in commercials, where every second counts.

This article uses a series of easy-to-follow checklists to explain what to think about when casting yourself for film, series, television and corporate videos. The article deliberately doesn’t explain how to find the right extra or actor (that’s the director’s job). But it does show what needs to be done to successfully cast a supporting actor or performer.

Organization of the search for performers

When organising your own casting – so-called self-casting as opposed to delegating the casting to an agency specialising in it – the most important question is probably: How do I find the potential actors for my later video or film?

Part of that when planning a video is “where please can I find my actors, supporting roles and extras for acting auditions?”. The fact that everyone wants to go to the movies has long belonged to the realm of legend. Especially if you are a young, unknown production company looking for participants for a project, you often find yourself on the hard ground of facts.

That’s why there are a lot of basic questions to ask at the beginning of a self-casting:

Checklist important questions acting castings
A-01Determine how many people (extras and actors) with which profile you need. For this purpose, the script or the shooting template is analysed and the roles and the number of shooting days per role are noted. With actors / dancers an own casting is not very promising.
A-02Prepare calculation with benchmarks for compensation and expenses as well as meals and transportation. Most actors and extras first ask about the nature and content of the film. This is followed by the question of compensation. (Third then the question of the date).
A-03Consider recruitment strategy: Which web portals and platforms allow free ads? When are these to be switched? How often? When working with Facebook or Instagram: What can I do to ensure that my message gets as many likes or shares as possible? Are there other ways to address my target audience?
A-04Should street castings be carried out, i.e. should suitable passers-by be approached for a role on the street? Beware: casting on the street means approaching hundreds of people, the majority of whom have neither the desire nor the time.
A-05consider how to make appearing on camera palatable to a potential supporting actor or bit player. (Don’t lie!)
A-06The time slot and location for the casting should be set before the casting begins. With famous actors there should be no waiting! (allow for breaks as a buffer)
A-07is an expense allowance paid for attending the casting?
A-08Ensure that it is not only clear which rights must be assigned for the later video, but also that the casting material may be shown to the client. Prices are determined in particular by:

  • the number of rights to be assigned,
  • the period for which these rights are assigned,
  • for which types of use these purposes apply (may a video only be shown online? Also on TV? May screenshots be used as banners or even print ads?) and
  • to which countries this assignment applies.
A-09Shooting date(s) must be defined before casting. If you build filming around the availability of your extras and actors, you’re not doing yourself or the video any favors. He may fail due to insurmountable scheduling conflicts with his project. Only in the case of leading roles / prominent actors is the time availability debatable.
A-11Prepare material and room for casting. The more central and the easier it is to reach the place where the casting takes place, the greater the chance of getting as many participants as possible. This also applies to the timing of the casting. After all, who is in a position to interrupt their job in the middle of the day for a non-work, private appointment?
A-12Determine whether to do the casting alone, or as a team. The experienced casting director knows that for the later cooperation not only the presence in front of the camera (keyword photogenicity and image effectiveness), but also the interpersonal is crucial. A single person who guides the camera, sets tasks and has to get involved with new people every 10 minutes for hours on end has no time for nuances.
A-13Clarify what casting is required of candidates. For comparability, it is recommended that all participants are given the same tasks.
A-14Clarify how casting will be documented. With video? Additionally with photos? Is there any additional agency material with actors?
A-15Are persons represented by a (professional or semi-professional) agency for extras or amateur actors allowed to participate in the casting? There are participants in advertised castings who have already entered into contracts with an agency in which compensation, agency fees and expenses are bindingly defined.


The fact is, anyone who has worked in front of the camera in television, film or a series knows that a dream job looks different. Especially since the compensation often consists of a better expense allowance.

Conversely, those who aspire to a career as a performer may work as young actors for symbolic fees, but they choose their projects according to qualitative criteria. Low budget corporate videos and underfinanced image films do not belong to this category. Acting castings for short films and graduation films or a TV series do.


Once enough participants have been recruited for acting auditions, the following must be checked before they are held:

A-16adequate lighting
A-17suitable background
A-18sound and camera are controlled and ready (note: sound is as important for casting as picture).

If you are in the fortunate position that enough interested parties have registered for the casting, it is advisable to explicitly and bindingly confirm the registration for the casting to each participant once again.

Not all people, and even actors without an agency, understand a “sign up” for an audition as a commitment. If a production company reinsures itself, it risks that less than half of the interested parties actually show up at the casting date.

Time frame, clothing and props
A-19discuss a clear time limit per casting participant with the director / others present before the casting begins
A-20Participants are asked to bring suitable clothes to the casting (for sporty role a sports dress, etc.) and from the required documents signed and sent in advance to the casting to the production. Or to bring to the casting, so that there are no roblems with the DSGVO when using the video recordings later.
A-21Create list of names and plans (incl. name tags)
A-22if requested by the director, prepare/provide props for the role (e.g. glasses, cigars, newspaper)


Acting Castings for the search of actors and extras

Self-casting is about laying a foundation as a video production company so that the director can see who is suitable for a role. But not only.

Casting Actor Search Actor
Test shots for a video at the casting | © Photo: freepik

A professional acting casting follows a fixed basic pattern and procedure. It is divided into compulsory and freestyle.

The extent of the compulsory part always depends on whether you want to build up a casting archive permanently. In this case, the aim is to get to know an actor, performer or extra in the casting in such a way that a first pre-selection can be made for a later project on the basis of the information gained in this way, even without casting.

Casting: compulsory part (20 %)
B-01Name tag: Before each part, each participant must hold a name tag (labeled with date, role and production company) into the picture for at least 5 seconds. This prevents subsequent assignment errors. Because the date is linked to the recording, it is immediately clear when the recording was made when you later search your own archive.
B-02Face and full body view without movement (each approx. 5 seconds fixed, without sound)
B-03Introduction of the person (not necessary for well-known actors): Each participant gives his name and, if available, his agent or agency. The camera’s on his face. Duration: approx. 30 seconds.
B-04Face close (front, profile left and right, 4 seconds fix each)
B-05Hands in front and behind at eye level, approx. 4 seconds
B-06Many directors (and in the case of commissioned film, clients) like to get a feel for the participants. Therefore, you may ask the candidate for a role to tell something personal to himself (profession, hobbies, career). But this should be done in no more than 90 seconds.


Once you’ve gone through all the standardized steps, things get exciting! Now comes the content-related, artistic part of the casting. This should take up about 70% to 80% of the audition time in relation to the first part (compulsory).

Role-specific part (80 %)
B-07The actor or extra simulates his later appearance. Actors get a briefing on this in advance, usually with the opportunity to ask questions about it at the casting. When choosing, it is important to choose not the easiest, but the most difficult scene. This is the only way to reliably assess the potential.
B-10Dialects and foreign language skills are to be spoken by the person in front of the camera and only mentioned.
B-09If the performance requires special skills (singing, athletic activity, manual skills), you want to see them in front of the camera.


Part 1 of the Acting Casting “Mandatory”) helps prepare the casting material for the decision-making process. On the basis of Part 2 (“Freestyle”), the director and producer (in the case of the image film with the client) decide who gets the nod for the part as an actor or extra.

Preparation for decision-making processes

Usually, the decision-making process for a casting goes through several rounds.

  • First, because the director or decision-makers do not necessarily attend the casting themselves.
  • Secondly, because a decision also has an impact on other roles.

This is typical in self-castings of lovers, counterparts (hero and enemy), or families. If the director decides in favour of person A, person B might drop out of the running despite a perfect performance at the casting because the chemistry is not right.

This circumstance has consequences for the processing and provision of the acting casting in the edit.

Provision of the casting recordings for decision-makers
C-01The order elements that you cut together per role from the casting are always the same in their order. This increases comparability.
C-02The clip of a person starts at the acting casting with 5 seconds fast forward (black or white). Then the title of the project and the name of the person will be displayed. Many casting agencies leave the name in place for the entire duration of the clip.

For commissioned productions and extras, it is common to operate with first names only. This is followed by a face and full body view (without movement) for a maximum of 5 seconds. Then the introduction of the person (close-up face). At the end face close and in profile and the hands.

C-03The main part of the casting reel for actors is the role play. This is about presentation, facial expressions, posture. Because this scene is repeated several times during casting, the director chooses the best performance from his point of view.
C-04Finally, the fade follows the same color from which the casting clip started. This is because it is the only way to line up multiple clips neatly one after the other in the edit on a timeline.
C-052 screenshots (half close, large) of each participant are exported from the edit. These photos are assembled by the production in a Word document in the form of a table with picture, name, optional timecode and mandatory with a column for hand notes. The participants in the versioning process are given this list.

Source: C.P. Olsson

Once the decision process is complete, in the interest of fairness, it is important to inform not only those chosen, but also those actors and extras who will not be signed on for the shoot.

A “Don’t call us, we will call you” as the last point of contact for participants who have dropped out of the casting is bad style, which sooner or later takes its revenge in an industry that is closely networked.

8 professional tips for castings

Anyone who regularly casts for film and video themselves experiences a lot. Good and bad. Here you will find exclusive experience in the field of finding actors for feature films, theatre, commissioned productions and TV series:

Advice, tips and tricks
D-01Recording of the casting with actors directly on the hard disk of the computer on which editing will be done later. This saves time and money.
D-02Caution with children and adolescents! Here, not only do special legal provisions apply to the cooperation and parents have to give their consent. Young people who are asked to play siblings in front of the camera do so more convincingly if they are also siblings in real life. Parents who give a couple in front of the camera can be selected and combined without any problems individually and detached from the children.
D-03Who writes a role for a dog or a cat into the script, may do this only if also sufficient means are calculated in the film budget. Shooting with animals is expensive. They are subject to a licensing requirement. And worse: no untrained animal obeys its owner’s instructions on the set. None.
D-04Acting Castings for a film or a video are something different than a casting show with Heidi Klum on TV. As a rule of thumb, dressing what the later role or appearance in front of the camera requires is fine. Anything less than this code is to be refrained from. Harvey Hollywood says hello.
D-05If you pay nothing, you can’t (and shouldn’t!) demand much. That doesn’t sound very spectacular at first. But it’s not. Only those who offer a halfway fair or comprehensible compensation can rely on their actor or extra showing up at all on the agreed shooting date.
D-06A casting is an extreme situation for any participant who has never experienced it before. Inexperienced casting directors try to mitigate this situation. That’s wrong! The later shoot is also an extremely unusual, stressful affair.

Casting is also about being able to estimate what will happen later during filming. Because there, every repetition of a setting really costs time and money. In fact, when casting actors, it’s not uncommon to try to throw the person off their game in front of the camera to test their reaction.

D-07Every interface carries risks. This includes the collection of personal data, addresses and of photos or casting reels. That’s why it makes sense to capture all information digitally right from the start. This ensures consistency, from casting registration to fee payment.

The costs for this, even for smaller production companies that regularly carry out castings, are compensated in a short time by the gain in efficiency.

D-08If you take the participant’s assurance, even before he steps in front of the camera, that he agrees with the key data communicated in advance (compensation, dates, rights), you save yourself trouble. Failing to take this step, many a supposed talent feels called upon to renegotiate deals if they are accepted. Especially with image films, the client’s understanding of such jokes is very limited.


Have other experiences or additional expert tips about acting auditions? We look forward to your feedback using the comments section at the bottom of this article!

Cooperation with casting agencies

Each casting agency have two missions. One artistic and one economic. The actor they represent should become more famous and make money. Both factors are linked and mutually dependent. If you know how to walk this tightrope as a producer, you can be confident of better actors, better films and a peaceful night’s sleep.

This is always successful in acting castings if you know and accept the most important, basic rules of cooperation.

External film casting with specialized agency
E-01Clear agreements = good friends. You get to negotiate with a casting agency about actors. But there is also a reason why you have decided to work with casting agency: This provides the required performance better than you could do it yourself. If you provide an equivalent service yourself, you should do so instead of squeezing prices.
E-02A casting agency is only as good as the brief the director gives it. That’s why those who don’t know what they want rarely get what they’re looking for.
E-03Those who shoot the sky with junk and are convinced that this is how field hares fall from the sky will also find the next Angelina Jolie via street casting. For many producers, looking for a needle in a haystack is not an option.

Casting agencies are also always building new talent as actors. This often creates a win-win situation for producers. The Agency can offer its young talents an opportunity to gain experience. Producer and contractor get the opportunity to collaborate with talent.

E-04Casting agencies also pay rent and taxes. Deals with special conditions are only possible for them if they can rely on larger orders in return. “Give-and-take,” is the tried-and-true motto.
E-05Actors are unionised in many countries. Working with a professional agency helps clarify many issues. This is particularly true if foreign actors are to be engaged.
E-06Casting agencies have different skills. Some specialize in amateur actors, others in teenagers or specific age groups. References and a preliminary discussion about expectations help to choose the right partner and guarantee the best possible result.

Source: C.P. Olsson

Known actors

Even big names from Hollywood have to show up for castings and prove themselves in front of the camera. However, unlike the amateur or unknown actor, they do not have to prove talent in the process. The focus here is on checking whether the person can embody the role in question and whether the chemistry is right. In the end, when choosing a film role, the director decides.

Casting actors and extras for film and video: What does the (digital) future hold?

The search for actors, supporting actors and extras for film and television is increasingly taking place on the web. For extras anyway. Specialized web portals like Castupload rely on this form. The portal is funded as a start-up project by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, by the European Union and the European Social Fund.

You have to know that

  • Professional acting auditions are divided into three stages: Preparation, execution and follow-up.
  • A distinction is made between in-house casting (own, active search) and external casting (commissioning of an external casting agency).
  • In auditions, there is usually a mandatory part and a role-specific part for actors, supporting actors, and bit players. For extras, it’s usually a case of just being yourself and looking natural.
  • The audition process can take several stages for large productions. The director is not always present from the beginning.

Feedback and additions

If there are any points in the checklist that are unclear or contain errors, or if important aspects of casting actors, supporting actors and extras are missing, we ask for your feedback using the comments function. Thank you in advance.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

Carlo P. Olsson
About Carlo P. Olsson 139 Articles
Carlo P. Olsson begleitet die Herstellung von Filmen, Videos und TV-Serien im Auftrag von Unternehmen, Agenturen und Produktionsfirmen. In seiner Freizeit spielt er Eishockey und beschäftigt sich mit barocker Klangdramatik.

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