“No casting director can truly say, ‘I knew he was gonna be a star’–because that’s a bunch of baloney. Casting is a game of gut instinct. You feel their talent and potential in the pit of your stomach. It’s about guts and luck.” –Marion Doughery

Have you ever been auditioning in the presence of a casting director and felt you were performing your heart out before a professional dream killer? If so, you’re not alone. But according to a Hollywood Reporter roundtable featuring Casting Directors Juliet Taylor, Ellen Lewis, Patricia DiCerto, Laura Rosenthal and Jennifer Euston, nothing could be further from the truth. “Sometimes [actors] think our door is like closed or whatever, but the truth is we’re rooting for them! It only suits all of us if they’re doing well,” Juliet Taylor said.

These prominent casting directors gathered in response to the documentary, Casting By, which celebrates the casting profession by shining light on the untold tale of Hollywood Casting Director, Marion Dougherty. Director Tom Donahue painstakingly assembled over 240 interviews, wide-ranging archival footage, animated stills, and documents in the film; as a result, Dougherty’s cultivated taste, risk-taking tenacity, and allegiance to her intuition are shown to usher in an era of unique and more diverse talents. She is known for casting films such as Midnight Cowboy, The Sting, The World According to Garp, and Full Metal Jacket. Simultaneously, Casting By highlights the ensuing revolutionary period in Hollywood that would mark the end of the old studio system.

At this esteemed roundtable, the panel of casting directors expressed appreciation for Casting By, noting the nod of recognition it gave to their craft. Patricia DeCerto said it should be required viewing especially for actors entering the field. “We are such champions of [actors]…you can see sort of the thread through the whole movie that you want them to do their best,” she said, acknowledging that the film does a good job of conveying this advocacy. In an hour-long discussion, the five casting directors covered topics including the thrill they experience when they use “someone who’s never been used before,” how they view themselves as advocates for actors, hoping to ease their minds and empowering them by sharing as much information about a role and project as possible, and further serving as key negotiators between actors and producers once a role is landed. Other topics they discussed include the pressure casting directors are under to complete their jobs in a short amount of time, on budget, as well as other industry restrictions placed upon them. For example, while the Internet allows casting directors to benefit from a greater pool of actors in their mission to find the best fit for any particular role, the speediness of the Internet likewise can foster a break-neck, relentless work pace, especially in television.

For those who have an hour to watch the roundtable, you will likely come to see casting directors who are truly on the actor’s side. Even if an actor might not be the right fit for today’s audition, casting directors are taking notes to consider performers for future roles that may end up being perfect for them. “You never know what’s going to shine a light on somebody,” Ellen Lewis said. Casting directors hope you stay in the game so that you’re still around when that perfect role presents itself for you.

Knowing the challenges that actors face, it’s nice to know someone’s taking notes on your unique qualities and rooting for you!