A panel of top casting directors from the US and UK offered tips during an industry panel at the BFI London Film Festival.

Casting directors Deborah Aquila (The Shawshank Redemption), Gary Davy (Hunger), Jeanne McCarthy (Foxcatcher) and Susan Shopmaker (Martha Marcy May Marlene) discussed the craft of casting today during a BFI London Film Festival panel held in association with The Casting Society of America (CSA). CSA VP Matthew Lessall moderated the discussion.

Jeanne McCarthy highlighted four qualities she looks for in young actors: “Persistence, tenacity, training, preparation. Those are four things that I think can be very helpful and can help actors manage anxiety. Dancers dance every day. Musicians practise every day. You need to be on your game. If that means taking a class every day, do it.”

McCarthy stressed the importance of community for actors: “Actors shouldn’t be alone. Don’t be alone. Form a community.”

Shopmaker stressed the importance of building relationships with key talent: “I learned quite late in my career to take the actors I really liked and cared about and create a relationship with them so that we have relationships outside of their agencies. That is good for both them and us.”

Davy described how best to manage a director’s expectations: “Expectations are always high. You have to believe in your taste. You know some of the names on your list won’t necessarily do it but you still need to go through that process.”

“Even new directors that come to you are coming with big names,” he continued. “Agents aren’t always the most friendly, but I find managers can be more helpful. It’s always about building relationships.”

The best casting director-director relationships are formed out of trust, the panel agreed.

“If a director feels comfortable that they can get the best people from us that will make them feel relaxed,” said Davy.

“It’s about mutual respect,” added Shopmaker. “I enjoy people who don’t always want to hear ‘yes’ or ‘that’s fantastic’. I left a job this summer because someone only wanted to hear ‘yes’ and that’s not me.”

The night before the panel, the CSA casting directors joined Screen International and British Council to celebrate Screen’s UK Stars of Tomorrow at the LFF.