Many articles around the web cite an average casting director salary based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage report.
That isn’t exactly accurate.
That’s because the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage report does not include a category for casting directors.
The Occupational Employment and Wage report includes wage reports for actors, producers, and directors—but not casting directors (US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage, May 2019).
So, how much do casting directors make?
I’ve dug into a handful of online data sources and used the combined data to give us a fuller picture of casting professional salaries in 2020.
Using a calculation of reported averages, the average casting director salary is $71,835 USD.
However, this is a calculation that combines the averages listed across various job, film, and employment databases throughout the world (read more detail below)—so I’m afraid that simply knowing that number won’t be very useful to you if you’re a casting professional trying to price out a project or negotiate pay.
That’s because the field and practice of casting varies widely. How much a casting professionals makes depends on factors like:
- How often you work
- The production budget
- Your experience and previous projects
- Whether you are part of a casting director union
- Whether you work for a studio, network, are hired by a production company, or work for a casting office (or, alternatively, if you serve as part of an in-house content team for a private company, which has become increasingly common in recent years)
- Whether you are casting extras, lead roles, principals, or speaking parts
Additionally, the way casting professionals structure their pay varies.
Casting earnings can come in the form of annual salaries, but often they are often negotiated according to other terms: per project, per day, per week, or per role cast.
So, in order to provide you with accurate casting director salary numbers that give you a clear, realistic picture of how much casting professionals can expect to make, I dug into the data and produced this detailed salary guide.
Casting Job Title Hierarchy
As with most careers in film, TV, and media, the road to becoming a casting director is not straightforward.
In a simple scenario, a casting office is made up of three roles according to experience: the Casting Director (the most senior position), with a Casting Associate (mid-career) and Casting Assistant (entry-level).
There are a lot of blurred lines between the duties that casting professionals perform at each level in the career ladder hierarchy, and the titles shift based on the type of production as well as the geographical area.
Even so, the explanations below attempt to outline the main distinctions between casting positions to provide better context for the casting salaries.
Getting your feet wet
Intern for a Casting Director
Unpaid, temporary position for newbies to make contacts and understand what it’s like to work in a casting office.
These roles are where most casting professionals get their first years of experience in casting.
People in these roles are usually hired by Casting Directors during development casting. They often work temporary positions as freelancers, finishing once the talent for the production has been contracted.
They usually look for and work new jobs every 3-10 weeks for a few years before moving up to being an Associate Casting Producer or similar mid-entry-level roles.
Casting Assistant / Casting Director Assistant
Casting Assistants help with general office duties and assist with casting-related tasks. This varies from office to office, but here are examples of things they do:
- Read the script and help draw up lists of potential actors
- Research, interview, and check availability of actors
- Office communications, management, and admin
- Assist during casting sessions
- Label casting selections and send to the director, producer and/or financiers
A Casting Recruiter performs similar duties and requires similar experience as a Casting Assistant. It’s just more common to hear of Casting Recruiters in the reality TV or documentary series arenas.
Casting Booker or Talent Booker
The Casting Booker or Talent Booker performs a similar role to a Casting Assistant, but it’s more common to see the people refer to this position in live TV and sometimes modelling. They’re focused on finding talent for TV shows and negotiating with them (or their agent) to get the person on the show.
Casting Researcher (can also be Mid-Career)
A Casting Researcher is in a similar role to a Casting Assistant. They may be less focused on assisting with auditions and more focused on reaching out to talent agencies to find talent, with the goal of getting a nice wide selection for casting to narrow their list from.
Casting Researcher (can also be Entry-Level)
In addition to being a beginner position described above, you’ll find companies who are hiring for a Casting Researcher role and requiring several years of experience.
Casting Associates usually have a few years of experience in a casting office. They usually are responsible for scouting talent (liaising with agents and producers to determine availability and needs), scheduling auditions, and holding the auditions. In general, they execute a lot of the day-to-day tasks of a casting office. They might operate the camera or serve as a reader during auditions, and after the audition they might be the one negotiating contracts with the talent agent.
Casting Associates are often involved in any kind of larger-scale “cattle call” audition, but it’s common for Associates to be the ones runnng smaller auditions as well. They’ll look at materials from applicants (demo reel, etc), and they’ll also spend some time with each applicant to review paperwork, contact info, etc. During auditions, Casting Associates might give a little coaching or notes to help actors shine. Afterwards, they might pull names and photos of top applicants in a report for the Casting Director.
(Similar alternate titles include Casting Associate Producer, Associate Casting Producer, Supervising Casting Producer)
The naming conventions for these types of roles vary, often based on simple personal preference or the particular conventions of their office.
Even so, Casting Producers or job title variations like Casting Associate Producer or Associate Casting Producer generally have very similar responsibilities to Casting Associates (above). It’s simply more common to talk about the “Casting Producer” job title in TV and especially in unscripted television like reality shows or documentary series.
Most people who are Casting Directors have over 5 years of experience in casting and have worked their way up to it by starting out as a Casting Assistant, Associate, Casting Producer, etc. However, although it’s less common, some Casting Directors simply start an independent office as Casting Directors, bringing together a small team of Casting Assistants whenever they take on projects.
In a conventional setting, a Casting Director is the one who is hired by a studio, network, or production company to cast talent, and they’ll negotiate deals between the selected talent and their employer. If they run a casting office, they’ll oversee the operation of the casting office itself and delegate tasks to their team of Associates, Researchers, and Assistants.
Casting Directors review the talent after auditions and select a group to present to the producers for consideration. During callbacks, it’s usually a Casting Director who runs the audition, while the producer is present as more of an observer to decide if the talent is someone they want to work with. Once the talent is selected, Casting Directors might also help create contracts and deal memos, especially on smaller projects.
Casting Job Title Misnomers
There are a few job titles floating around that most professionals in casting would not use to refer to themselves.
Here they are, and what they mean:
This is usually used when talking about a Casting Director, and sometimes people say “Casting Agent” when they’re talking about a Talent Agent.
Most CDs would not refer to themselves as agents. Agents act and negotiate on behalf of the talent on their roster and they earn a commission from the work the talent performs. Casting Directors aren’t agents in the sense that they do not represent talent, nor do they earn a commission from the talent’s income.
I’ve seen this job title floating around but I honestly have no idea what Casting Managers do. It’s used to describe a Talent Agent or a Talent Manager…and I’ve seen it used to describe any number of roles within casting. No one seems to agree on what this job title actually refers to, so it’s probably best not to use it.
Average Casting Director Salary
How much do Casting Directors make?
That’s a really good question.
I stated above that the Casting Director average salary is $71,835 USD. This is a rough calculation that combined reported averages from various salary databases and film industry resources.
You’ve seen above that there are many blurred lines between the duties and experience levels of the different casting job titles. It’s hard to know based on the calculated average of $71,835 if your earnings are within the standard range because the salaries reported for “Casting Director” can encompass many different interpretations of the Casting Director role.
Maybe this breakdown will be more useful.
Below, I’ve separated the lower end of the range and the higher end of the range to look more accurately the low and high end of the ranges, which can be indicative of entry-level and senior-level salaries, respectively.
Entry-Level Casting Salary
Here’s a list of the reported salaries that constitute the low end of the casting salary range. It’s likely that most Casting Assistants or other entry-level roles can expect salaries like these (numbers have all been converted to USD for consistency):
Based on these reported numbers:
- The average entry-level casting salary would be $34,468 USD.
- The entry-level salary range would be $23,500 to $42,060.
Senior Level Casting Salary
Of course, there are outliers—some Casting Directors have made a very big name for themselves, and I doubt that the average reported salaries include earnings from the likes of Kerry Barden or Ellen Chenoweth.
Let’s assume that the high end of the reported salary range corresponds to more senior casting roles requiring several years of experience.
The high end of the range has been reported at:
Based on these reported numbers:
- The average senior-level casting director salary would be $129,251 USD.
- The range would be $74,192 to $235,000.
Average Earnings Per Project
Many casting professionals do not negotiate an annual salary, which is why the averages described in this article can only take you so far.
Instead, it’s very common for casting to negotiate pay with the studio, network, or production company based on:
- Per project
- Per day
- Per week
- Per major role cast
Interviews with Casting Directors have produced some ballpark ranges for these per-project rates:
The per-project rate range of pay is really wide, with CD reporting anything from $800 – $18,000 per project.
Some have even said they’re aware of casting directors who make $100,000 per project for major feature films, but since these are rare opportunities, we can assume that most casting directors are not making this kind of per-project income.
Weigh In—Help Casting Professionals Make Better Decisions
In many ways, the practice of casting takes place behind closed doors.
But wouldn’t it be nice for casting professionals to know:
- the top challenge that casting professionals face?
- how casting professionals’ salaries compare across experience levels and location?
- how the practice of casting has changed in recent years?
- how other casting professionals see the future?
With the help of the casting community, I’m compiling data for a much-needed State of Casting Report for 2020.
The end result will be an illustrated, in-depth report on the field of casting and the factors that impact the work, providing deep insight into the field and an understanding of how casting teams operate around the globe.
It’ll probably take 5-10 minutes. CDs, Assistant and Associate CDs, owners of casting companies, and even people who have served in a volunteer casting role or cast for side projects are welcome.
Why is this important?
In terms of standardization of processes, recognition of its impact, and adoption of technology, it seems the field of casting is an underserved segment of the film industry.
Almost all film industry research and information floating around the web is designed to either help (a) actors or (b) production.
Where is all the stuff designed to help casting people build successful businesses, innovate, and stay on top of tech and trends?
Let’s make it.
Thank you for your support!
I’ve used these resources when compiling data on casting director salary numbers:
Questions? Comments? Feel free to send me a note.