Each film would have multiple characters to be casted, in case of not too many people to be casted one meeting or even a brief over the phone would do, (like in commercials where some times there are not more than 2 or even 1 character at times) but in cases where a lot of casting is to be done, there would have to be multiple meetings both for briefing and for presenting the cast in batches. Casting where there are a lot of people involved, which is mainly in feature films is broken down into Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Background cast.
Primary Cast also know as Main Cast being your lead actors which includes hero, heroine, villans etc,
Secondary Cast is your supporting cast which also have a important role to play, like friends, parents etc, i.e. people who rally around the Main Cast.
Tertiary Cast are the people who have a small but yet important enough role to play, mostly tertiary cast are people who appear in a scene or two. like shopkeepers, cab drivers etc.
Background Cast are generally not casted, they consist of people who appear in the background like office staff, or crowd at a stadium, or people at a restaurant etc.
So why would a casting director have to ask this question, well for the simple reason that not always all characters in the script need to be casted, like in case of commercials where one role could be that of the brand ambassador so casting for the rest is required. Also this question would pertain to what it always boils down to - MONEY. The no of people to be casted decides the no of days it would take to caste these characters and therefore costs on studio, camera hire, assistant, food etc. All this needs to be kept in mind at the brief and of course the casting directors fee.
Once the no of characters that need to be casted are fixed, the casting director along with the producer fix on a schedule as well as the expenses and other details.
Read on for the next question -
or go back to Casting Brief page to read the other questions.