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|Big Pants?||When Jodi Rothfield Casting Associates, c.s.a. and Heidi Walker, Casting by Walker and Company combine to do a film or television series, the combined association has been nicknamed Big Pants Casting. Recent projects include: The Fugitive, TV Series, 2000-2001; Citizen Baines, pilot and TV Series, 2001, and Ring, Dreamworks feature film, 2001. This Big Pants association, of loose knit fabric, is growing. Read below as Jodi explains the crucial role of casting to the industry.|
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One of the premier casting directors in the Pacific Northwest.
She and her associates also offer classes in child, teen and
adult auditioning for the camera. These classes instruct the
actor to look beyond the stage and audience of theater training
and right into the eye of the camera. In an interview by nwActors.com,
Jodi answers many questions about the casting process.
Casting Directors - Who are they? What do they do? How do they find actors? What do they expect from actors? Rebecca Cameron and Padma Krish sat down with Jodi Rothfield, c.s.a. - one of Seattle's top casting directors to find out the answers to these questions and many more.
What does a casting director do?
JR: A casting director is responsible for culling from the many actors; the few that work for a specific role based on the information that's being generated to the CD from the director or the studio, whomever is generating the project. So, in other words, if it's a film then usually the director would give us the director's vision. They would generate a breakdown of the age, type, the ethnicity, the gender of the character. Then we would go through the many actors that we know of through agents or freelancing or just through basically people that we know through theatre. Then we audition people for those roles. From the auditions we pick the people who we are going to present to the director. He or she then chooses the person for the role.
How much would you say the casting director influences the filmmaking process?
JR: We are the link between the people who are generating a project, whatever it could be - film, television, commercial, corporate video, voiceover. We are the liaison, the connective tissue between them and the talent. So if it's a talent based project, which means they need talent (some projects don't need talent), then they need to find someone who will find the people to audition and present to them. Sometimes, project go directly to the agencies (people who represent talent), which we do not do. If there's a pretty good budget, they will usually use a casting director. The average director and producer don't have time to watch tapes of every agent representing hundreds of people and showing everybody they have. They want someone who already knows the talent, who will take time to screen the talent. If there's a small budget and they don't have enough money for a CD then they will often go to the agents. That is usually more time consuming for them and that way they don't have access to freelance talent.
What is the difference between a CD and an agent?
JR: A casting director is not an agent. A talent agent represents talent and a CD strictly auditions talent. No money changes hands between a CD and talent. There is no agency relationship between talent and casting directors. If I bring you in for an audition and you book the audition I don't see any money from you. I am paid by the person generating the project who hires me . If you have an agent, your agent takes a percentage of what you do and that's your deal with them.
Do casting directors have to be accredited? What are some hints you would give to actors about finding out who is reputable when it comes to CDs and agents?
JR: You don't have to be a member of the C.S.A (Casting Society of America) to be a CD that is an option you do in order to be a part of a bigger organization where people share information. There really is no association or accreditation for a casting director. So it's simply anybody can hang up a shingle and set up shop. I think actors need not worry about the legitimacy of the casting director. I think they just need to have a red flag go up if somebody is charging money to audition them. In this town there are basically three casting houses. I have partnered recently with Heidi Walker. She and I are primarily the people who do the films and television. We call it Big Pants Casting, but essentially its Jodi Rothfield Casting and Casting by Walker and Company. When we do projects together, we call it Big Pants. There's Stephen Salamunovich who has Complete Casting and there's Kalles-Levine casting. These are the casting houses. In Seattle, these are the legitimate casting houses. That doesn't mean that every project that comes into Seattle as I said is going to go through a casting house. Sometimes the producer or the production company will have auditions directly because they can't afford a casting director or they will call an agency. If I was an actor coming into a new town I would call the SAG-AFTRA office and I would call the WA State film office and I would say who are the players? Who are the CDs that you know of who are reputable? Who are the agents who are reputable? Those are the people who know who the players are. That's a good place to check in.
MORE ON AGENTS:
JR: Most actors don't understand that an agent shouldn't require any money up front for anything. Agents can suggest who the photographers that they like are, but that there should be no demand that they use that photographer - that usually means something is going on - doesn't have to, but it can mean something. No agent should legally train the actors that they take on because that's another way that people pull people in. They can spend a lot of money in training and then say they are a member of their agency and nothing happens because agents have already made their money from the person through classes. These are all red flags for actors. These are things that you need to watch. An actor has to be very savvy about not jumping at everybody who is interested in them in terms of agents. It's a small town, and that's the benefit of being in this town, it's a negative and it's a positive. The positive is that you have access to almost everybody and everybody knows who the players are. The negative is that it is a small town so there's less work and you have to be careful of what you do and who you do it with.
What about headshots?
JR: They (actors) have to have it - its necessary - for them to have one. Their calling card is their headshot and resume. A headshot should never be sent without a resume. If you are updating a resume it should never come without the headshot. Everything should come stapled together. We don't care what color paper. The typical format, the B & W 8 X 10 and on the back is your resume which states who you are and how to get in touch with you - either via an agent or directly and your experience. You should never misrepresent yourself and your special skills and training. That's what we look for.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to headshots? What makes a particular picture stand out?
JR: A picture should simply look like the actor on a good hair day. We don't really care if it's ¾ or headshot. We don't care if it has borders or no borders. That's a personal aesthetic choice. People always ask me that should I have borders? That's a personal aesthetic choice; it should just look like you. Our big pet peeves and all of us get together, we are all very close here. Is that sometimes when we don't know an actor and we get a picture and a resume from an actor and we have the chance to bring in someone like that who we don't know we've never experienced before either by seeing them in a project or a stage production or just from auditioning. The person that we see in the picture walks in and we would never recognize them. That happens a lot. People misrepresent themselves. Either their pictures are very old or they are just made up beyond what their reality is or they are touched up. It should just look like you and it should be recent and that's why actors have to save their money because they have to update their pictures quite often. If my client says they want navy blue, I'm not going to show them robin's egg blue. So if you fit into the navy blue category and I call you in because that's what I have in front of me as your calling card and you come in and you're robin's egg blue then I've wasted your time and mine. That's not good for you and it certainly isn't good for me.
Will you hesitant to call that person in the future?
JR: I don't punish people. Everybody is allowed to have a crappy audition. Everybody is allowed to forget their picture and resume, which, by the way, always bring two to every audition. If an actor is going to embark on doing this professionally then he or she needs to have a clue to what the protocol is. The protocol is that A) they have to be reachable B) if they have vm, a pager, or a machine; they have to check it several times a day because the job turn around for people generating auditions is like a day. And thirdly they have to show up prepared meaning they should know what the wardrobe requirements are, they should know their script if one is available and need to bring pictures and resumes each time they come even to a callback. Even to second callback for a film. These are just things that are necessary, they are just part of the deal when you are a professional actor that you know to do. You got to know that.
When you look at an actor's resume is there anything that you are specifically looking for?
JR: Experience and training is what I look for. So, obviously if it is a film, a heavy duty speaking role, I am going to look for someone who has experience. Now, because this is the third largest talent pool in the county, we have a lot of wonderful actors here. But, most the work that they do is theatre. So, I expect to see theatre resumes. I very rarely see someone who is very well versed in film and television. I am not surprised to see a resume that is more filled with what's appropriate for this town, which is theatre. So, obviously if you have film and television experience that should be on your resume. If you don't, that shouldn't be a problem as long as you have theatre experience. That's for speaking roles; obviously I am going to use someone who has a clue because they have done it. It is always helpful to have someone who has been on a set, who has taken direction, who can handle a script. But, everyone starts somewhere, so I don't expect people to have that. Especially since this town does not generate a lot of film and television work. It's mostly a theatre town.
The thing I realize is that if a person does not have a lot of experience, I want to see training. I figure that even though training does not make an actor brave, I'd rather take someone who has a clue than someone who is just walking in cold. In a professional audition it is not like a class, I do not have time to give the person lessons on acting. I don't want to take them by the hand, I want them to come in and have a certain amount of understanding so that they can do the work that I am asking them to do. It's not time for me to give them tips. But, obviously as a director that is being hired by people for my taste, I will work with the actors as much as I can to get a good read because it looks good for me to give them good choices. But, it is not appropriate for me to spend an abnormal amount of time giving them more direction than anybody else. So, if they don't have experience, then training would be important. And, also special skills or a degree. If I see someone who has no experience, but they have a MFA or BFA in acting or theatre, then I am interested because I know that they have already gone through some course of study.
Is there any specific training that you look for on a resume?
JR: I look for who the teacher is because I am pretty well versed in who is teaching what. I teach at Cornish College of the Arts, some of the best teachers teach there and so I know who they are teaching. I know who has good workshops in town, I know who the reputable schools are and I figure that if these people have been working with these other people who I feel are very reputable and know what they are doing, then they probably have a clue. It's no guarantee of talent, but it is a guarantee of a certain amount of skill and understanding of the protocol.
And, who would you say is a reputable school?
JR: At Freehold, basically their line of study is what I call the gestalt of acting, which means everything that people who really become actors have to study from basic improvisation to scene study to everything. But, they don't really do a lot for acting for the camera. Although they do have some people teaching there that are very good for acting for the camera. So, if I send someone to Freehold, I am not saying that you are going to get savvy with the camera there, but you are going to get your chops. You are going to understand text and you are going to understand how to use text and how to make choices around text. You are going to understand a lot of things so I would say that Freehold is the most reputable school.
The other place is the Northwest Actor's Studio. Not the one that takes the kids in for $3500, but the one that Ms. Graham has owned for many years. I believe in them and I think that they do a good job.
As far as actors submitting resumes with things like "Extra" or "Featured Extra"
JR: Not interested when looking for speaking roles.
First of all, anybody can be picked off the street to be an extra and really when I get a resume that is filled with major films, and most of them I have done or Heidi has done and we look at them and say, "We never cast that person". We know that it is extra work. And it is not to be embarrassed about extra work, but it is just not something that you put on a theatrical resume because it does not speak to the casting person. It doesn't tell us anything that you know how to do except stand there.
So, what happens if Extra work is the only thing that you have, is it better to not put it on the resume at all and list training?
JR: It's better to not show it at all. Unless your agency is primarily an extras agency and that's between you and the agent. If you sign up with an extras agency and you are going to be doing a lot of extra work, then you may want to print a separate resume that just has your extra work. But, when you come into someone like me, I don't really want to see extra work. That's not someone that I would either have a general audition with I have something called general auditions meaning that when I have down time I call in people whose pictures who are interesting to me. And I wouldn't call in someone who has primarily extras work. I'm calling in people who have experience and I want to see and know them so that when something comes along for me I can pull them in. But, I probably wouldn't take the time to see that type of person who just has extras and stand-ins on their resume because it doesn't say anything to me.
Is there anything that would turn you away from a resume?
JR: Misrepresentation. Both Heidi and I, since we are the people who do most of the films, we'll see lists and lists of films and as I say it will say "Featured". And that is misrepresentation. Either you have a part or you don't. If you have a part and it has a name you should put it down. And the other thing, when people write many and many indie films which nobody has ever heard of and they don't say that it is indie so they have this big film list, but they are non-issue for me.
So, you would actually write indie on the resume?
JR: I would that's not the rule, but in my consciousness it makes sense that if you have a lot of names of films that no one can recognize, to legitimize it you should definitely put independent after it so that people realize that, that might not be something that they have seen in the theatres and it might not have been something that went to video. And since, this is the land of indies, we have a lot of indie features here, that's a credit. And so, they should definitely have that on there, but it's important that they qualify it. Not that it is any better or worse than a regular feature or SAG feature, but it just how you communicate to someone who is in the position to bring you in and audition you. I think that it is really important to communicate that.
It is often said that getting an audition is a combination of look, training and experience; what is most important?
JR: You know, for every medium it is different. For a commercial, a lot of it is look. Obviously, they are looking for a special type. And a lot of commercials are non-speaking where they're a look and a line. So, basically that opens it up to everybody. For films, a lot of it is resume. I mean, we are dying to have people who can handle dialogue and can take direction. And if you have experience, and have been trained and may not have actual film experience or television experience, but have been trained enough that we know they can handle copy and direction.
You see things from a different angle than us if you were just starting out as an actor, what would you do?
JR: If I was in Seattle because it is very different depending on what kind of market you have I would get a good photographer and someone I had a good vibe with because that determines how good the sitting is and if you are comfortable with someone. I would get a great picture and I would make sure that my resume was up to snuff and that everything is appropriately presented. I would get myself a pager so that I could be reached and I would make sure that I had all my numbers, day and night numbers and pager numbers on my resume. I'd find out who the casting directors are and I would send a picture and resume to them. I would make an effort to understand that casting directors are not agents, so not to send letters saying," I'd like to be represented by you." I would send my picture and resume to the top agents there are about 5 first call agents in town. I would call about 5 working days after I send the picture and resume and say, "Hi, my name is and you have my picture and resume. I'd like to discuss the possibility of meeting with you for possible representation." You just don't send the picture and resume into the abyss and hope that someone is going to call you back. When you are an artist you have to follow-up because these agents, they get 25 or 30 pictures and resumes a week and they are overwhelmed. And unless somebody makes the call and they can go through the pile, and they have something physical to look at while they are taking to you, then they can determine if this is someone they are interested in meeting or say, "sorry were full" or whatever they say when they want to put you off or bring you in.
The next thing that I would do is I would definitely train.
Can you tell us about the classes you offer?
JR: My classes are all about auditioning. I am a technical teacher. I teach technique. Essentially I am there to prepare an actor for auditions: how to take a script and break it down, how to make appropriate choices and how to take direction from a director. That's the whole deal with an audition and that's what my classes are about. Anybody can take my Intro class (Acting for the Camera), it's about technique. It's on-camera time and we use exclusively commercial copy.
The other class that I teach is an advanced film class that's by invitation only. If I don't know you as a former student, then based on your resume I would invite you. That's where I prepare film scripts for you, it's like a regular audition, you come off-book, which means you have the script memorized. I have a professional reader read with you and it is all taped. Every student brings their own VHS tape, so that they have a learning tool beyond the class. So, my Advanced Class is very intense, it's 3 consecutive Thursday nights. The Acting for the Camera class is on a Saturday; it's a one-day intensive. That class is really to get you started on how to rethink and re-look at script for an audition.
Do you ever call the students from your class in for an audition?
JR: The thing that you have to say right away is that a class is no promise of employment. But, obviously if I find someone who is interesting and they make interesting choices, and I feel comfortable directing them, and they are marketable in terms of what I do; of course I would pull from my classes. But, that is not the sole purpose. The class for me is a safe place. I don't want people to come in and not do the work they need to do to make themselves better actors and auditioners. I would be betraying them if it was a set-up for them to come in to audition for me with something in mind. It's strictly an educational endeavor. When I teach a class I am going through the process with actors. When I have a professional audition I don't want to see the process, I want to see the finished product.
INFO ON JODI ROTHFIELD'S CLASSES
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