Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Casting in LA ...

Was a supreme pleasure and a completely wonderful experience.

I had the time of my life.

Casting director Rick Pagano, who is well respected in Hollywood, and his assistant Russell Boast, could not have worked harder or more dilligently - speaking with agents and managers and actors and others involved with the actors' careers. Noted producer Toni Wells-Roth helped us out with camerawork (wow!).

One observation I must mention: there is an extremely serious problem with agents who don't really do their jobs or do them well, and I'm including folks working with "top" agencies.

Several had *no* idea how to contact their clients (wrong emails, phone numbers), or that their clients were currently working, or in some cases made no effort to send the script or even contact their clients requested by Rick for this project. In some cases they made an appointment for their client and then cancelled it because they did not contact the client.

One very well known actor who is a good friend of my producer (actually our casting director and producer know a lot of great actors) said he was never contacted by his agent. When his agent was contacted (who made an "appointment" for his client to meet with us), the agent had *no* idea his client is currently working on a mini-series at an out-of-LA location. He's coming to Seattle to meet with us soon.

In the case of most actors we auditioned or met with (at a certain level of fame/work, meetings are held in lieu of script readings or auditions - though certain very top professionals still ask to read), they are at the top of their game and crazy about our project.

Some sensational actors dropped by to meet even though they knew they weren't right for this project, but know we have several more slated so wanted to get together with us in person. And believe me, we kept careful notes on everyone we saw.

One well known actor with whom we had a meeting said the industry is now run by "second rate" agents who don't do their jobs, don't know how to do their jobs or can't do them very well - and the people suffering are actors - at all levels.

S/he added that the situation is cyclical -- that their incompetence will only be tolerated for so long before there's a big shakeup, when the system will change again.

In some cases, the agents only want big paying deals for their clients so they can make big fees, regardless of the quality of the work.

There are obviously some agents who take their work seriously and do a good job -- they were spoken of just as positively as the others regarded so negatively.

Enough about that.

The very up side is that the actors with whom we interacted were amazing, terrific and top professionals. They worked so hard on the material to bring their characters to life - screwball comedies are the most work of any genre by all concerned.

Each brought something that only they could bring to their character.

They're making my work of selecting the right person for each role incredibly difficult - which means they did a splendid job. The harder my job, the better the cast.

Some of my choices are going to surprise audiences, and quite honestly a couple people (very well known) came in to speak about doing extremely "against type" characters (unlike anything they've ever played before, unlike the persona they appear to be normally or the characters they've played in the past).

One well known actress from a very popular dramatic TV series did her very first comedic performance in her audition for the lead and absolutely WOW'ed us. She did a brilliant job, looked fantastic, and what's so exciting for me is that she loves the script and the role. Very impressive.

I can't tell you how rewarding it was to hear so many of these top pro's tell me how much they loved the script! Most importantly, I couldn't hear a wasted word in the dialogue. Whew.

A good sign is that everyone who read it felt very strongly about the script - they were either head over heels in love with it, or they absolutely hated it! I think those who didn't like it will feel very differently when they see it up on the screen.

Even our producer was pleasantly surprised when actors who understood the script and characters breathed hilarious life into their scenes.

I enjoyed most audition performances so much - extraordinarily talented, skilled artists did such magnifienent interpretations - that the experience was downright heavenly for me. And I let them know it. I'm not one of those directors who holds back her enthusiasm or appreciation.

After all, these are artists who have shared a part of themselves they'll never get back; they worked hard on their audition scenes and deserve credit and praise where it's due.

It's easy to see why these actors are employed as much as they are. They deserve it. I was proud to be in their company.

Mind you, if anyone shows up unprepared or without doing their homework? I also let them know how I feel. But that was not the case, so I was able to shower actors I met with appreciation and affection.

Our producer, Larry Estes, is a former studio executive and lengendary producer in the field of indie films. He is well known and highly regarded by many working actors who came in to say hello - he now lives in the Pacific Northwest. I was proud to be in his company - I could see the admiration and fondness these artists held for him as they hugged and spoke to him warmly about families, kids, the past, pets, work and life in general.

I was treated to some fantastic stories of show biz past and present by Larry along the way. Another highlight of the trip.

Larry and I met over dinner with our estimable editor Stephen Myers (he just found out the Pixar documentary he edited is nominated for an Emmy!), who has worked with classic comedic filmmakers like Carl Reiner. I showed him my shot sheets along with overhead drawings -- floor plans -- of camera placement, character and camera movement.

After scouring my work, Stephen sent me suggestions for insert shots and editing sounds. The very things that make the difference between work well done and excellence.

Thank you to every actor who came by to meet and perform for The Whole Truth (Gabe, I owe you a little stuffed skunk); decisions will be made soon because cameras roll the third week in September.

Interestingly, we set out to cast three lead roles in LA and came back considering actors to fill 6 roles. We'll be meeting with a few more actors here and in Vancouver, B.C. as well.

Next big step after that: local casting in Seattle for another lead role and several supporting roles with Stephen Salamunavich at Complete Casting, which I know will be just as much fun. Every role is written with a scene to steal included.

We'll also be opening a production office, then bringing production folks in the next few weeks.

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  • At 10:44 PM, Blogger Digger said…

    I am grinning from ear to ear like some kind of mad Cheshire cat. And I'm not even in, or from, Cheshire. Wow. Sounds like you had a total blast from start to finish. This is what it's all been about ceep - the Great Director in the Sky has said "Action!" and yer cameras are rolling. You go girl!!


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