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May 29, 2012

The Casting Director’s Couch

Interview with casting director Jo Adamson-Parker:

A few years ago I remember complaining to my friends that they were all completely annoying by having jobs which were entirely useless to furthering my acting career; why wasn’t one of them a Hollywood film director? A playwright? A casting director? But no, they all had totally selfish jobs which only benefited themselves, like doctor, charity volunteer, brain surgeon.

*Sigh*Ok, ok I’m only joking…. there was no brain surgeon.

But seriously… I have often wished that I had a friend, someone I could talk to about anything, trust and feel comfortable making a d*ck of myself to, that was somehow involved in the television & theatre industry. I don’t mean a fellow actor….I mean from the dark side. I’m talking directors, casting directors, agents, producers, writers.

Well it was only recently that I realised I’ve GOT ONE!! I’ve caught one, I’ve got her, she can’t get away!!! Two years ago I wrote to top casting director Jo Adamson-Parker to ask her *Cough beg her Cough* if she’d meet with me for a general. She kindly agreed and since that first meeting we’ve become really good friends. I’ve got her number and everything!

Sooooooo…. I asked Jo if she’d be my first interviewee *Cough victim Cough* for my blog; I wanted to ask her the questions that I’d always wanted to ask a casting director but couldn’t without appearing psycho…..and I wanted to get some answers for other actors too. So without further a do here’s my first interview in all it’s glory. Huge thank you to Jo for taking the time to do this and lots of thanks to everyone on twitter & Facebook who submitted a question for Jo-I hope you find the answers helpful!!

As actors, we’re forever searching for the ‘winning formula’ for auditions. In your opinion what makes a good audition?

This could be many things. One of the nicest auditions I had was where the actress was prepared, professional but showed her personality and then listened when the director asked her to do something. We like to enjoy auditions too so really just be yourself ..and always be prepared. I’ve had actors obviously not even look at the script and we can tell so why should we employ you if you’ve shown you’re not bothered!

On audition day, do you ‘know’ what you’re looking for or do you let it find you?

Nope, we really are open to have our eyes opened! Sometimes an actor could come in with a different way of looking at a character that changes our perspective…that’s the fun!

How do you select the actors you want to see at an audition?

This is through a combination of speaking to the director, getting their wish list, my personal ideas and then the submissions that come through spotlight. I’m happy to meet actors that aren’t represented as long as their approach is professional.

Lots of actors have a particular show/programme that they’d love to work on, what’s the best way to go about getting considered for something specific?

Erm….research I guess. Know the project and be realistic about how you feel you’d fit into it.

I often try to console myself with the old “well….maybe they’ll remember me for something else” chestnut if I wasn’t successful in a particular audition. Does this EVER happen? Do you ever ‘remember’ somebody from a previous casting or is each job a clean slate?

Totally!! It sounds a cliché but no audition is a waste – that is really important to remember. When I was casting for ‘The Bill’ I worked with a certain director a couple of times and then about a year later he rang me up and said ‘what was that girl we cast in that episode? I’d like to meet her for Holby’. I reminded him of her name and she got to work with him again. There can be elements out of a Casting Director and Director’s control which means you aren’t right for that role but if you’ve made your mark (in the right way!!) we’ll want to work with you and remember you!

Ok so the bane of an actor’s life…..THE MAIL OUT. I’m talking about when we’re going through a dry spell, getting depressed and think “I know, I’ll buy a million envelopes and send my CV out to every casting director in the land….either something will happen or at least I’ll feel like I’m doing something!”. Does this work or are we just sending these little parcels of hope out into an abyss?

Actors don’t realise that often Casting Directors are in the very same position as actors….we send our cv’s out too and wait with bated breath to hear back. All I’d say is don’t send to everyone and set yourself up for a fall…target the Casting Directors and directors that do the kind of work you want to be involved in. Often you won’t hear back…that doesn’t mean you haven’t made an impression. Every time I cast a project I make lists of actors I want to audition – I can’t see them all and many don’t realise they were thought of and on that list. A lot goes on you don’t realise.

Two scenarios for you:

1) I’ve just met with you for a casting and even though I say it myself…..I nailed it! The chat was great, the read went smoothly and I got really positive vibes from you…I’m even sure you winked and mouthed “call me” as I left. So I wait by the phone…..and wait….and wait…..but you never call, you never write. What’s the deal?

I always make a point of doing ‘no calls’ with feedback but not every Casting Director has the time to do this, understandably. If you feel you did a good job then take that confidence and build on it…there are often things out of your control like building a family and you didn’t have the right look.

2) I’ve just met with you for a casting and I’m pretty sure it was the worst audition that has ever been. I called you “Joan”…… I cited “Stuey from Family Guy” as my favourite actor and I spilled your Starbucks. Is that it? Will you hate me forever?

Yep…never spill my Starbucks! I should actually be sponsored by them I drink so much of the stuff!! Everyone gets nervous in auditions and I still have flashbacks to stupid things I’ve said…just never call me Joan on paper! If you thought it was a bad audition, it probably really wasn’t! The worst thing to do is leave the room defeated! Even if you feel you’ve given the worst read ever and been appalling, give us a strong handshake and leave the room confident – we might still have seen something we want but if you leave the room defeated that tells a different story.

—————-

Ok here are some questions I’ve been asked to put to you!

Being a pioneer of upcoming talent, would you ever consider starting your own agency?

Argh! I run Northern:Drama Acting School in Leeds and currently have 80 adult students…I feel very protective over them and each one is my baby…I would be a nightmare as an agent! I love Casting, I love teaching – hopefully I’m good at it so leave being an agent to those that are good at it. It’s a very different role.

When a casting director asks “what have you been up to lately?” does it matter if you say things have been quiet? Should you lie?

You don’t lie but be positive… having done nothing for six months can be turned into ..”well I’ve been refreshing my skills and working on my monologues,’…..there’s always a way to put a positive spin on things and really as an actor you should be constantly refreshing your skills and challenging yourself.

Would a casting director look at you if you didn’t have drama school training? If so, what would be the best way to attract their eye?

Yep, absolutely. I cast many actors without formal training. Now you can take classes in most cities, attend workshops by leading professionals..just look like you are proactive and want to move forward in the industry.

What is it about Northern Talent that inspires you so much?

I’m not blinkered to the rest of the country…I’m married to a Southerner so I can’t be seen to show favour! But I was born in Leeds, live here and feel very proud to be Northern, for me, not supporting the talent in the North would be like cutting off a limb! I guess it’s in my blood! I think In the North we have the ability to be very gritty and realistic in our writing and acting – and that includes the kids! I love working with Northern young people…there’s a realism already there. And my students inspire me..it was never a road I thought I’d take but I love working with the school.

If you went paintballing, where would you least like to get hit?

Erm… tough as since turning 40 I have tried most extreme sports so I’m not really a wimp (until I’m on a zip wire!) ..so I guess… nose! Give me a black eye but don’t break my nose!!

What’s the best first impression an actor can leave u with?

Just be yourself, be professional and be prepared.

What tips can she give an actress in her 30’s who’s trying to relaunch her career?

Relaunch? At 30? World is your oyster! Just know who you are and what you want!

What’s the best way to avoid being type cast?

Challenge yourself and think out of your comfort zone. But be realistic with it. A great Artistic Director I worked with coined it well…’ be game on’ – be willing to play, in audition and rehearsal room!

What’s the worst thing an actor could do whilst trying to impress?

Don’t blow smoke up my…. Just be yourself…we can tell when you’re trying to flatter and most of us don’t like it! And no gifts! I’ve had some really random ones and it’s just plain weird!!

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