It’s a question I get asked whenever I meet a new client, sit down for a coffee and a natter with actors or my fellow casting directors and, in fact, whenever I tell people what it is that I do; how did I get into casting? A lot of casting directors begin their careers as actors before making the switch to the other side of the audition table for varying reasons, though some will continue to act as well.
Me? I can’t act (as anyone who shared Theatre Studies classes with me during my college years can attest) and I had never even been in an audition room on any side of any table. It wasn’t until I was well into my second year at University that I was certain I wanted to work in the practical side of the Media industry, as opposed to the academic study of the discipline, and even after I graduated I only had a vague idea that I wanted to somehow be involved in film-making. So far, so vague.
I moved to London and began working freelance for various companies in various roles; live television producing, development for a few indie companies, producing a few music videos and short films and a sprinkling of script writing and editing. I spread myself across as many trades as I could within the broader film and TV business and was master of none of them. A lot of hard graft and boundless, almost annoying enthusiasm kept me working though.
After some time chipping away in development for one indie company in particular, I was seconded to work with a producer whom they were partnering with (so I was the partner of the partner?) and was tasked with, amongst other things, discussing casting ideas, bouncing back names and types of actors that we could approach. Out of nowhere I found something I really enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong I loved the other jobs I was doing and still do, but there was something in casting that captured my imagination. The work soon expanded to contacting agents and making offers on behalf of the producer. There were highs and lows and a great deal of frustration but never boredom. I wasn’t a casting director just yet but I was pretty sure it was something I wanted to do. Then came Hackney’s Finest…
There was an advert for a casting director on a media jobs website and although I lacked some of the experience as well as being several rungs down the ladder, I was confident I was equal to the task. I applied and soon met the director of what would become Hackney’s Finest, Chris Bouchard. We chatted about ideas. I put across names that were far too ambition for the micro-budget available but my point was to get across types of actors and characters, a casting mood board so to speak. The interview went great but I expected at most to be the casting assistant to whichever casting director Chris ended up going for but through extreme luck and an even more extreme leap of faith, he chose me. That was my first job as a casting director; a feature film. That was back in 2009. It has been five years and I feel like I’m still just getting started, though factually speaking that was where my career began. In essence, it began on a whim.
So that’s how I “became” a casting director. Of course it wasn’t that simple. Film-making never is. It’s never boring either.