SCAD Presents: The Relationship between the Casting Director and the Actor
On May 3, 2016, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) welcomed award winning casting director, Linda Lowy, and television star, Jeff Perry to the Savannah Museum of Art Theater to discuss the complex relationship between the casting director and the actor. Hosted by Professor Andra Reeve-Rabb, the panel was part of the Spring Performing Arts Series, a series aimed at preparing upcoming performance art students for employment in the film industry.
“Here at SCAD, we believe the students must come first. Whether they be behind the camera or on the stage, the role of the actor is always in flux. Audience demands change and the industry changes, our role as educators is to expose our students to the changing tide and make them aware of trials and tribulations that await them.” – Professor Andra Reeve-Rabb
Lasting roughly an hour, the panel’s guests were treated to a truly memorable introduction before delving into the careers of Lowy and Perry. The panel’s discussion shed light on the ambiguous role of the casting director and the problems facing the actor today – namely, the glutted work force. Students and teachers alike gathered to listen to these two film veterans give advice for young actors and provide insight into the business of Hollywood.
Meet The Guests: Husband and Wife
Known for her work on Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, Linda Lowy has been a casting director for film and television for the past 20 yrs; she has received 14 nominations and 3 Emmy awards for Friday Night Lights and Bastard Out of Carolina. She recommended Viola Davis for the part of Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder and represents over 100 actors in the industry.
She is currently working on a television series called Chance, and she teaches auditioning for Television and Film at the Steppenwolf Theater School West in Los Angeles, California. Click Here For Linda Lowy’s Filmography.
Lowy’s husband, Jeff Perry, is an actor and director known for his work in television series’ Nash Bridges (1996), Grey’s Anatomy (2006), Scandal (2012), and the cult film, The Wild Things (1998). Perry began his acting career in 1973 at the age of 23 and won TV Guide Award for Scandal for his role of Cyrus Beene which he currently plays. Perry is a founder of the Steppenwolf Theater School alongside actors, Gary Sinise and Terry Kinney. Click Here for Jeff Perry’s Filmography
Hollywood Actors Today
“The business isn’t for everyone. There are no guarantees. There will be times where you will audition and think you gave it your best shot and you just won’t get the call-back. There will be times when you will get the call-back but the executives decide the role isn’t right for you. You never know. You’re up one minute and you’re down the next. One day you’re working 8 hours a day in a cramped studio, the next day – you’re unemployed.”- Jeff Perry
Lowy and Perry focused the majority of the discussion about the current state of the film industry. An actor’s job is never secure. The business rises and falls on the whim of production companies which in turn rises and falls by the fickle nature of the audience. Every project is gamble; there is no way to know what the audience will like and what they will not. Projects that prove successful are often imitated because studios are anxious to capitalize on popular trends.
However, audiences easily grow tired from seeing the same material over and over – particularly in television. Thus, actors who gain employment more often than not find themselves without work once the ratings tank. But that is not the only, or even the biggest, problem confronting actors.
“For every role, there is at least 100 actors who are competing for that role. The sad fact is that there are not enough roles for every actor and this is why the job of the casting director is so important. ” – Linda Lowy
Providing a brief historical context, Lowy explained that an actor’s job which was once secure due to the contract system of Classic Hollywood became a cut-throat business after the fall of the Studio Era. New demands and new markets opened up in the 1960s-70s and more actors rushed to gain the spotlight; this left the market glutted. There are not enough jobs for every actor. The rise of conglomeration only increased this phenomenon, and this is why the role of a casting director is so important.
The Job of a Casting Director
Realizing that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the term casting director, Lowy described her job in detail – wanting to show that casting directors do not just serve the interests of the studios. A casting director is a middleman between the producers and the actors; they facilitate auditions and find work for the actors. A casting director may conduct an audition for an actor that ultimately does not go in the actor’s favor.
But the casting director keeps that actor in mind and tries to find the role that is the right fit for them; if they come across a script that fits an actor’s talents, the casting director calls the actor in for a reading. The relationship between the casting director and an actor is symbiotic. If one benefits, so does the other.
“When it comes to getting a job in this industry, cooperation is the key. People think they can just make a phone call, get an audition, and then get a role. That’s just not how it work; a casting director is just as necessary if not more than an agent.” – Linda Lowy
Responsibilities of a Casting Director
- reads the script and make notes about all the speaking parts
- creates a list of possible actors, in preferred order, for the most important parts first
- contacts the actors or their agents to determine their availability
- prepares lists of actors and production schedule for supporting and more minor actors
- makes appointments for auditions or readings with the available actors
- provides information about available parts to talent agencies
- conducts auditions
- makes recommendations, based on auditions, for each speaking part
- negotiates contracts with the actors’ agents, keeping an eye on the casting budget
- issues casting calls for minor acting parts and conducts those auditions
- acts as a liaison between the director and the actors, once contracts are signed
- finds replacements, as needed, during production for actors who can’t fulfill their contracts
Questions and Advice
The final portion of the panel was reserved for questions and advice for students seeking to succeed in the performing arts. Some students asked about specific projects of both the guests; other students asked how to maintain a personal life with the busy schedules that both Lowy and Perry keep. However, most students simply asked if the guests had any advice.
“Never Give Up!” Jeff Perry
For nearly 40 yrs, Jeff Perry has been an actor and he has seen it all. He’s had great auditions and terrible ones. He’s had steady roles and roles that have been cancelled. The most important advice he could give students was to never give up. Keep trying. Keep doing your best.