Excerpt from the Playback article: Casting a Long Shadow by Cheryl Binning, Mar 30, 2009

"...Here at Playback, we interview lots of producers, directors and writers, and even some actors. But we seldom chat with casting directors, whose services include scouting for new talent, choosing actors to audition for roles, and negotiating with agents on behalf of producers.

So we decided to speak with some veteran casting directors across the country about the highs and lows of their job and the challenges they face. We even encouraged them to complain a bit - after all, everyone else in this industry gets to air their beefs on occasion, so why shouldn't they?


A casting director for 33 years, Chesley's credits range from Seeing Things and King of Kensington to Blue Murder and Little Mosque on the Prairie.

What is the biggest issue in casting right now?
The economy. Almost everything is a scale project, so we don't have the money in the budget to offer actors. I rely on personal relationships with agents, they have to trust me when I say this is a good script, a good part, you should look at it - so they don't dismiss it right away because it's scale.

What other challenges do you face?
Casting is one of those elusive things; when it is good, it isn't really noticed and all sorts of people take credit for it. And when it is bad, it seems to glare and everyone says that was a really bad casting director. The final decision in many cases isn't up to the casting director - it's a big group, including director, executive producers, distributors or the network.
A casting director can bring a lot of historical knowledge about an actor - some don't audition well but can deliver, others audition well but that is the limit of what you get. I can bring that kind of historical knowledge. You want to feel your experience is respected. It often is, and it often isn't.

Have you helped launch any careers?
I cast Mike Myers when he was 14 years old in a dramatic role - he was just a kid who wanted to act. But I didn't launch his career!

What is one of your most memorable working experiences?
This Is Wonderland. Over the course of three seasons we had over 650 actors on the series and 20 different languages were spoken. It was challenging to find all that ethnic diversity, and I had to go out into the community to find new talent.

What is your worst experience with an actor?
An actor was supposed to be on set for a 7:30 a.m. call, and at 6:30 a.m. his agent called to say he wouldn't be showing up. I sat there silently for a moment and then said, "He either better be dead or in hospital or in jail." It turned out it was a big drug bust and he was in jail. I had another show where the lead actor quit on the first day of shooting, so I replaced him. On day three, a female lead walked out. Not only did the role require an accent, it was a period piece, so I had to find an actress to fit the wardrobe already made. It was pretty dramatic.

Marsha Chesley's talent pick:
Chesley found newcomer Geetika Sharma for a role in Deepa Mehta's Heaven on Earth, and although just 13 years old and having never acted before, both the film's producers and Chesley say she is fantastic in the movie and has a promising career ahead of her.


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