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Jun 27

Richard Evans CDG: Casting director interview {The Film Set}

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1) How did you get into casting?
I worked as assistant to two casting directors, but I’d always had a casting director’s brain (I used to read Spotlight in the local library from the age of 8, which, although it sounds sad, completely fascinated me!). I started on my own in 1989, as the first freelance casting director to specialise in theatre – in those days, the vast majority of theatre casting was done by artistic directors and their secretaries, and was not considered worthy of specialised casting knowledge (the only people who cast for theatre worked in the casting departments of the major companies, such as the RSC and The National Theatre, and the only other freelancer was Leonie Cosman who did many of the West End musicals). While many film and TV casters initially treated theatre with disdain, viewpoints changed remarkably quickly, so I, in turn, diversified, but theatre is still my favourite medium.

2) Favourite film you have cast?
I’ve cast relatively few films, as it’s not really a medium that I’ve pushed to work in. I am, however, extremely proud of most of the projects I’ve cast, for a multitude of reasons.

3) What do you love about your job?
Getting it right! Leaving a casting where we have first, second, third… even eighth choices for each character makes me walk on air. I always strive for absolute perfection and sweat blood over everything I do, so when everything falls into place it makes it all worthwhile. My absolute favourite thing is giving someone their first job out of drama school and then seeing them progress to bigger and better things – it doesn’t often happen, as there aren’t always suitable roles on my desk at the right time, but it’s amazing when it does.

4) Advice for actors?
Buy my book!… no, seriously… BUY MY BOOK! Where do I start?! Be honest about your capabilities and what you’ve done. We are in a small business, which gets smaller the longer you are in it, so any fibs will surely be found out. Prepare everything thoroughly, know as much as you can about the projects you’re up for and the industry you’re in. Be prepared for anything, and, above all, enjoy whatever you do – if you don’t, others won’t. I could go on, but there’s lots of other advice, tips and resources at my website.

5) Who is your inspiration?
Anyone who knows what they want and goes for it wholeheartedly… especially if they have overcome adversity to do so.

6) What’s next?
I’m currently in discussions to cast a new musical, which it’s hoped will tour the UK in early 2011, and I’m told that a corporate video has had its budget approved, six months after I was first called about it. My policy is to always believe that a project is only definite after it has happened and the cheque has cleared. People are being far more cautious at the moment, due to the recession, but the great thing about our Industry is you never know when the phone will ring and your luck will change – even after all these years, I am frequently surprised when it happens to me.

7) Tell me about your book.
AUDITIONS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE is, I’m told, just that. I wanted to write a book that is an easy and amusing read and would be useful and pertinent to every performer, from those considering training or starting a career in performing arts to the most experienced actors who want to brush up their skills and learn new techniques. The reaction has been phenomenally positive, even from people who have been in the Industry for decades and are notoriously harsh critics (I’m still waiting for someone to contact me and say ‘I didn’t like your book because…’, which would actually be quite refreshing, silly though that may sound). The book covers many different genres and takes the reader through the audition process step by step. Writing this book was a long-held ambition – I first thought of writing it back in 1993 – and was a huge learning curve, taking over 4 years from conception to publication. I wanted to write it partly as I was frustrated at the amount of performers who unwittingly lose jobs by auditioning badly and, on a more selfish note, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a book and get it published. It is without doubt the proudest achievement of my life… so far!

8 ) What is your background?
I was an actor for 10 years, which I believe has stood me in excellent stead to work in casting, as, having seen things from both sides of the audition table, I am able to appreciate everyone’s point of view and, hopefully get the best out of performers when auditioning.

9) What does your average day consist of?
There’s really no such thing as an average day, every day is different and that’s the way I like it. I’m usually at my desk by around 10am, replying to emails that have come in overnight and ploughing through my daily to do list. Some days are frantic, others very quiet, there’s no pattern. I go to the theatre to keep abreast of actors’ work at least 3 or 4 nights a week and may then return to my desk afterwards to catch up, especially if I’m dealing with agents and producers in America.

10) Favourite actors?
My favourite actors are mainly those that I like as people as well as for their skill as performers. There are many, and most aren’t the least bit famous or even yet in the public eye, so I’ll spare their blushes by mentioning them and having you saying ‘Who?!’ Those you may have heard of include: Douglas Hodge who is terrific and starting to be given the recognition he deserves, having been awarded best actor on both sides of the Atlantic for his astounding performance as Albin in La Cage Aux Folles. Samantha Morton always gives wonderfully naturalistic performances; Daniel Radcliffe is really proving himself to be a great actor (he’s also not a bad magician in real life!); Sheridan Smith has been excellent in everything I’ve see her do; Julie Walters is far more versatile than most people ever see, and Alec McCowen is doubtless the most underrated actor of his generation, if not all time.

11) What is the hardest part of the job?
Getting performers to prepare adequately for auditions and recalls, especially when they’ve been sent sides or songs to learn… and also getting some companies to pay my invoices on time!

Buy Richards book on Amazon or visit his web site.

Main picture credit Ethel Davies.