Have you ever watched a film with a huge star attached and were extremely disappointed, told all your friends not to see it and the movie tanked shortly after? Me too.
Most times, this is due to poor casting. Not every talented actor is right for every role. I’ve never been able to buy into John Travolta as a bad guy or Tom Cruise as a villain. Attaching the right actor to a film can make all the difference in the world on a films success. Having the right talent can earn an Oscar or CSA for the film.
I’ve always believed that success of a film is incumbent on great casting and a compelling story. I was extremely fortunate to run into Tina Marie McCulloch of Tina Marie Casting. We met at a Booze ‘N’ Schmooze event at the Studio on Granville St. She was generous enough to accept my request for an interview. It turned out to be one of my favorite conversations.
“What was the inspiration to become a Casting Director?”
“I had been an actress for the past twelve years, studied in NYC, had multiple agents and was constantly passed up by other Casting Directors for not having the right look. Having met most of the naysayers that told me time after time that I should find another career despite knowing I was a great actress was all the inspiration I needed. I knew what I brought to the table but rarely was given the opportunity to showcase it. Politics play a big part in getting invited for an audition. Agents and Casting Directors tend to have their favorites and will only invite/send the same dozen actors in for a read. It’s extremely unfair and I knew I could help other actors get their shot they deserved.”
Tina Marie is a different kind of Casting Director. She has been through the trenches, she can sympathize with the actors, understands the sacrifices, the criticism and the long journey every actor goes through in hopes of finding success. She’s had a rough road as an actress and wants to be responsible for discovering an actor with or without representation. Keeping the politics out of it and giving every actor that chance is her mission statement. She has a love and fondness for actors. She will be your new best friend.
She also wants people to know that she didn’t become a Casting Director off the backs of other Casting Directors. She’s accomplished her success on her own despite knocking on the doors of other Casting Directing agencies and sending out countless resumes. There were no replies, the knocking went unanswered, but she did not quite. Tina Marie has the tenacity and determination of a heavy weight boxer. She feels like she was meant for this job. Her destiny is to see every actor’s dream come true. To be that Casting Director that made it happen.
Understanding that opportunities are often only given to a chosen few, she is opening the flood gates to allow equal opportunity to all actors. She wants to make you famous! I cannot think of a better person to have in your corner. Being in the drivers seat has provided her with the power to yield opportunity to every actor vying for a role in a film.
“Can you talk me through the process of an audition?”
“I will contact agents, managers, post open submissions for all actors interested. I will then request taped auditions and sift through them all to narrow down the best ones. I’ll then have 10-15 actors called back for each character. Sometimes some of the best actors do not have representation, which makes open submissions essential. I had a director, Richard H. Strobel in Toronto making a film called Small Town Whatever, contact me. He had found the male lead for his film but had exhausted all efforts in finding the female lead. He reached out to me to see if Vancouver would expose the right girl. I went to work and narrowed the auditions down to two phenomenal actresses. I invited them both in for a chemistry read. The male lead had also come in to read with both actresses. It quickly became apparent who had the best chemistry. The actress that got the part is Zoe Fraser. She only had one credit in a previous film and was now the lead in a feature because she had the best chemistry with the male lead.”
“Have you ever been so impressed by an audition that you were left speechless?”
“There is one audition that comes to mind immediately. We had called an actress in for a read for a dramatic role. Her performance was so powerful it left the director and producer in tears. They were literally weeping. I felt like she had lived through the scene. She owned it and brought the audition to a totally new level. To see the amount of talent out there and discovering them is the reward. I want to inspire actors to keep auditioning and to follow their dreams. I’m that kind of Casting Director. When someone comes in to read, I want them to feel comfortable and at ease. Once they are, they will always deliver their best performance.”
“Since becoming a Casting Director, have you been able to acknowledge talent that is destined for stardom?”
“It’s funny you ask that. I know of two in particular that are well on their way and are soon to be in high demand. They are actually a power couple capable of bringing their best every time. I’d like to mention their names in case somebody wants to use them in a film before they’re unobtainable. Vanessa Walsh from Death Of A Las Vegas Showgirl and her boyfriend Nelson Leis. Nelson has worked with Kevin Bacon on Story Of A Girl, directed by Kyra Sedgewick. Their careers are going to blow up and I strongly recommend putting them in your film while you can. They are so talented, I’d like to include both their Imdb links. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1692766/ is Nelson Lei and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5101240/ is Vanessa’s.”
“How many submissions will you look at for a film?”
“It varies with every film. For example, I was casting for the short film Atalanta. It was being produced by seven time Leo award winner Amanda Verhagen and directed by Eric Horn. I had 250 submissions. I’m currently casting for another short film produced by Amanda, Pearly Nights. Because the lead is a complicated character, I am seeing 180 submissions for five characters. The more actors I see provide a wider range of talent for the director and producer to consider.”
“When an actor receives a call-back for an audition, do they usually know how to play the character?”
“If an actor comes in prepared for that character, I will let them give their interpretation. Usually we are on the same page, but sometimes I will ask them for a slight adjustment. I will not puppet the actors. I like to see their version of the character from their visual standpoint. I have tremendous respect for the actors I call back. Most actors are given a short bio prior to the audition to help in their interpretation.”
“There is a certain toughness required to be a Casting Director. You are working on behalf of the director and producer. These films are their babies and they are entrusting you to understand the characters and the demands for finding the perfect actor to play that role. You’re playing the middleman. I don’t believe Casting Directors are given enough credit. Without them, you don’t have convincing characters. The success of the film depends on great casting.”
Tina Marie says there are no small parts in films. Sometimes it the ‘Day Players’ that can deliver a line that is remembered after the movie is over. Those one liners have been responsible for launching an actors career into stardom because the actor knocked it out of the park.
Tina Marie Casting usually operates out of Beatty Street Studios in Vancouver and if you’d like to introduce yourself you can find her at the Booze ‘N’ Schmooze events held every last Monday of the month at The Studio on Granville. It is hosted by Nadia DiMofte, regional director for Raindance Vancouver. Nadia recently made Tina Marie her Casting Consultant. You can view her contributions at the following link: http://www.raindance.org/vancouver/services/casting-consultant/
One piece of advice Tina Marie offers to all actors coming in for auditions is, “Bring a headshot and your resume. Be on time and be respectful. Treat people like you would like to be treated. If we were all a little nicer to one another the world would be a better place.”
You can visit Tina Marie Casting at http://www.tinamariecasting.com