Kids Casting

My son, three and a half years old, is cautious.  Pretty much from birth we had no reason to worry that he would put something dangerous in his mouth, because nothing went in his mouth unless he knew exactly what it was.  This made getting him to eat a colossal pain in the buns, but at least I was never the least bit concerned about finding pennies, or worse, in his you-know-what. 

My not-quite-two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is ridiculously and terrifyingly fearless.  Like Amelia Earhart or Alex Honnold (google him) fearless.  Forget her brother, there is nothing that an adult can do that she can’t do herself.  She recently scaled, to my horror, an almost two story high inflatable ladder at a funhouse (she should not have been on that ladder).  She routinely picks fights with wild turkeys that are easily twice her size (our neighborhood has turkeys.  It’s a whole thing – they’re terrible). 

The two of them, as a weird little tag team, have taught my wife and I more in the last couple of years than we ever imagined we didn’t know.  So, while I am by no means yet an expert on children, as my friends with older kids like to remind me, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two, as that awesome actor says sometimes in commercials.

Which brings us to the relevant part of this entry.  At Slate, we do a lot of kids casting.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s something that we pride ourselves on being very good at.

Working with kids requires a completely different toolbox than working with adults.  Sure, adults are all unique.  We have distinct experiences, varying levels of talent and education, diverse viewpoints, etc.  But adults who come in to audition for us, from the most accomplished trained actors to “real people” who have never been on a set before, all at least understand what they are doing, why they are there, and what you are saying when you give them direction.  And they are capable of sitting still for more than .0003 seconds. 

Kids…not so much.  With an adult, you can tell them what you want.  With kids, you have to show them.  Phrases like, “bring it down” or “bring it up” or “use a British accent” or “give me full valley girl” draw only blank stares from a six-year-old.  Instead, you have get on your knees and demonstrate.  If you want them to be sad you have to show them a sad face.  If you want them to be excited, you have to be excited.  You have to jump up and down like a fool, dance with them, sing with them, and play with them.  More than anything, you have to make the audition room FUN. 

If that is not exhausting enough, you also have to take into account what my children have taught me.  No two kids are alike.  At all.   Some kids just need a high five and few seconds of silly music.  Others need a little time to adjust.  If I was auditioning my son, I would let him watch other kids from the back of the room and wait for him to let me know he is ready.  For my daughter, I would just throw her in front of the camera and hope that in her frenzy she did something approximating the action.  They would both do great, but getting them there would require totally different approaches. 

You don’t have to be a parent to be good with kids.  Some people are just naturals.  But you have to be patient, you have to be observant, and you have to be willing to participate on their level.  My little lunatics have helped me immeasurably to understand that. 

Now, if I could only get some sleep…

-Aaron

Extras Casting

Okay, so I’ve gone back and forth about writing this blog post… but I’m going to go for it :)  I just wrapped extras casting for Daddy’s Home 2.  It was a demanding, 12 week project, but I’ve had a couple of weeks to detach myself from the chaos (although still flooded with paperwork), so this blog post will be a little better than the one I wrote when I literally had not slept more than 5 hours in 3 days!    This project was a long (in my eyes) 46 day shoot that brought me a lot of laughs, a few tears, the opportunity to make a lot of people happy, the challenge of disappointing a few and an immense lack of sleep.  But, all in all- I’m glad I did it!!

For those of you that know me, you know I have a history of handling extras casting for quite a few movies, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I’m never doing extras again”… but I always end up doing it.  Why?  Who knows?!  I haven’t had a child- but I equate it to that whole childbirth experience- you forget about the torture, lack of sleep, and stressful parts!  (Moms, I know I can’t compare it… but just roll with me for now).

Anywho- I figured I’d blog about extras casting as a whole, because I think it’s a really crazy process that those on the outside may not realize and understand.  Also, it's a little therapeutic to write it out ;) 

The whole process starts with a meeting with the ADs (Assistant Directors) and the producers where they outline the show and what they are looking at in terms of extras or "background".  Typically, Aaron Kahl and myself sit in those meetings and smile and nod and show as much enthusiasm as we can while we exchange small glances of panic, where I can internally hear him say “how the heck are we going to pull that off” (in stronger AK language) and “no… no… don’t say it… fittings!”.  But, we sit there and say “Yea, awesome!  No problem!  Can’t wait”.  Then we get in the car, Aaron says a few choice words that I won’t repeat here and I say “it’s okay- we got this.  It won’t be that bad”… and then we get a margarita ;)

After that, we go deep into prep mode.  We geek out over getting organized.   We have fun hosting a couple open calls and getting people excited about the project. We set up our workspace, we shop for all the office supplies we could ever need (we both have a deep down love for shopping at Staples… weird I know).  We hang up these beautiful calendars and outline how many extras and what types they need for each day and we feel PREPARED!!  Then, we get a new extras breakdown…

EVERYTHING CHANGES. 

EVERYTHING ALWAYS CHANGES.  And then extras casting really begins.

For the next 12 weeks, everything would change, every day.  This is on every show.  The numbers of extras is constantly changing, people’s schedules are constantly changing and they are no longer available for when you thought they would be working, start times are shifting and I become the multi-tasking queen.  I am on my phone and email from the moment I wake up to the moment I shut my eyes for the couple hours of sleep I manage (with a few text messages happening throughout that brief sleep time). 

Amidst the chaos, we get to work with some awesome and super talented crew members, both local and new to filming in Boston.  The 2nd AD on every project becomes an Extras Casting Director’s best friend.  It’s funny actually, someone you’ve never met before quickly becomes the center of your every day.  I sometimes feel like the crazy girlfriend to my 2nd AD, calling, emailing and texting them and checking back every 5 minutes in hopes of getting a response.  They hold all the answers to my questions but they are also super busy on set, so it’s one of those relationships ;)  I had a fantastic 2nd AD on this show- I don’t know how she did what she did in terms of organizing such a big show.  Kudos all around to her.  Aside from the 2nd AD, I got to work with some familiar faces on this show like Roger, my fav set medic, Steve- one of the best in terms of background PA’s , Nikki in accounting, Shari in the production office and many, many more. 

This show gave me an opportunity to really connect Slate with both new and familiar faces in terms of extras.  It was nice to set a precedent in how Slate works with people, both in small and large numbers.  I spent many early mornings on set greeting those hard-working, committed folks, and I am so appreciative of each and every one who made the effort to show up, on time, and put in a long day of work.  Of equal importance to the amazing crew and the fantastic extras- I have to give a huge shout out to my standins and photo doubles.  Aside from the 2nd AD, they are the people I communicate with the most, and when you get a solid crew like I did on this movie, they actually make the day a bit easier.  So Chris, Robert, Maegan, Beau, Anastasia, Kristen, Ellen, Casey, Mai, Brooke, Brody, Giovanna and Catherine- you guys rock.  I am so grateful for your commitment to the show and for being the best standin/photo double group a girl could ask for!  For all the late night text mssgs and early morning calls, please know that I appreciated each and every day you were there for me :)

Lastly, the extras casting team- it’s everything.  Not only are they the ones helping it all come together and get done, but they are the emotional, mental and pick-me-up support that is needed on a daily basis.  We drank a lot of coffee (we should have stock in Dunkin Donuts), ate probably one too many slices of pizza, consistently enjoyed Thai Take-out Tuesdays, sent a lot of text messages, laughed a ton and made Aaron Kahl smile more than he ever has ;)  So George, Marina, Floris and Kim- you are the dream team.

For the past 12 or so weeks I have completely devoted my life to extras casting.   I have sent hundreds of thousands of booking emails, my team has made thousands of phone calls, I have seen smiling faces on set at 5 in the morning, and I’ve worked with many amazing crew members!  It’s been tough but awesome all at the same time.  I have not seen any of my outside of work friends or family and I’ve been a terrible wife… but I survived it all and can go back to reality now.   I met some really awesome people through this show and I’m grateful for the experience.  Plus, it taught me new multi-tasking skills that I never thought possible!

Will it be my last time doing extras for a movie?  Who knows?!  If we’re placing bets… probably not.  See you on the next one :)

-Ashley

Happy B-Day Blog

How does it feel to be 1 year old?  On one hand it feels like we just launched Slate, but on the other hand, it feels like 7 dog years- ha ha!  The year has flown, but I feel like Ashley, Aaron and I have experienced and accomplished what we never thought possible in 12 months.  Where has the time gone?

I still get the chills when I hear someone say “I went to Slate Casting today”-  wow.  We didn’t exist 13 months ago and now we’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds (thousands!) of incredible actors and ‘real people’ (if you want the inside scoop on Real People casting, see Ashley’s recent blog).  There’s nothing better than watching TV and seeing a commercial with people we know- love that feeling!  We have met so many new faces and have shared the studio with so many old friends in the biz- and everyone has played an important role in Slate’s first year of development- thank you!

To celebrate our big b-day, Ashley, Aaron and I had a birthday lunch (complete with party hats that no one even noticed at the restaurant- that cracked us up!) and then we decided to take some first-year photos.  We didn’t exactly prop ourselves up on a couch like most 1-year old baby photos with a big “I’m 1!” sign, but we did do the next best thing.  We hijacked a shopping cart and promptly put Ashley inside and Aaron and I ran down a hill with Ashley in it!  It was hilarious! Not to miss out on the fun, Aaron also took a turn while Ashley and I took turns steering and braking.  We were totally acting like 1-year olds and it was a total blast.  It kind of summed up who we are and what we wanted our company to be like.  Fun, lighthearted (we’re not doing brain surgery) and friendly.   We hope it shows when you walk into Slate- that’s our goal.

I wish we had made predictions on the eve of our opening on May 2, 2016.  Instead, I’ll make predictions for our 2nd year and you can be my witness.  Next year at this time we can revisit this list together and see how we did!

Julie’s Year 2 Predictions for Slate Casting:

  • We will need to order more Bacon Tape
  • We will meet hundreds of amazing actors and continue to help people build careers in Boston
  • We will keep our sense of humor and Aaron will continue to smile more
  • Ashley will trademark the phrase “I’m in the field”
  • Julie will continue to make a complete fool of herself on Instagram
  • We will never run out of lollipops
  • We will continue to make Slate a welcoming, inclusive and fun company to work with
  • We will eat cake and celebrate on May 2, 2018

So, hold me to it friends of Slate Casting.  Now it’s time to blow out our candle and make a wish.  I can’t say what my wish is, or it won’t come true. :)