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. :)

Real People Casting

“We want REAL PEOPLE” not actors.  Because obviously actors are not real people?  ;)  I used to hear the term “Real People Casting” and cringe, because it meant so much more work for me.  What the heck?!  I’d wonder why we couldn’t just cast actors that look the part and can deliver a performance.  Instead I had to go out looking for people, put a camera in their face and expect to strike gold with exactly the specs the client was looking for.  Needless to say, it was not something I was excited about- until I really learned what Real People Casting was all about…

After a couple jobs of “real people casting”, I found out exactly what it was all about- authenticity.  It didn’t REALLY matter if the person was an actor or non-actor, all that mattered was the authenticity of the person- the story behind the story.  Actors ARE in fact real people too, crazy right?!  When a client is looking for “real people” they just want someone authentic to the story they are trying to tell.  It comes out naturally, it’s not staged, it’s not forced.

I have met some truly incredible people with amazing stories, specifically in the real-people casting element.  Many of these people have been actors too, with stories that don’t get told during a scripted audition.  Real People Casting has become one of my absolute favorite things to do.  People give you a porthole into their lives, and you feel their passion and emotion for what they do, who they are and what they stand for just by sitting behind the camera and listening to them.  They are authentic and not “putting on a show”.  Often times, I get the opportunity to open a door for them that they may have never thought possible.  It’s a very cool experience.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with an incredible director on a big national commercial that was not even shooting in Boston.  He had been casting in NY and LA and not finding what he was looking for- authenticity.  So he decided to come to Boston.  One of the first conversations I had with him, he told me he had never cast in Boston before but he just had a feeling that the people were more “real” here. 

As our casting conversations progressed, he encouraged me to see both “real” non-actors and “real” actors.  With the actors we brought in to audition, we learned more about them, more about their heritage, the life story.  It showed that “real” side of them.  When auditioning the required scene, we asked them to almost “do nothing” and just sit with their thoughts.  It was incredible to see the truly authentic performances that came out. 

In conjunction with the actor auditions, the director asked me to “journey out into the field” and find an amazing Irish Grandmother.  So I did.  One person led to another person who led to another.  Funny enough, my best connection to this woman came from a local actor!  I met Marie, an Irish Grandmother in her 80s with an amazing Irish brogue.  Aaron Kahl and I showed up at Marie’s house for our appointment a little early and she answered the door with a curler in her hair, completely flustered that we were early and she was not “made up”.  It was perfect.  This was the “real” Marie.  She invited us in, made us Irish soda bread and offered tea- it was exactly like walking into a movie where you are visiting your Irish Grandmother.  As we sat and chatted with Marie, we got to know her and her family history.  We asked her if she would mind if we filmed, she didn’t.  As our conversation continued on camera, we came to realize Marie was a beautiful singer when she started singing spontaneously.  She showed such emotion, both happy and sad, when talking about her life and her past.  It was all so beautiful.  I walked out of the house and looked to Aaron and said, we’re done- we found our girl.  He agreed immediately.  To cut a very long story short, Marie survived multiple auditions in Boston and New York and ended up landing the lead role in this project alongside another local actor, a young girl who couldn’t have been more amazing.  I cannot wait to see the result, I know it will be authentic, beautiful and “real”.

Through real-people casting, I have become a better casting director for both scripted and non-scripted projects.  If someone I am auditioning has never done anything like this before, I get the opportunity to make it a great experience and memory for them.  I do my best to ease their nerves, as putting anyone in front of a camera for the first time can be a little intimidating.  My goal is to show that I am listening and interested without verbally telling them so, because the client is not interested in hearing me say “wow, interesting, so cool, yup, absolutely” every other minute.  If it is an actor that I’m auditioning for a “real people” spot, I get to know them on a personal level and it actually helps me connect with them more for future auditions as well.  Real people casting has taught me to be more engaged and more present in every single audition, and now I’m always the first to jump in and take over a real people casting job :)

- Ashley

On The Bacon Blog: A Bacon Blog

I have been slacking.  “Where is Aaron’s first Bacon Blog?”  I hear that question every day. 

I have never heard that question.  Why are you not clamoring for an Aaron Bacon Blog?  Come to think of it, I am suddenly very uneasy about posting my first Bacon Blog.

To date, there have been four entries in the Bacon Blog, two by Ashley and two by Julie.  Casting can be so opaque and my colleagues have used this space to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the business.  Julie touched on the craziness of the production schedule, and on the demands placed on actors to fit into it.  Ashley wrote about the need to embrace imperfection and accept that so much that goes into casting is beyond your, or our, control. 

Their posts have been personal, positive and, hopefully, informative, and while their writing has impressed me, their earnestness…gives me pause. 

Why?  Do I disagree with their sentiments?  Not at all.  Their observations are, in my experience, spot on.  Their willingness to speak from the heart is uncommon.  And you cannot argue with the results.  When Imagine (our local industry magazine) published Ashley’s inaugural Bacon Blog, we knew that she was on to something. 

My problem is instead one of style.  I am just not earnest.  I do not speak or write from the heart.  Rather, I am sarcastic to a fault.  If you’ve ever asked me how I’m doing, invariably my response has probably been, with a deep sigh and/or grimace, “oh, you know, living the dream.”  As if to say that everything sucks. 

Of course, everything does not suck.  By any measure things are great.  I have two very young, very healthy, very wonderful kids.  I have an awesome wife.  I have an interesting job that I enjoy immensely. 

But all of those things can suck.  Toddlers can be insufferable, casting with its deadlines and personalities and pressures can be stressful, and spouses have a way of, like, being right about things that you think you are right about but are actually definitely wrong about. 

For me, for whatever reason, it is far easier, and more interesting, and usually funnier, to make light of the suck than to expound on the good.  It always has been.  So, my problem is, how will my contractually obligated blog posts fit with theirs?

We are definitely not contractually obligated to post to this blog.

 One early audition, when they were first starting out, Ashley and Julie needed something to use as a mark on the floor.  The only thing they had handy was a roll of duct tape that looked like bacon.  So they put a strip down and told every actor to “step on the bacon.”  It was absurd, but people loved it, and it quickly became Slate’s thing.  In a sense, it is our little mark on casting in Boston. 

The Bacon Blog is born from this happy accident.  So, while it is a blog on a casting website and we will surely devote much, if not most, of its space to our (only occasionally correct) thoughts on casting and acting and production in general, we will also allow ourselves from time to time to go off topic. 

I will be just as likely to post a great recipe for some bacon-centric dish as I am to write about audition room etiquette, or where an actor should place their gaze, or whether it is important or not to be off-book.  Someday I may be so short of material that I finally write my essay on why Return of the Jedi, and not Empire Strikes Back, is actually the greatest Star Wars film of all time.  I do promise, however, that I will not share personal potty training stories. 

I actually cannot make that promise.  Something like 70% of my best material involves my children’s, uh, refuse. 

It is, after all, called the Bacon Blog.  We’re clearly not taking ourselves too seriously.  Which actually means that it is kind of perfect for me.