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Jen Rudin Confessions Of A Casting Director | 050

Jen Rudin Confessions of a Casting Director

by Tommy G. Kendrick

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JEN RUDIN – A Unique Perspective

When I was approached by publicity representative of HarperCollins about the possibility of interviewing casting director Jen Rudin about her new book CONFESSIONS OF A CASTING DIRECTOR I was immediately interested.

My interest was not solely because Jen Rudin is a busy casting director (The Incredibles, The Princess And The Frog, The Lorax, Squirrels to the Nuts), now based in New York.

casting dir. Jen Rudin

No, the thing that intrigued me most is that Jen Rudin began her career as a child actor. Certainly I wanted the opportunity to have a major market casting director on Actors Talk, but to interview a former working actor who had chosen to move to the ‘other side of the table,’ that was interesting. And my hope was that the unique perspective of actor turned casting director would come through in Rudin’s book.

Not to worry. After reading CONFESSIONS OF A CASTING DIRECTOR, I knew Jen Rudin would make a wonderful addition to the roster of experienced professionals I’m seeking to bring to you.

We couldn’t possibly cover all the important topics Jen discusses in CONFESSIONS OF A CASTING DIRECTOR but below you’ll hopefully find enough information that you’ll see the value in adding this book to your actor’s tool box.

Who Is Jen Rudin

Jen was Director of Casting and Talent Development for Disney Theatrical Productions in New York City from 2007-2009. From 2002-2007, Jen served as head of casting for Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California and she won the 2006 Artios Award for casting Chicken Little and the 2010 Artios Award for The Princess and the Frog. Additional animated films include Meet the Robinsons (2007 Artios Nomination), The Wild (2006 Artios nomination), Academy Award Winning film The Incredibles and Academy Award nominated Brother Bear. In Los Angeles, Jennifer cast the Los Angeles premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s musical “13”, winner of the 2008 LA Drama Critics Circle Award. Jen has taught Master Classes at NYU, Boston Conservatory, Northwestern University, Emerson College, Webster University, Baylor University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and University of the Arts. She lectures and teaches numerous workshops around New York City.

Prior to joining Disney in 2002, Jen was a freelance casting director for film and theater in New York City. Her independent films have premiered at such prestigious film festivals as the Tribeca Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Hamptons Film Festival and the Hollywood Film Festival, among others. Jen served as resident Casting Director from 2001-2002 for the esteemed Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City. She has also cast hundreds of national television commercials; including the famous “Can you hear me now?” campaign for Verizon. Upcoming films include Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, and Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrels to the Nuts.

Jen is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in History and Women’s Studies, and a past Board Member for the Casting Society of America. In her spare time, she is an avid cyclist.

You’re a hired consultant to the project. You are not: producer, director or writer. You’re hired to bring them choices of actors for the project. But you don’t have the final say.

Casting Background & Philosophy

Casting is about having an opinion

jen rudinJen Rudin grew up in New York City and began her professional acting career at age eight. She created many new roles in new plays, starred in several television movies, and did commercials. At age twelve, she had her first epiphany at a final callback that she wanted to be a Casting Director – a perfect blend of her photographic memory and love of actors. Her casting philosophy combines the challenge of solving the casting puzzle – who is best for the role? – while creating an honest, positive and comfortable audition environment, in what is often the most stressful of situations.

Fun Fact about Jen Rudin

As a child she wrote to her local TV station showing Brady Bunch re-runs trying to get an audition for the show

Audition Do’s And Don’ts

Be prepared as you can be, you’re open to direction, you don’t argue with the casting director. Give a good audition and then get on with your day.

The Highs and the Lows are what’s so scary about show business for young and not so young actors alike

It’s a big red flag when an actor is arguing in an audition. That means, for instance, don’t ask to do the second scene first. If you can’t follow simple directions in an audition, how can I put you forward and think you’re going to behave on a movie set?

It’s little things…but the bottom line is being prepared. And not walking into the audition room with all your luggage…metaphorical and literal. Whether it’s a rolling suitcase or a messy backpack… Leave the traffic and the metro and all that stuff out the door. There are so many ways actors come in and blow it before the even open their mouths.

I have assistants who will come in and tell me who is being obnoxious in the waiting room. I want to hire nice people for the roles if I can.

IN THE AUDITION ROOM

    Be careful what you say and what you listen to from other actors. There is nothing another actor can say to you in the waiting room that’s going to help you.

    Say hello and arrange to meet your friend after the audition.

    Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I need to keep my head in the script, let’s talk when we’re both done.’

    Be a professional. It’s not the cafeteria in high school.

For The Parents

Parents need to understand that acting and sports are very different worlds

    The acting world is characterized by: Instability, Excitement, Possibility, Promise and yet a lot of heartbreak

    There is an entire chapter in Confessions of A Casting Director devoted to stage parents – to learn about the nitty-gritty of the business

    Acting is different from being on a youth sports team – there is no set schedule for auditions or even if there will be auditions

    We expect young actors to show up prepared and on time

Another Fun Fact

The book was originally conceived as a casting director’s guide for the modern-day stage parents. The publisher, Harper Collins, wanted the book opened up for actors of all ages

Open Calls for Disney: Red flags

One of the things that bugs me as an experienced actor is the number of rip offs and scams that beginning actors and/or their parents constantly face. One of the most egregious, in my opinion, are the ‘traveling casting shows’ that move from market to market, almost like a touring Broadway show. They are preceded by an advertising avalanche promising discovery and stardom to young and old alike.

Yet, there are also legitimate ‘open casting calls’ from time to time. How does the consumer tell the difference between the legitimate opportunities and the scams?

    Be careful when someone is charging a large sum of money.

    When we’re holding an open call for actors…they don’t cost money. We’re doing an open audition looking for children or adults…we don’t charge actors. We’re in a big space hoping people show up.

    You have to research and see what’s legitimate. If they’re asking you to pay exorbitant fees, then you really can’t do it.

    Are they advertising Disney because they’re using the name of someone who was on a Disney show fifteen years ago?

    You really have to ask yourself a lot of questions. If you’re going to call yourself a professional actor or your child a professional actor you have to be a professional and do as much research as possible.

Keep This In Mind

Actors need to remember that everybody is one phone call away. We can do a reference check on anybody very easily based on who is listed on your resume. If we find that you didn’t behave well on the set you might not get the job…and that goes for the mom’s as well.

Just because you’re an actor and you’re creative doesn’t mean you get to be flaky and late and inappropriate. You have to be a professional actor.

MAKING STRONG CHOICES

You won’t go five minutes in a discussion with actors without the term ‘strong’ choices’ coming up. What does making ‘strong choices’ mean to you?

Sometimes your dealing with limited information. If you’re reading for a movie and you’re given the full script that will answer many of the questions about the scene you have to prepare the who, what, where, when, why…

But many times your only given a few pages or sides of the script and you may not know fully what’s going on and you have to ‘go for it’ and do something specific and interesting even if it’s not what the director has in mind. Then the casting director or the director, if in the room, can say ‘okay, that was good but this time make this or that adjustment…

DO YOUR HOMEWORK – NO LAZY ACTORS ALLOWED

Even if you’re reading for a co-star role that may not come with a lot of information, you can do your research on the show…is it a sitcom, a one hour drama, etc. You can know the style and tone of the show.

Use YouTube, NetFlix, HULU, whatever you have to use to at least watch a clip of the show to understand the nuances and sensibility of the show.

Even if you have one line you have to do as much research as you can…see who some of the directors have been… do not be a lazy actor

PILOT SEASON

I read a post from an actress on a site called Stage32 where the actress admitted to coming to Los Angels for pilot season with no agent and few credits. She was on an acting forum asking for ideas on what she could do. My heart sank when I saw this actresses post because the myths of pilot season and the realities are quite different. Jen Rudin and I talk about Pilot Season in the interview:

Chapter 4 of Confessions of A Casting Director delves into pilot season.

Here’s a pull quote that Rudin has headlined as ‘Agent’s Corner’ – What words come to mind to describe pilot season?

Answer: Hell. Agony. Insanity. Exciting. Grueling. Frenzied. Barbaric. High-energy. Fast-paced. Hectic. Long hours. A mad scramble. High intensity. Pressured. Exhausting. Stress. Survival of the fittest. Organized chaos. Anything can happen.

SELF-TAPED AUDITIONS

Do you accept self-taped auditions? How is technology changing the casting process?

    Things to consider:

    Technology has made the process much less expensive for the agents, managers and for casting.

    What about the equipment? Do you have a tripod and a good camera and lights? What is the tone of the scene? Do I dial this up or not?

    It lets a lot of people compete for a role.

    The question is who is going to watch the tape? Is there a casting associate or assistant who is going to watch or log all the tapes?

    It is not the same as being in the room and meeting the casting director and the director. But it is a really good first step.

    The thing with self-tapes that is really awful if if the person who is reading with the actor is over acting and louder than the actor.

    You want to keep the (off camera) actor really quiet and simple – it’s not about them, it’s about your audition.

PURSUING YOUR DREAMS LATER IN LIFE

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from people concerns beginning an acting career ‘later’ in life. Jen Rudin’s take:

Follow your dreams but be realistic – Ask yourself what it is you want to do

It’s never too late but you have to have realistic expectations. It’s never too late but as compared to a ten-year old boy who wants to start acting…he’s going to get auditions sooner.

It’s up to the individual and you have to have a supportive family and work situation.

HAVING A SURVIVAL JOB

You’ve got to have a survival job when you’re a young actor in New York or L.A. or anywhere.

You’ve got to be clear with your boss that you’re an actor. It can’t come as a surprise.

Make sure your boss is supportive and know you may have a bit of a wonky schedule for a while

HAVE A BUDGET AND A PLAN

The first year is about gaining fans (among casting people, producers, agents)

It does not happen over night. You’ve got to meet people. You’ve got to network.

HOW DOES ONE GET INTO CASTING

Casting is about having an opinion

Perhaps start by offering to help out at some local casting sessions to see if you like the process

You have to remove the glamour – it’s a ton of work. It’s avail (availability) sheets, checking to see where actors are, seeing if they’re interested in the film, making lists, confirming appointments, managing the waiting room.

An intern is likely going to start first in the waiting room.

Finally: If you’re an actor who is considering going into casting you had better be sure you no longer want to be an actor. Because it’s a real conflict and you’ll be frustrated seeing other actors coming in to audition.

Finding Jen Rudin

Her Website: www.jenrudin.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/JenRudinCasting

Twitter: twitter.com/RudinJen

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