Matt Lessall, The Casting Director is in

The Movie Whore 2 comments
Matt Lessall, The Casting Director is in

In keeping with this weeks theme I am bringing yet another Blogger from FIB. This time it is The Casting Director Matt Lessall. I never realized how much a casting director did until I started reading Matt's blog. Talking to him for this interview was quite the education. I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.

TMW: When most people hear the term casting director, they have no idea what goes into finding a cast for a TV or film project. What would say is the basic run down of what you do?

ML: During pre-production and the auditioning process, I am the liaison between talent, talent representation and the production. My job is to work with the Director and help find actors who support his or her creative vision for the film. My job is also to make sure that the vision of the Director is in line with the vision of the Producers. The job is about people management, making sure that everyone is involved and satisfied with the casting choices presented to him or her. The job can become extremely political or just flow and feel like all the pieces of casting are coming into place naturally. Every film is different because the people involved are different, but the thing that remains a constant is my "taste" in actors and my ability to manage the process successfully.

My job involves setting up the deals, negotiating deals (sometimes), closing deals and making sure that all of the talents information, once hired, is successfully transferred to production so that they may call on the actors for wardrobe, rehearsal etc… I also alert the production team to any problems that I see may arise, for example, if an actor is on a television series and the director wants to hire them for a role, I know from past experience what it will take to get that actor out of a show and on to our set. I review the shooting schedule with the A.Ds and make sure that there are no errors in character names or that characters have not been forgotten or deleted by accident in the daily shooting schedule. I review the shooting schedule to make sure that the dates match up to the available dates for the actors that the production wants. I make lists of ideas for roles that are "offer only" and set up the offers and many times make the offer on behalf of the Producer.

I audition actors for all of the roles that are not filled prior to me being hired. This involves creating a breakdown of the roles in the script, distributing it and bringing actors to the director that I like. I may also do a lot of pre-reads (meeting actors first before they go to the director) if the role calls for something special or involves teens or children. I work closely with the actors to make sure that they understand what the Director is looking for before they meet the Director so that they present themselves in the best possible way. I can't always do this, of course, but I want the actors who meet with the Director to do well, because this makes me look good!

I make sure that the agents and managers read the script. This often takes time as many films I work on are low budget and not every agent is so excited to be suggesting material to their clients when they know there is no payday. I am fortunate to have developed a close relationship with many wonderful agents and managers who trust my judgment and the relationship is mutual when they pitch their idea to me.

Casting a film sucessfully takes time. A luxury that is not always available. For "Rocket Science" we took 3 month to cast the leads and it took another 3 months to completely cast the film. For "Labor Pains" I had 4 weeks for over 20 roles and for the pilot I cast it felt like we had a day to cast the leads, because pilot casting is so competitive and you need to find your stars and attach them before another project snags them up.

This job is about having an overall perspective about where the production is and also it is about micro-managing the day-to-day issues that arise when casting.

TMW: In a recent post on Film Industry Bloggers you talked about actors making sure they have their SAG (Screen Actors Guild) dues paid and the problems that come up when they don't. With that in mind what are some of the difficulties in finding the right person for the right part. You know the things that keep you up at night working on a film?

ML: Lunesta is a great thing. But seriously, there have been many nights where I could not get any sleep because I did not know if the next day would be a total disaster or not. Information is sometimes withheld for various reasons. Agents choose to forget to mention that their client is in Europe when they need to be on a plane and in Los Angeles the next day to shoot. Getting actors on a plane is always something that keeps me up at night. I have had to physically go pick up an actor at their house who missed their flight the day before because they were scared of flying, check them in and watch them go through security. I didn't leave the airport until the plane left. And no, I will not tell you who the actor was.
Until and actor is on set and shooting, there is always a chance that a phone call will come in and say that we need to find a replacement for various reasons. A few years ago, I was at a cast read-through of a film I was casting where the lead came in and read so opposite to what was required of the character that the producers suddenly panicked and were asking me to check availability on actors to replace the actor that they had hired. It was a long day, but in the end they went with their first choice and the actor was non the wiser that his job was on the line.

TMW: Do you have a preference between casting for film or TV?

ML: I think when I started casting, film felt like a good fit for me. I would like to do another television pilot. The last and only one I did ("Dark Shadows") was for John Wells and it didn't get picked up. I worked so hard on it and it was sad to see that the resulting product wasn't successful, but I thought the cast was really good. Casting a pilot is a very fast process, while with film it feels as if there is a little more time to explore the possibilities. I have so much respect for the television-casting directors who work all of the time; they really must have the process down to an art form. So, the answer is, my preference is to work, if it is in television then that would be great. I did practically beg an executive at the sci-fi network to put me in the mix for "Caprica," because I am a huge "Battlestar Galactica" fan! I would give my first-born to work on that show…

TMW: What was your favorite project to work on?

ML: My favorite and at the same time most challenging project has to have been "Rocket Science." There was a lot of casting blood, sweat and tears put into that film. I was so happy when Jeff Blitz (the director) won best director at Sundance for the film. It was a testimony to his vision but I also know that I had a lot to do with that vision coming to life.

TMW: Is there any one that you have cast in a movie that we should be keeping an eye on?

ML: Anna Kendrick, she is a superstar. In fact the entire cast of "Rocket Science" is pretty amazing. "Mean Creek" also introduced a lot of young fantastic actors to the world, especially Josh Peck & Trevor Morgan. I have a good feeling about casting Bridget Mendler as Lindsay Lohan's younger sister in "Labor Pains," she is a real discovery! I recently cast Torrey Devito in a little indie-sports film called "Green Flash." Torrey is gorgeous on screen, Nicole Kidman gorgeous. I would keep my eye on her as well.

TMW: What are some of your guilty pleasure films that may get you classified as a movie whore yourself? The films you should be ashamed to love but love anyway.

ML: "9 to 5." I love, love, love that film. I think the casting was amazing and inspired. Every time it is on I cannot turn it off!

TMW: Since this is an interview with The Movie Whore, is there anyone you would whore out to me for a future interview?

ML: You should interview Effie Brown the producer of Rocket Science. She is probably one of the biggest names in independent film production.

TMW: Thank you very much I will.

For those that keep up with things around here I did interview Effie T. Brown and it was off this recommendation. I hope you enjoyed and if you did hit that little thumbs up button from the home page. Have fun kids.

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Kim OJ

Thursday 24th July 2008 | 04:49 AM

Another interesting interview. Thank you!

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Thursday 24th July 2008 | 05:24 PM

Yes nice. Casting sounds like fun :-P

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