Erica Arvold: 5 Questions

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When it comes to fulfilling the title of “Casting Director,” there’s not much Erica Arvold, of arvold.casting, leaves unchecked. From constantly working on the next big feature or television show shooting on the East Coast, to writing a blog for the education division of Arvold Casting, to even maintaining an active and informational Twitter account (more on social media to come, stay tuned for a TTK post!), Erica Arvold is a supreme example of a hands-on, hard-working, and dedicated Casting Director.

Her perspective on the current market, how she got into the business, and what she does when she’s not a casting director are just a few of the things Erica passed along for ‘5 Questions.’

A special thanks to Erica for sharing her thoughts. Enjoy!

1) How did you get into this business and what attracted you to it?

By accident. My senior year at DePaul University’s Theatre School (formerly the Goodman School of Drama) I was restless and wanted to enter the real world so thanks to the Dean, I began a full internship with Jane Alderman Casting. I knew within the first hour of working that casting was what I had been longing for and that the many lists of actors I had made as a child actually had a purpose. Casting combined my love of actors with my love of art (casting actors is very much like painting) and my passion for business and entrepreneurship. It was the first time in my life I felt like I really belonged somewhere. And I never stopped…I can’t imagine life without casting.

2) You made the move from LA Casting to Charlottesville, VA where you created arvold.casting. Can you describe some of the differences in working in both markets?

In Los Angeles I was lucky enough to work on many different sized film and television projects including some major studio pictures. Making lists of name actors, navigating the nuances of offers and negotiating deals was a huge part of my job. I read a zillion actors from LA as well as all over the country and I was able to witness many careers take off, which was (and still is) immensely gratifying. Casting in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast is somewhat similar to the LA experience, especially when I am hired to cast the entirety of an independent film (it’s really no different). Collaborating with the director, producer and writer is my personal comfort zone and that can happen in both television and film regardless of where I am based. I am also often hired to serve as ‘location casting director’ for film and television, now that I’m in Virginia. In these cases, I condense and streamline our casting efforts to a specific region. Depending on the project’s needs, our region can be defined as local to Richmond, VA only (very seldom the case), the Mid-Atlantic & and sometimes the entire East Coast (including NY – occasionally the case). A majority of the time when my company is hired as ‘location casting’, our main responsibility is to cast the day player or co-star roles. But, as regional actors become more and more seasoned (and as the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets continue to attract production), I find that actors here are sometimes considered for larger roles. Being based in the Mid-Atlantic for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the honor of witnessing actors grow at an extremely rapid rate, both in their craftsmanship and in their professionalism. I have had the pleasure of casting local and regional performers in their first tv/film roles, and have even cast actors in career-changing projects.

Being based in the Mid- Atlantic for nearly a decade now, I’ve had the honor of witnessing actors grow at an extremely rapid rate, both in their craftsmanship and in their professionalism.

3) arvold. is involved in much more than simply the business of casting. Can you tell us more about it?

We have three stand-alone departments (production, casting & education) that together support our overall mission to help ‘raise the bar’ in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets. I like to think of our three departments as the three legs of a tripod. 1. We produce. We are a start-to- finish production company for original content. We also provide consulting and production services to many independent film and commercial projects. I consult a bunch and our line producer stays on her toes. Credits include indie films Josephine, Coming Through the Rye, Wish You Well, Elemental and others, as well as several commercials and multimedia projects. 2. We cast. We helm & oversee the casting process for independent films and often serve as location casting directors on television series and larger studio films. We conduct quite a few searches throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, and we cast many commercials and multi-media projects. Credits include Loving, TURN: Washington’s Spies, House of Cards, A Wrinkle in Time (lead role search), Stranger Things (series regular search) and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, among others. 3. We educate. As the daughter of a professor, I believe we are and will always best students of one another. Our education department is committed to providing master classes for actors (no workshops here, only deep intensive work), panel discussions and events for all film artists. By sharing our knowledge with one another we collectively contribute to the growth of our industry. arvold.education collaborates with several schools and universities on the East Coast and holds master classes in Charlottesville, VA and Atlanta, GA.

4). Where do you see the TV/Film business in Virginia going over the next decade?

I hear that there are more films and television shows coming to Virginia. A couple of series have based here successfully over the past few years (namely AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies), and the state is a proven and viable destination for more. Virginia is attractive to historical projects (such as the aforementioned series and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln), is a magnet for independent film (some are contemporary too), and is encouraging to area filmmakers who create their own content. I have helped produce a few indie projects (Josephine, Coming Through the Rye, Wish You Well, Texas Rein, Faux Paws, Elemental among others) and the support from the VFO towards each production has been simply incredible. Word must be spreading as the number of project inquiries my office receives has increased. I think the next decade will present a really nice balance between studio films, network series and independent films.

5). What is your favorite pastime or activity when you are not hard at work with arvold.?

Being with my family. Whether on a road trip or camping (being in nature and not having cell service) or cooking a big meal and playing games…this is how I recharge. Also, witnessing my son grow up is one of my favorite things. Oh, and I row.

I feel it is the actor’s job to bring something to the table, which includes their own interpretation of the character and the scene.

* What is your biggest pet peeve?

When actors ask what I’m looking for. I feel it is the actor’s job to bring something to the table, which includes their own interpretation of the character and the scene. I hope that the actor’s own artistic instinct takes over when they begin to read the sides and that’s what I want to see first. Then we can play and discuss…because we’ve established a baseline.

* What piece of advice would you give to actors?

Train. Seriously train. The competition especially in the MidAtlantic and Southeast is getting tougher and tougher as casting from all areas of the US and the world is at our fingertips. I actually think this healthy competition is wonderful because it raises the bar for everyone (filmmakers, crew members and actors alike). So, take your craft seriously, practice it daily, grow and be the best that you are able to be.

Check out Arvold Casting’s YouTube channel here.

Image: Courtesy of Erica Arvold/Twitter

THINGS TO KNOW: Shoot/Hiatus Schedules

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I recently had a client ask about me about his absence of auditions from a particular casting director. They wondered why they had received numerous auditions (a few weeks prior), but there had been nothing recently. As it turns out, the episodic wrapped a few months before, and the casting director did not have any new projects. So casting did not forget the actor, they are simply not working on anything currently.

Most casting directors work between one and five projects simultaneously. If they are bigger or have more a larger staff, like Fincannon Casting, they may have more projects. Of course, casting directors make every attempt to have steady work that keeps them busy throughout the year, but the reality is that there will be inevitable breaks. Their work is not always steady; an extremely lengthy shoot schedule for a full season may take up to 6-7 months, but many shoot in a number of weeks.

When we send out auditions, we include a host of information, including 2 key points of value that can help you decipher a project’s itinerary. For episodics, there will be an episode number listed and a shoot window. The episode number will tell you where they are in the season.  Historically, TV shows shot approximately 21 shows in a season.  This number is no longer accurate. Now shows are all over the map, sometimes they only shoot six episodes.  A longer season is 18 episodes. However, most shows stick to the number once they establish it. If you are unsure, Wikipedia or other sources will tell you the number. We also send the shoot window for a given episode, so you can gauge how long it takes to shoot each episode, unless it is cross-boarded where they shoot more than one episode at a time. There will also be holiday breaks to account for as well. With these two pieces of info, you can pretty accurately do the math and determine a show’s schedule.

For example: Random Show, Episode 307, shoot window June 6-15. If you backtrack by a week and a half per episode, it started shooting the beginning of April. If it shoots 14 episodes, it will wrap around the end of August.

If you do a little research and track out dates, you can figure out the schedule and hiatus period for your favorite shows. It is good stuff for you to know!

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow. 

Image credit: Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash

Melissa Goodman & Ric Reitz of SAG-AFTRA ATL: 5 Questions

It was an honor to be able to interview both Melissa Goodman and Ric Reitz of the Atlanta SAG-AFTRA office for AMTology Blog’s ‘5 Questions’ series. A special thanks to them both for allowing me to pick their brains on everything a local, working actor needs to know. Feel free to take notes, and enjoy!

Susan G. Reid:  Can you please define SAG-AFTRA and what it does for the actor? 

Melissa Goodman: SAG-AFTRA is a union to protect the wages and working conditions of in-front-of-the-camera performers. We set the scale wages, minimum protections, turnaround time, rest violations, when you eat your first and second meal, and that you have craft services. All the protections that are there; that are set.

Ric Reitz: So that our people are not taken advantage of anything. We advocate for the highest level of professionalism, which we know in this market is both union and non-union.

We advocate for the highest level of professionalism, which we know in this market is both union and non-union.

MG: In addition to that, we have a lot of learning opportunities in our local office. We have a twice a month conservatory. We have the SAG foundation that hosts webinars that teach different programs– from casting sessions online to conversations with stars. There are a lot of programs and classes available through the union, and if you are member in good standing, you can participate in them.

RR: We talk to agents; we talk to casting directors; we ask how we can be better as a market and then educate our members. You’ll always have an office advocate, locally here and nationally. SAG provides a team of people, a professional organization, that can give you legal advice.

SGR: Would there ever be a time when SAG and AFTRA work together with no divisions between the two entities?

MG: Yes. We don’t know about pension, that’s a total unknown.

RR: We’ve merged already, for three years. And now we’ve just merged our health benefits which commence on Jan. 1. We’re working on pensions.

MG: Right now, we have different tiers of television. Right now, all film is done and all money goes into the SAG pension fund. We still have legacy shows that became grandfathered in, such as The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Those are still under AFTRA. Although, when those drop off, and it’s all new productions, they will be under the SAG-AFTRA standard television agreement. However, if we are not yet merged on the pension plan, there will still need to be a way to distinguish from where money is allocated. It needs to be standardized at some point, we just don’t know when that will be. All these grandfathered shows will have to run their course. Any new shows would be under the new agreement.

SGR: What does the term ‘right to work state’ mean and do you consider this a positive or negative to our market. 

RR: The right to work status began in 1947 when a federal law allowed states to individually select whether they would be a union secure state or a right to work state. Here’s the difference. In a union secure state, unions are able to operate really in their own world and without extra influence from the government. In a right to work state, individuals cannot be prohibited from getting union work when they are non-union. A union person, because of our global rule one, cannot work non-union jobs. But non-union perfomers are allowed to work union jobs. So the typical catch 22 actually doesn’t exist here. That sounds like a great advantage for young and aspiring actors and actresses. And it is, because it’s a great way to get into the union, cut your teeth, get some experience, and determine whether you want to join.

In a union secure state, unions are able to operate really in their own world and without extra influence from the government. In a right to work state, individuals cannot be prohibited from getting union work when they are non-union.

We actually don’t advocate everyone join the union at the beginning of their career when they’re first eligible to join. We understand that people have to work their way up.

We benefit because NY and LA are union secure states. All the work that comes into Georgia of a large scale is union bound and we are the beneficiaries of that. Because we’re not in a similar situation, there’s a perception problem that we can’t be on the same level. Are we really working at the highest level all the time? No, we’re not. Sorry to say. Are they in NY and LA? Perhaps not, but they aspire to higher goals, and they’re regarded as the measuring stamp.

Well put it into perspective, you go to LA and you’re not a member of the Union, you’re not working. Go to New York, you’re not working. Then you go, how do I become a member? Well, I can’t audition if I’m not a member—catch 22. There’s NO catch 22 here.

SGR: Can you address safety on set and how you can enforce it?

RR: You’ve got to kind of keep your eyes peeled. In theory, that should be already done in advance for your safety, but we’re never sure. We have a new field rep that goes around and investigates if we hear rumors or get a tip.

When somebody hears something in the pipeline about a serious potential safety issue, we are all informed, and all of our resources are put forward to put an end to it as quickly as possible. You know sometimes we hear after-the-fact. We have an 800 number for safety and you can call from a set. Not that everyone has a phone on the set and that you can immediately call, but we’ve tried to take every precaution. You can always go to the AD department and stage a complaint and follow it through with your agent. Course you could be shooting at 8 in the morning, not a popular phone call, but if there’s a serious safety issue, then the phone call happens. Melissa answers in the middle of the night.

MG: And it’s answered. I mean there’s two of us that keep the phone by our bedside because both of our numbers are on that. It is: 1-800-SAFER SET.

RR: That is for members to call, and even non-union members that are on a union set.

MG: It will be answered by an answering service in New York that will call us.

RR: Now, we didn’t have that in place a couple of years ago, but we’re happy to say that’s evolved and we are really concerned about it. It first begins with education, and we want to remind actors: you always have the ability to say “no.” I want you to do this and the answer is no. I want you to ride on this motorcycle, no. I want you to jump off this cliff into the water; no, I’m not comfortable. If you’re not comfortable doing that and you feel it poses a potential risk for you, you can say no. Oh, they’re going to blackball me, say no. There are more fish in the sea, more jobs, more people.

If you’re not comfortable doing that and you feel it poses a potential risk for you, you can say no.

SGR: What is your best piece of advice?

RR: This market is so uber competitive now. Because of our great success, we all have to be in heightened awareness about what it takes to compete at the new level.  So my advice to this market is that you’ve got to invest in your market and your craft every day, find a way to get better, don’t sit on your laurels. Because tomorrow is not guaranteed. There’s only so much an agent can do. They can create opportunity for you, but to pay off the opportunity you have to be ready.

MG: More advice that I have is: we get a lot of calls about people who have quickly signed with an agent before having a courtship. Before they’ve had that opportunity to test the waters, spend the few months and have a handshake agreement first to see if there’s a good relationship fit. We have people signing agreements and two months later asking: how do I get out of this? Why did you get married before you even dated? Have a test period to see if that person is a good fit for you and vice versa. I mean, it goes both ways in that regard. It’s such an important relationship between the actor and the agent that it has to be the right fit.

RR: You work out your expectations with the agent. What they expect of you and what you expect from them. This is a business relationship.

SGR: Alright, that wraps it up, just give us your top pet peeves.

MG: One pet peeve that I have that we’ve heard from a couple casting directors is that when they do hold in-person auditions, as opposed to taping, that people still aren’t going. Actors, members take the opportunity and meet the casting director in person, and be prepared when you walk in that door.

RR: A lot of us have lost the skill and the edge it takes to make good work in the room. The work that you did that got you there is thrown away because it’s not prepared for in person. You’ve got to be ready to move in person. In the old days, that’s all we did, so you got good at it. Now we’ve gotten lazy, and people aren’t good at it. It doesn’t mean you weren’t good, but it means you weren’t at your best. If you’re not at your best, you’re not getting booked.

You’ve got to be ready to move in person. In the old days, that’s all we did, so you got good at it. Now we’ve gotten lazy, and people aren’t good at it.

MG: My pet peeve is that we get phone calls and people say “well I didn’t get fed until 7 and a half hours but I’m afraid to file a claim, or a cancellation fee, I may never get work again.’ The rules are there for a reason. Don’t be afraid to file a claim.

MG: Read your contract. Don’t sign anything that has blanks in it, don’t sign blank production time reports, make sure they’re filled in. Take photos. Make sure you have the right materials. You wouldn’t buy a house without knowing the interest rate. A producer should not say, I’ll fill that in after the fact.

RR: We all have a cell phone, so take a picture and use it as your receipt. Don’t wait for them, because chances are you aren’t going to get a copy or a receipt from them. It’s good business.

Images: With permission, Melissa Goodman and Ric Reitz

5 Questions: Melissa Goodman & Ric Reitz Of SAG-AFTRA ATL

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Guaranteeing correct treatment on set, assuring fair financial treatment, and defending the overall rights of actors is not an easy job. Yet Melissa Goodman and Ric Reitz dedicate their days and nights to it as representatives of the Atlanta Local SAG-AFTRA office. Goodman, as the Atlanta Local Executive Director, and Reitz, as the SAG-AFTRA Atlanta President, hold busy schedules with the thriving TV/Film business in Atlanta, but I got the chance to sit down with both one recent afternoon.

Weighing in on union rights, right to work versus not, and what SAG-AFTRA really does for the actor; Goodman and Reitz are knowledgeable, fearless representatives and every local working actor should be familiar with them.

Stay tuned for the next installment of ‘5 Questions’ coming very soon!

THINGS TO KNOW: Episodic Genres

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I recently received an audition from an actor for the show Rectify. If you are familiar with the show, then you already know that it is specific and subtle. Rectify is a slow burn and very southern. The actor who auditioned was southern, but most actors work hard to get rid of their southern accent, replacing it with what we refer to as a standard Amercian dialect/accent. This versatility in speech is mandatory for any proficient actor. Just because we work in the south does not mean that every tv or film project is inherently southern.

However in the case of Rectify, they are almost always looking for a southern accent. In fact, casting often notes that if you are not southern, they do not want you to attempt it. For those of us who are southern, there is nothing worse than a bad imitation of what southern is and sounds like. This particular actor added in a very strong southern accent, and the audition itself was over the top, aka BIG. It was not submitted. We watch every audition that is turned in to casting for both quality and to be sure that all of casting’s instructions are followed.

When I reached out to speak with the actor, give feedback and explain why we had not submitted it, I asked if he had seen the show. The actor said no.

You should not submit an audition on a show without having viewed a trailer or clip of it at the very least. It is best to watch a few episodes. The show does not need to be your favorite, but you need to know the genre and style of the piece in order to bring that to the audition. I would argue that this is as important a tenet of acting as knowing your objective or who you are talking to in the scene.

If you are working and living in the southeast, then you should be familiar with every show that shoots here. There is a ridiculous amount of really good television on right now. I cannot keep up with all of the shows I want to watch, but I do not attempt to submit on projects that I have not watched.

If the show is new, then get on the internet and do some research. If it is not new, you should still get on the internet. It is an amazing resource that is right at your fingertips. Use it. Know what you are auditioning for–know the story, the characters, the feel of it. Do not simply rely on the information provided to you by your agent. Do your homework.

And, what I say today, may not be true tomorrow. 

Image Credit: Tracy Thomas/Unsplash

FELDSTEIN/PARIS CASTING: 5 Questions

Chase Paris and Tara Feldstein of Feldstein/Paris Casting are by far some of the most active, honest, and busy casting directors in the local Atlanta area. We recently met for lunch, and I followed up with a few questions for them for the third installment of 5 Questions. They weigh in on their experience working both as an agent and a CD, plus their most rewarding projects and infamous Twitter lunches. They are a wonderful source of information for casting in the south east region.

Special thanks to Chase and Tara for their time. Enjoy!

1. How has your past work experience informed and influenced your work as a CD for Feldstein/Paris casting?

It’s been incredibly beneficial. Having seen both sides of the table, I feel like my eyes have been opened up to the entire decision making process. It took some transition to go from working for the actors to working for production, but I think I’ll always partly be an advocate for the actor when possible, and that’s due to working so closely with them as an agent.

Some may find this hard to believe – but because of my experience as an agent, we try to cater as much of our process as possible to making the agent’s and actor’s jobs easier. Granted we don’t meet every need and request, but we at least try!

2. Which projects or types of projects (no need to give names unless you want to) have been the most rewarding for you to work on? What has made the projects gratifying and productive?

The Accountant and The Founder stand out to me. Both creative teams, especially the directors relied on us heavily for our input, and we put together an amazing cast full of locals in prominent roles. Productions can often be wary of local talent which limits our creative involvement, so when we’re able to spread our wings and show what we (and our local talent!) can do, it can be very rewarding. It also doesn’t hurt that both films are getting early box office and reward buzz.

On the TV side, we recently wrapped Atlanta, which I loved because it felt so genuine to the city. Donald Glover grew up here and just wrote what he wanted to see, but having lived here my whole life, it’s refreshing to see a project that takes place in Atlanta that isn’t the “LA” version of Atlanta, which can happen at times. We were also forced to dig deep to find new talent, which is always fun!

3. What is the best way for an actor to get to know you?

Twitter lunches are the best way to get to know us one-on-one, which we’re finding is more important than we thought previously. But we both still want to get to know you as an actor above anything else, so good auditions and pitches from your agent are the best way for US to get to know YOU.

I don’t know that it’s necessary for YOU to know US – we’re both boring suburbanites with 2.4 kids and a dog. =) We’ve made a push this year to be more social and get out in the community more, so there might be other opportunities to see us, but I think talent should be more concerned with US knowing THEM than the other way around. Plus, we’re pretty boring!

4. How has your outlook on the business changed since you started Feldstein/Paris?

For me, it was really eye opening to see the true level of talent we have as a market vs. only seeing what was in my talent agency. It’s astounding what we have to work with at times, and if you don’t get the chance to see what all is out there, you can be blind to it in your own little bubble.

It’s also amazing to see how much the industry has grown down here in the past 4 years, and it’s only picking up steam.

It’s also amazing to see how much the industry has grown down here in the past 4 years, and it’s only picking up steam. It can be a daunting amount of work at times, but that’s also why we feel like we need to work at such a fast pace on everything.

5. You both have amazing families, so how do you balance your work and your family? You guys make it look kind of easy, and I know it is not.

The funny thing is we don’t really plan too hard. We have the luxury of working from home, so we get to be around our families a lot, which really is one of the best perks about what we do. At first we poured every bit of free time in to the job and sacrificed a lot of personal time, but recently we’ve been carving out 1-2 hrs a day for personal time, be it the gym, quality time with kids or spouses, etc.

I’ve found that very valuable, and it’s just about committing to it and not giving yourself over every waking moment. We love our jobs so it’s easy to just default to work, and we do that often as is, but we work hard for our families, so we don’t want to neglect them!

Pet Peeve: What is a pet peeve that you have about our market/actors?

Other than self-tapes with a smart phone that’s being held in portrait mode – I’d say it is actors being patient with the market. It’s evolving; it’s getting better, more and better opportunities are coming your way, but it’s moving slowly, and you can’t force it to move faster.

Just because the work is here doesn’t mean you’re entitled to the large roles in that work, not yet at least. We’re still a local market, we may be a bigger one, but we’re still a tier down. It wasn’t that long ago we were happy with a fraction of the work we have now – please keep some perspective and be patient!

Advice: What is your best piece of advice?

Be yourself. Most of our roles don’t require a ton of acting, we need you to be yourself in that role, not try and fit outside of your mold. The actors that work the most in this market are still working within their type – if a role feels like too much of a stretch then it’s probably not a good fit. Go in and do the best YOU for each role, and I believe you’ll book constantly. If you find you have to keep ACTING for each role, it’s probably not working!

Images: Courtesy of Feldstein/Paris Casting