re·gion·al·ismˈrējənlˌizəm/ noun: regionalism; plural noun: regionalisms
1. the theory or practice of regional rather than central systems of administration or economic, cultural, or political affiliation.
Nike Imoru,CSA and Casting Assistants, Film Day, Olympia, WA March 17th 2015 (L-R: Margaretta Campagna; LA casting, Monika Holme, NW casting, Jamie Pederson, Studio camera operator)
The Casting Society of America (CSA) calls us “Regional Casting Directors” because we are not based in LA or NY. Sometimes we are listed as “location casting directors”. I like the Regions and often challenge the non-regionalist assumption that centres of excellence (can) only exist in metropolitan areas. The truth is that this Londoner decided many years ago that,“she was tired of London” (Oscar Wilde) and she sought “life” and work elsewhere; in the Regions, as close as possible to the Moorlands, the Lakes, the Coastline, and Forests with oak trees dating back to Henry VIII. I also willingly journeyed to the centre(s) when invited.
My current casting project is Z Nation, Season 2 for SyFy, a regional production that is Made in Spokane WA, with mostly LA-based Producers at the helm. It is unusual for our Region because three of Z Nation’s most endearing series regulars are from the regions (not LA, NY, BC, or UK). Nat Zang 10k, Pisay Pao Cassandra, Russell Hodgkinson, Doc. In fact almost the entire cast of guest and co-stars is from 'our Region'.
Last season regional actors drove “up and down that bloody motorway”, (Interstate 90; 600 miles round trip), to attend innumerable auditions and callbacks. This is also why I decided to open a 2nd casting studio in Seattle; primarily to serve the region's actors. If nothing else my considerable anxiety at the thought of actors speeding along the motorway and through the mountain pass would be assuaged! It is not a perfect solution. Some travelling is, of necessity, still called for but it gives regional actors an opportunity to audition live, to meet the Casting Directors and Producers in-studio; with considerably less time on the motorway and more money in the pocket.
The question is have I done the regions a favour or a disservice? Have I further softened the competitive edge of regional actors and increased the leading edge of LA actors?
This week as the team and I have been preparing to cast Z Nation 2 we noticed that a number of regional actors who now only need to travel for 2-3 hours instead of 6 hours, have requested to submit their auditions by tape instead of being seen live. Most of these actors have been invited to audition for lead roles with audition scenes that are 6 pages long. The SAG union contract would be for 15 episodes, minimum. The union rate, approx $3000+/pw before overtime (assume overtime). The desire to submit a taped submission does make sense to me.* It is a pragmatic choice. Self-submitting oneself, via youtube/vimeo is a very popular form of submission. We reduce our carbon footprint considerably and we can do other things, like go to the day job and save money. However this ‘sense’ was totally scrambled for me when a number of LA actors chose to make the 2-3 hour flight (perhaps with a lay-over), pay $300-$400 for a round trip ticket, in order to read for a"small role" with a 1 page scene, that will probably shoot in one day.
In the regions, taped auditions have become the norm in casting and it is interesting to see that what was once an aberration that so many resisted (I still do), is now a norm that informs the audition/casting process and subsequently shapes the actor. On Z Nation 1, the pressing nature of production meant that I had to request or simply accept tapes for some of the smaller roles. Once I received 200 youtube self-tapes for a single episode, inc guest and co-star roles. There was simply no time to do anything else. Blessedly my Producers are a little 'tape-shy' this year. Who can blame them?
Yet context is everything. Casting series regulars and guest stars for Sy Fy demands the extra mile on all fronts. My casting expectations must shift in relation to this new context. Producer's demands also shift; and actors need to shift to meet the new challenges and keep the roles (work) in our region.
Success is rarely an accident, neither is it “luck”. It is a process of steady application and dedication. Success is achieved by incremental gains. We make the smaller trips to auditions and thereby welcome the unexpected and so-called “ career coincidences” that might take place along the way. We must allow ourselves to fail, flail flounder and then repeat! before we can truly appreciate and get the value of being invited to make the longer trip to see the Producers - on any show. Also consider that a live audition with casting directors, readers, assistants, offers much needed practice in dealing with nerves, making adjustments, and simply learning more about the role in preparation for Producer Callbacks. The mind itself starts to prepare for the possibility of something more.
We can unite best business practice with our craft whilst enjoying life in the regions! Excellence can and does exist right where we are.
Whoever imagined that Sy Fy would choose to shoot a 15-episode Zombie TV show in Spokane, WA?! Who could have imagined that Z Nation would top the Sy Fy charts with its own demographic for the run of the series? Or that Z Nation Season 1 would come out on DVD weeks before pre-production for Z Nation 2? Someone imagined different contexts and possibilities and drew them to the regions when once they didn't exist.
What else is possible?