A clear brief and the right materials are essential in bringing out the best in actors, says casting director Josclynne Kua.
INTERVIEW BY JO TAN
Published on 5 July 2016
INTERVIEW BY JO TAN
I actually began with producing, directing and researching for film and TV, and only started casting by chance. I was researching for the TV docudrama In Cold Blood five years ago, and they didn’t have a casting director, so I said, ‘Let me try’ and that’s when it all began.
Many companies think they can just get interns to conduct castings, but I don’t know if it’s something you can do well without some film experience. Casting directors have to communicate extensively with the creative and logistics team on the show, as well as the actors.
Firstly, I get materials for the actors to audition with, especially character biographies of the roles, and the script. You need to give a clear brief of what you’re looking for, because even good actors can be uncomfortable auditioning if they don’t know what to do. It’s unfortunate that many actors are resigned to potentially wasting their trip because they’re usually not told anything beyond to sit in front of the camera and read a few lines. Even if I don’t have the script, I write my own casting materials based on the information I have, or look for monologues online to help bring out performances. I also prepare two contrasting scenes or characters for the actors to show their range.
Next, I contact my database of candidates to come down for a casting. During the casting, I record different takes of the actors performing the material in different ways. I give them directions to steer them towards what the director is looking for, based on my previous conversations with the creative team. I also try to communicate in a way that makes the casting comfortable. Auditions can be very stressful for actors, and you want to bring out the best in them.
Treating actors with respect is important — casting is about building long-lasting relationships. It is useful to know actors well to understand what they can do, and be able to say, ‘You sounded a little tired in that take. I know you’re not like that usually. Would you like to try again?’ Plus, casting directors are on standby even after filming begins. In every production, there is almost always an issue that affects casting: the location becomes unavailable during a certain time; the actor that was cast can’t match those times; and unfortunately, production teams often think it’s easier to change cast than change location. You really need to rely on good relationships with your network of actors, so you can put out a call last minute and know that someone will say ‘yes’.
So it’s unfortunate that even in the film industry itself, people think that anyone can run castings. It requires experience and is quite exhausting. But it has been rewarding, especially when I can widen actors’ opportunities by giving them a chance to perform on platforms they haven’t experienced before. I watch theatre and productions in various languages, and I’m always looking for actors to introduce to directors. A good casting director knows how to present a good actor to the creative team, even if he or she is completely unknown. Some of the ‘unknowns’ I’ve previously cast are currently doing very well.
JOSCLYNNE KUA has worked in the capacity of casting director for a range of genres, including corporate videos, TV commercials, dramas and telemovies. She also specialises in casting for documentaries, info-educational and reality series, as well as docudramas where real-life people are profiled. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree (Media Arts and Production) from the University of Technology Sydney. Casting aside, Kua has produced, directed and researched for film and TV.