Brooke Thomas & Mary Callahan

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Frenemy Schenemy

Last week, Brooke and I taught a class with 5 other casting directors from different offices. Say what? Yes, it’s true. We shared a night with our competitors.  Wait, there’s more. They happen to be people we laugh with, people we like, people we “get”. Every single casting director in the room was from a different company. Some of us just came from a grueling callback with clients, some of us had just gotten the great news of a big budget movie to cast, and some of us had just had gotten over the flu. But all of us showed up. We always do. As a matter of fact the class almost always runs overtime because it’s fun and we like our jobs. Here’s the true Hollywood story…
It was a few years back that Brooke and I decided to invite casting directors from other casting offices into a class hosted by us. It was unheard of for commercial casting directors to talk to each other.  It was tricky.  You see, the business is known as being very competitive.  We only really knew one or two of them. The others, we only knew their names.  We did know actors liked them, agents liked them and so we figured we’d like them too.  So when you hear these names throughout the years, you want to meet them.  You kind of want to be friends with them.  I say why not? Why couldn’t competitors from different casting offices be friends.  What was wrong with asking them to come see our students? Our students should be seen by these offices.  So we got brave. We sent out the invite. I wish I saved that first email invite. I bet it was really dorky and we were trying to be cool. (Well, Brooke was.) Guess what happened? To our delight they all said yes! What’s even better is we do it a few times a year now. And everyone benefits.  Genius.
There’s something really amazing about sitting in the room and hearing from people who do the same job as you. Sure we all have our inside jokes about an actor not making a callback because his dog forgot to set his alarm.
But moreover, it’s interesting and enlightening to see how other people “direct”.  To see what other people in our business look for and like.  I would think this goes for actors too. Watching, laughing, learning, enjoying your competition working at their job. In the end ,it’s the respect thing. It’s understanding that we are all very different, but if we are good at our jobs we succeed.  I would not hesitate to call any of these competitors, my friends, on advice.  I’ve also called a few to make sure they know about a certain actor I think they should know in their office. Sometimes I get a call from one of them about a SAG rule or maybe I have an actor who’s on first refusal for me on a job and they know their client really wants them for theirs, so they call me to see how interested my client is. It’s the biz. That’s cool. We’re friends.
Look, in the end, we all have to do our jobs. I’m not saying I don’t want to be the busiest office in NY. That would be a big fat lie. We all do. Busy keeps the doors open and we all like being busy. I’m just saying it’s really good to know the people in your field. Why not have lunch with the Queen Bee at a different company? Maybe she’s dying for you to ask her.  Maybe she wants to pick your brain. Mutual respect goes a very long way in this business (or any business for that matter). Bridges should be walked upon. Bridges should be built. Of course there is a motive to our madness. When Brooke and I retire the plan is to go out commercially in our 90’s. We need these people to like us. We need to be at the top of their list.  Deep down we know it’s bound to happen. Now, let me ask you something…Where’s the Beef?