Representing emerging & established talent

A New Design 3 2


We were delighted to be able to interview Claire Cassidy for our latest post of 2017.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Claire Cassidy and I’m a Casting Associate from Debbie O’Brien Casting. I am also a freelance choreographer/children’s administrator. 

How long have you worked with Debbie?

5 years on and off. I have also managed to fit my choreography and performing work around it.

What do you enjoy about casting?

When you work on new projects, working with a production team and getting to create the right type of show and listen to their ideas and try and get the right people into the room. Also giving people jobs is the best part of the job, ringing up the agents or ringing up the performers and telling them that they have a job is like Christmas. I know how it feels as a performer always waiting for the phone to ring. I try as give as much feedback as possible but it’s so hard to give it to every single client, especially when they get to the final stages, trying to give them that last push, seeing where they might be falling down and point them in the right direction

Do you find anything frustrating about casting?

The industry isn’t fair, we all know that, especially being a performer. You have to play the game. You might have absolutely smashed the audition and we may think you have too, but if the production team think that you are not right for them, you just have to take it. The phone calls when you have to ring them and say, unfortunately it hasn’t worked out but you have done an amazing audition – we really mean that you have done an amazing job, because those things do happen. We all know that you can come out of an audition and think “yeah that’s mine” or that you nailed it but then you get cut and think “ what happened there?!”. That’s hard.

Does it happen a lot?

Yeah, I suppose in the production team everyone has their own ideas. So actually, one person might be fighting for one person and you might be fighting for someone else too and then they get put in the ‘no’ pile and there is nothing you can do about it. You just have to think about what you are right for and try another door. I suppose, there is just so much talent and not enough jobs. Those type of things are irritating because you just want to give as much opportunity to new talent

Anything that you particularly look for on a CV?

Being truthful…. if it doesn’t say that they are a highly skilled dancer I can’t call them in for some jobs but then their agent will ring me and ask why they haven’t been called in. On everybody’s Spotlight form it says everyone’s type of dance and you need to be ‘starring’ exactly what you are highly skilled at. Don’t lie… especially about your height, a lot of people do that. Also, look like your headshots. I spend loads of time looking at their headshots and then they come in the room and then I think ‘I don’t even recognise you!’

What’s a typical day like for you in a casting office?

You have so many different varied products and productions so everyday is very different. Some days we only work on one show but there are a lot of days that we have four or five shows all at different stages, one will be at the first round and another might be on the last round. You just have to try and get your head around everything. It’s just trying to be on top of everything, we need to be very organised. In business hours we are pretty much glued to our computers and phones and just trying to work for as many people as we possibly can.

I suppose your starting point is going through Spotlight?

At the beginning of a new product, we get the breakdown, so we have to write a breakdown in a word document which we then send to Casting Weekly, Castweb and Casting Call Pro so that they can go out social media, then we put the breakdown on Spotlight. Then a couple of days later once we have got all of the submissions in, it means just going through the thousands of them. Then we book the venue and the pianist and try to book everyone in to what type of call they want. Then we need to decide if it is more beneficial to have the singing or the dance call first, depending on what the strengths of the show are. Once that’s all happening we need to set up the appointments and confirm the appointments, which is the part of the job I like least because it’s not the agent’s fault, it’s actually that sometimes the clients don’t get back to them. Then you have the recalls come in so we have to set up the material and make everything as clear as possible, we have to look over things and make sure that it is so simple that no-one can get it wrong because if someone comes in with the wrong material it make us look bad. We need to be as organised as we possibly can. Every show is different, sometimes we make the offers and sometimes we send them straight onto the General Manager and that’s the evolution of casting, a lot of organisation. Debbie, Harry and I obviously work on a computer but we love our lists!

Are there any common errors that performers make?

Wearing the wrong thing, that sounds really simple but it definitely puts some people off. If you are going up for something trendy or like AIDA, a young cruise line, you should wear fresh clothes and look trendy….. A lot of people come in with ripped jeans and trainers and even though they have been told by college and the agents not to do it, when they are running around like lunatics to get from job to job they do. Just be so prepared, we are all human, we all know what its like to be in an audition room. So many people forget words and lyrics, again we are all human but to a point it does speak a thousand words. The songs that you should sing, there should be absolutely no mistakes. Try not to learn a song just for an audition, you will get it wrong, sing a song that you do know  – but if you go in for Starlight Express don’t sing Gypsy – use your common sense, it does have to be in the right era. Don’t sing Thoroughly Modern Millie for a modern, contemporary musical – that’s a classic – I can’t tell you how many people want to sing ‘Gimme Gimme’.

People come into the room sometimes with a weird aura, but you can kind of tell when they walk into the room….. just be a nice person, that’s half the battle, people will want to work with you and they will forgive your mistakes if you are nice. There is being confident and then there is being over confident. Be nice to the person outside because that’s normally our assistant and they will tell us what you are like. Don’t be rude or unpleasant about other people!

If you are sat there from 10-6, seeing several hundred people, it does become mind boggling, especially in the afternoon. Being on the casting side, I also know from the choreography side, I don’t want perfection, but I want them to do what I want them to do. I want to see someone that tries and wants, I would rather have effort over talent, a lot of production companies want that.

Try not to be too vanilla, don’t blend into the background, don’t try and fit your piece into their puzzle but listen to the direction you are given, if they are saying something, actually do it, that might be their test. Just really listen and try your best, some people just look like they can’t be bothered…. make sure you look fresh.

Top 5 No-No’s?

Not really no-no’s…..Be a nice person, it really does go a long way. Be as prepared as you possibly can, really learn recall material because I can guarantee the 20 people before you would have learned it, why would we choose you if you haven’t learnt it. Do as much research on the project that you possibly can and do the research on the production team. Get to class! It doesn’t matter if you have been in the business for one year or 27 years, you need to be having regular singing lessons, you need to be going to regular dance lessons because you can get stale and slow really quickly, especially when the new graduates are coming at you, really be on the ball.

Best handy hint?

Give everything you’ve got to your audition, if you don’t get it then at least you have tried your best, don’t look like you can’t be bothered or look like its only just another audition or you’re only there because your agent told you to go! Communicate with your agent, you need to tell them what you actually want, there is no point moaning about them. Most of the time those agents have been performers so just communicate with them so that you don’t have to cancel auditions 24 hours before. Going out and doing cruise lines isn’t a bad thing, go out and learn your trade.  I have never worked on cruise ship as a performer but I have as a Creative and a lot of talented performers have worked on cruise ships because of their versatility. When they come back they are so strong and driven and actually often get their ‘break’ after a cruise ship contract. You are not a failure for doing a cruise line and actually a lot of the time Casting Directors cast cruises and see that in a years’ time you will be ready for other things. Having a CV with work on is better than a stale CV, no point saying you are staying in London but then don’t work for 12 months.

Try and keep your CV active, I know we can’t all afford to do profit share and things like that but if you can and get that on your CV then you get a healthy CV of looking active and doing stuff. That is much more helpful to us. If you have a year’s gap in your CV we think, what “happened to them?”. It can help, even if you just get the one off, just do one that year because actually everyone knows what’s going on and then suddenly you are the flavour of the month and suddenly people want to see you for the next project. It is a stepping stone.

Has casting changed over the past few years?

Each college has got much bigger and the number of courses…. I can’t keep up. There are lots of new shows popping up and new teachers, which is good. There is lots of regional work, at The Curve, Oxford Playhouse and Chichester which is great. I think it has changed, there is much more children’s casting, many more children in shows. Shows don’t last as long anymore, it could be 3 months or 6 months, it could be a year. There are also lots of new contemporary shows and lots of things going on in different venues. Actor/Muso is obviously the new thing, there are loads, how many skills can you make someone have?!

Do you have a favourite show that you would like to cast or have already cast?

I really enjoyed assisting Debbie on casting ANNIE, I have a love for kids. I started right from scratch and went all the way through to the end and all the pre-auditions before the production company came. So, by the time I got to the finals I felt that I knew every single child and was proud to see them at the end of it all! They are all little superstars. I recently worked on productions such as ROOM at Stratford East and CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at Chichester and they were really interesting productions as they were really different from each other. We cast a lot of musical theatre but it’s nice to do plays or musical plays. We love all the shows but it’s interesting to pick up a new production like a new play in Coventry or another actor/muso show… we do have some really interesting types of productions.