Welcome to the first of many fascinating, strange and wonderful interviews for purelysimplewords.com blog. The objective here is to share inspiring stories of how important it is to follow your dream.
Meet Mr. James Mottram, he has been a Casting Director and Assistant Casting Director for such films as “Precious”, “NY Undercover” and “Suits”.
Actually James and I are old friends who lost touch a very long time ago. Through the miracle of Face Book we were recently reunited and got caught up on the past twenty years. In this interview James will enlighten us on what casting is and his current role in the Casting business. He will also share what he has learned and will pass those lessons along to you.
Casting has been around ever since humans have been doing theater and not much has changed. In the early stages of a theatre/movie production the cast is picked through auditions in front of a panel. The panel consists of a producer, director and choreographer (if necessary). Through the process of elimination finalists are chosen. It is not just the ability to read lines or dance or sing. The panel looks for chemistry between the actors. This is an important component to make any production successful.
Thank you James for taking the time to chat with me at purelysimplewords.com (PSW) about your experience in Casting.
PSW: How did you get started in the Casting Business?
JM: Thank you for having me here. I started working a job at a telephone answering service that a lot of actors and casting directors used to get work. I started asking the actors when they checked in if they did extra work. If they said yes and were union I directed them to call certain casting directors. It worked out where a certain casting director liked my work in helping find appropriate actors. They eventually got a film and brought me in to cast all the extras.
PSW: What made you move from NY to CA?
JM: I had wanted to try my luck out here in California. Since I wasn’t getting any younger I decided to just go for it. My Mom had passed away and there was nothing keeping me in New York. I can still assist in casting extras in New York because I have a New York cell phone number and a computer.
PSW: How long have you been doing this work?
JM: I have been doing this work for twenty plus years.
PSW: Whom do you deal with e.g. actors, directors and writers?
JM: People who do extra work that are union and non-union. I mostly deal with actors and Assistant directors who give me the extras breakdown (what they need for any given day).
PSW: What were the three most difficult things you have done or had to go through in your career?
JM: The first is an unreasonable director who wants things to happen last minute and no matter how hard you try you can’t do it. For example, this one director who was also the star of the movie changed his mind at 11 PM one night and wanted to do a different scene for the next day. That would entail using 10-15 kids, which was going to be impossible since the call time as 7 AM, and the kids had to get permits in order to work. Since it was so late that was not going to happen. The second is unprofessional actors, who don’t show up on time and when they do get there they give you a look like I am here, deal with it. And the last thing, sometimes they just come to meet their future life partner.
PSW: Have you had any jobs in CA?
JM: My most recent job is where I cast background on a small project, which needed about 50 people for a 7 PM call going till 4 AM, and I was just hired for the job about 2 PM the same day. However I made it happen and got them all the people they needed and everyone was happy.
PSW: Describe you ideal day?
JM: My ideal day is when a director knows what he wants and the actors show up in wardrobe ready to work and all is good.
PSW: If your life were a movie, who would play you?
JM: Woody Harrelson
PSW: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
JM: Curing Cancer
PSW: If you could spend a day with one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
JM: It would be my late boss Sylvia Fay. She taught me so much about the casting business and I feel there is so much more I could learn from her. I want to tell her thank you for the time to teach a no nothing kid all about the casting world and I will always remember her and thank her.
PSW: What are your favorite movies?
JM: I like scary movies and old movies like “Meet Me In St. Louis” starring Judy Garland.
PSW: Would you recommend Casting as a career? Why/why not?
JM: Sure I would. It is so rewarding and does your heart good being able to hire someone and give him or her work; it is not a 9-5 job. It’s more like 5 AM to 9 PM. sometimes seven days a week. So if you don’t want to work those kinds of hours don’t get into the casting business because your social life will go out the window.
PSW: What is the strangest thing that happened to you on the job?
JM: I wouldn’t say it was strange but I worked on the movie “Precious” and cast a young girl to play a jump roper. Well they wound up firing one of the lead girls and upgrading the girl I hired from an extra to a principal actor. That made me very happy.
PSW: What do you do for fun?
JM: I watch tennis matches on TV, volunteer to walk dogs, listen to music and people watch.
PSW: What do you do in your free time?
JM: I love to go for walks and just stay home sometimes and read.
PSW: Are you a morning person or night person?
JM: Morning but when I can I love naps.
PSW: What do’s and don’t do you advise for anyone wanting to be in casting or acting?
JM: Be professional and don’t take rejection seriously if you want to get into acting, study the craft. Look into doing some theatre (you won’t make any money) but you will get experience and learn most casting directors. When a director receives actors’ headshots, resume and business card the first thing they look at is where they studied and the theatre they have done.
PSW: What do you plan to do next?
JM: More casting, it’s time consuming and not a 9-5 business. A lot of hard work but it’s so worth it giving people jobs.
Thank you James for your generosity in sharing your knowledge of the Casting business. To contact James email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James is truly an interesting person and full of life. I hope he is an inspiration for you to stretch yourself and follow your dream just the way James did.