How long have you worked for Channel Nine?
Just over two years.
In that two years was it always as a Casting Director?
Where did you come from?
I have a pretty varied back ground. I started off my first casting job was with Toni Higginbotham and from there I went and worked at Mullinars for two years as an assistant. Then I left there and worked on Water Rats when it was in its ‘hey day’ and I was doing all sorts of things there from Extras Castings and became a Producer there. So I sort of went off the castings for a bit and then I went to the UK and I worked on all sorts of things from documentaries like the Vagina Monologues a kind of international film/documentary on women’s issues to a feature film with Michael Flatley. I did all sorts of things in the UK, then I came back here and someone rang me and said they need someone to do the casting for The Mole, which is a reality series. So that was my first kind of foray away from actors and into real people. So from there on I kept getting jobs casting reality shows mainly, so I ended up starting my own business. Although in between it I went and did things like the extras casting for Matrix 2 and 3, so I went back and did things like that in between just because it wasn’t quite up and running. So I ended up doing a lot of reality shows and in particular for Channel 7. I ran my own business and that was going quite well, then I got pregnant and had a baby. And stopped working and being a stay at home mum for a while. Nine months into that I got a phone call from Channel Nine and they said, “Do you want to come here, we’ve created a new role? We need a Casting Director to cast a host and presenters and that sort of thing.” Just to back track I have cast quite a few celebrity things and done a few post castings and stuff like that for a couple of years while doing my own business. So I came here and the first thing I had to do was Temptation. So I did that and it happened very quickly, it was fairly intense. From then on I created the role as it were, my own job description. I built up a big database, I get sent millions of show reels and I watch every single one of them. Don’t reply to them (laughs). So I have a pretty good knowledge of new talent that’s around as well as obviously existing people in the industry. I like to do screen tests whether it is for a new show, usually we might be doing screen tests not necessarily for new talent but people who have been around for a while as well. That could be anything like from doing Millionaire screen tests or Getaway screen tests or various different shows. ‘Catch Up’ I just did, it’s four women. That was incredible, that involved meeting the most fascinating women. It’s probably the show I’m most passionate about ever because I really related to it. I work a lot with the producers in development, I suppose that would be the best way to describe. So once a show gets up and running I let it go and the producers and team take over the casting for the next guest or whatever they need to get they do. Although I do celebrity guest casting as well.
You’ve raised a million questions and answered a couple for me. Can I say you sound really young?
I’m not actually (laughs). I’m actually 38.
Oh get out, that’s young! Going by what you’ve just said you’ve done a hell of a lot.
I think what’s different about my background to a lot of casting people, is that I’ve worked in production. So I’ve got quite a good understanding of what the requirements are after the audition, which makes a bit of a difference. Also my backgrounds really eclectic, I kind of have my fingers in lots of different pies. But it sort of all ended up here. You know I don’t know for sure but I think I probably have the best knowledge of anyone now as far as hosts and presenters go because I’m purely doing that.
Yeah, I don’t do acting at all now.
Would you like to?
No. Enough people do that I think. What I really like is what I’m trying to get out of a performance of someone when I’m auditioning is a realness. Naturalness. I like directing somebody to try to get to that point. It’s very different from acting, which is putting on a character. Although you need to get a realness with that character I’m actually trying to get someone to expose their personality to me.
So is that something you identify with more?
Well I prefer it, I just like doing it. I like making people feel comfortable, so comfortable that they can actually be that. I know with castings for films and commercials it’s much less personal a lot of the time, especially with commercials it’s get them in and get them out. Bang you’ve got to do it and if you haven’t done it then they write you off. It’s actually harder to find a good TV presenter than it is to find a good actor.
So how do you?
(laughs) I don’t know yet. There’s very few people who can do it well. Most of them are on TV.
Would you say then a good presenter is someone who’s had training but also can expose their personality and get that across?
I think training can help if it’s the right sort of training. A lot of people out there offer quick fix courses which I don’t think are of much use. The difficult thing about the whole industry is there are a lot of people offering courses and people don’t know which one to do. When it comes down to it the absolutely best school is the school doing it, but it’s very hard to get work on TV without any experience. Things like Foxtel, community channels are really the best starting points.
And putting together a professional show reel?
Yeah, you do need a reel. There’s no doubt about it.
You said before you look at all of them, do you keep them on file?
Most of them. I put them on the database.
How big is your database?
It’s got about 700 on it. Stuff that’s not databased, just little random things in boxes, I’ve probably got another 300 or 400 floating around.
It is a lot.
You were talking about the Catch Up before, what kind of relationship do you have with the people you cast? Does it continue or is that it?
It’s funny actually. With them I still see them around, I’ve still got my finger in that show a bit. But generally the relationship is over. You just walk away. You see them around and say hi or whatever. It’s funny like that, you have an intense time with someone. When we were casting for Temptation, we spend a fair bit of time with the people who actually get chosen. I would say I still have a relationship with them though.
Does anyone stand out in your mind as one of your most proudest castings?
Um. Goodness me. At the moment The Catch Up is. That’s in the fore front of my mind. It changes. It’s a moveable feat really. It’s the next thing. Although I still have my finger in that show I’ve got other things I’m working on at the moment. Their importance is growing now and I’m going to have to leave the Catch Up behind and let them go.
Is your future still casting or will you look at more producing?
No, no, still casting. I think for me I really like the fact that there is so much variety in what I do. It varies incredibly. I could be doing a kids show one minute, Catch Up another minute, games show another minute. I could be looking for experts, you know a landscaper. It’s not so much now because things are changing but there was a time there when I would be looking for a gardner, a chef or cook or whatever. So it really varies a lot, I don’t think I could work just on one thing now. I think I’d get bored. I have a plethora of choice. Sometimes you do look at it and you go I really don’t want to work on that one. But you have to, you just do it. One thing I enjoy doing most is when you get to put a new person on a show as opposed to someone who’s already got a career. You do feel quite like that you’re giving them a chance. You get a buzz out of it.
When you do your castings do you have your own set of rules or does each show vary? Are you given guidelines from producers?
They give me briefs. They’ll say I want an older guy or something. A family man, a mother type person or whatever. With the Catch Up it was very much myself and Mia Friedman. It’s all on paper looking at people and saying ‘yeah I like her and I don’t like her’. And then meeting a whole lot of people. That was really going off gut feeling, in saying ‘I really like this person, I like what they have to say, I like the fact that they’re open, I like the fact they’ve got a baby’. If I like them then other people are going to like them too. That was a slightly more organic process.
People like that can learn the skills or tricks of the trade as they go…
You’ve either got it or you don’t.
Is it obvious when somebody’s got it?
When someone’s really got it, yes. But I think also there’s degrees of having it.
Do you mean like crossing the line?
There could be something there that you really like them. There might be something holding them back, like their voice is soft or they’ve got a really nasally voice or not quite the right look.
Is that something you would work with?
I do. I put people through voice training a lot. I think everybody could do a bit voice training.
That’s the presenters main tool…
Well your voice is so important if you’re on TV. Okay the way you look is important too but your voice is really important. I think people underestimate how important your voice is. The way you speak, the way you pronounce words. You can still have an Australian accent without an irritating Australian accent.
If somebody has a ‘bad’ audition with you does that affect any future opportunities if you think they have something to offer?
Would I get them in again? Someone new? Unless they’ve done something in between, maybe they’ve done a show on Foxtel or something. I have gotten people back, I’ve had a few back more than once. I usually give people time to prepare, if it’s like a general audition. It’s not like I’m saying you’ve got to come in tomorrow and that’s it. That does happen sometimes, but not very often. Not like working in a casting agency.
Are you usually the only one in the room for an audition or do you have a team?
Generally I get a crew, a camera guy and a sound guy. I think it looks better too. I usually have to show the tapes to the Executive Producers and they make it look good.
How do you feel about actors becoming presenters?
I think it’s tricky, On the one hand I think they’ve got some skills that are really good and know how to put on ‘I’m happy’ when they’re not. But I also think some of them find it very difficult to be themselves and don’t trust themselves, trust their own personality and make them quite nervous. Someone like Georgie Parker can do it, very easily. She’s incredible. She’s so warm and energetic and she’s a very good example of someone who can do it all.
You just mentioned a key word, energetic. That’s very important isn’t it, getting the right energy across?
Yes exactly. But it’s one of those things that’s too hard to define without being over the top. Energy doesn’t mean talking loudly or fast or being very physical.
You spoke about training, do you personally hold classes or workshops?
I’m looking into doing it. Purely and simply because I don’t think people are getting the right advice generally. Most of the courses are quite expensive which is fair enough, but if they’re not getting the right kind of show reel at the end of it. I think you need to have people who are industry professionals actually working in the industry. Because I think tastes change, I think a taste for certain style of presenting and types of people change.
So how long do you think a show reel should be on average?
Pretty short. 3 minutes.
How many different pieces?
Doesn’t need to be loads. I’ll tell you what I like in a show reel. I like an opener. This is for a new person, who isn’t an industry professional.
“Hi, my name’s blah blah blah. I’m 24 years old and I live in Qld. I’ve studied Science or I’m an expert in blah blah blah or I’m really interested in rock climbing.”
Sometimes those bits at the front are the most important bit of your reel. Because somehow that’s the bit I’ll always remember. And also I might be sitting here thinking for example we need a business expert and someone has done that. “I’m a business expert but my real passion is to be a TV presenter”. If you’ve got any kind of expertise in anything or passion for something other than for TV presenting, I think that’s the absolutely best way to get into the industry. Because someone’s going to want to get on something or to demonstrate something. I know that’s not going to be the case for everybody. But even if someone says “I’m a 24 year old student”. God knows they might need a student for something. Also people are being the most real at that time too when they’re telling you about stuff. They’re just being themselves. That gives me something to compare it to when they do their pieces to camera which are following. You want them to be themselves. Often when I’m doing an audition someone’s learnt a piece to camera. Usually I give them Getaway pieces because they’re great pieces to do and everyone knows that show and they know what sort of style it is. They’ll do their piece to camera and I’ll say “Stop, can you tell me about the last holiday you had?” So then they will tell me about their holiday and I’ll say that’s the tone I want. Go back and tell me the piece in that tone.
How many people would you see on average each week?
There’s no average to be honest. It’s not a huge amount. I can spend up to an hour with someone. Half an hour usually. It’s not quick, quick, quick.