Exploring Acting for Kids & Teens: An Interview with Christine Scowley, Casting Director by Tony Nation
What’s the best way for kids and teens to start exploring acting?
What do you recommend to parents who have kids/teens looking to pursue a career in acting?
What skills do kids/teens need to have in order to pursue a career in TV and film?
What do you look for in a good kids/teen headshot?
How do I get noticed for projects casting in Los Angeles?
What is the difference between auditioning for theatre projects and film/TV projects?
Christine Scowley is a Casting Director in Los Angeles and a member of the Casting Society of America. Scowley cast the hit Nickelodeon series HOW TO ROCK and Disney Channel’s MOVIE SURFERS. She also cast the series SMASH CUTS for the CW and conducted the nationwide search for the pilot HUGE for ABC FAMILY. Her Nickelodeon credits also include the pilots BIG TIME RUSH and EVERY WITCH WAY (to air this year), and she cast a special episode of TRUE JACKSON VP. Scowley also casts for Disney Family Online and consults on music talent for Sony Music International. Additionally, Scowley created and produced the series ROCK THE CRADLE with Fremantle Media for MTV, which featured the children of rock stars competing in a sing-off. Scowley often travels the country conducting nationwide searches and she loves working with actors and music talent!
How did you get started as a photographer?
I have appreciated beautiful photography for most of my life, but I didn’t buy my first DSLR camera until 5 years ago. At first, I was using it mostly to take photographs casually – simply to capture great moments in my life. When I started getting compliments on those photos, I realized I could pursue a career as a photographer. About a year and a half ago, I started taking headshots of my friends and doing photo shoots for free to build my portfolio. These sessions provided me with great on-the-job training about the relationship between the model and the photographer, as well as ways I can build on my talent. Even today I continue to learn from my photo shoots, which is one of the best parts about my job. It doesn’t hurt that my friends all love having their photos taken – I get lots of practice!
What should an actor look for in a headshot photographer?
Obviously I think you need to like the style of the photographer first. You can usually tell right away by looking at someone’s portfolio if they are someone you want to work with. But I think there is a more important quality an actor should look for: chemistry between the actor and photographer. If you and the photographer don’t get along, the camera will pick up on it, no matter how good the actor is at acting. So look for someone who makes you comfortable, and doesn’t intimidate you.
How should an actor prepare for their shoot day?
First, get some rest! You’d be surprised what a difference some beauty rest makes. Next, put a little time into thinking about your ideal shots. A headshot photographer will have ideas about what will look good – that’s part of our job – but ultimately they are going to be your headshots, representing you. Look at the photographer’s portfolio. Are there shots you particularly liked? (Hopefully, since you’re shooting with them!) Mention those to the photographer. Do your research.
(The actor needs to think about what they want to get out of the shoot. A photographer will have their own ideas about what will look amazing, but at the end of the day you need to make sure that it will work for your final headshot. So do some research and look around at other people’s photos.)
What types of clothing are best for a photo shoot?
Nothing that wrinkles easily, nothing sheer, nothing baggy, nothing with logos. Basically your clothes should be fitted and comfortable. I do like to see colors in a photo, and maybe some subtle prints, but that is a personal preference. If you bring something with a lot of patterns it will most likely draw attention away from your face, and that is usually not the goal with a headshot.
So consider your wardrobe carefully, but don’t overthink it. Bring a couple of outfits with you so you don’t regret wearing that wrinkled shirt that looked so good on you the night before! Also, the photo should convey your personality as well as the role you want to play. You don’t want to look like a high school kid if you are auditioning for a role in something like Chicago – or vice versa!
Do women need a hair/make-up stylist on the shoot?
Each woman is different. I personally do not require you to have make-up and hair professionally done. You should feel comfortable with being able to at least apply a simple layer of make-up that looks natural. One of my clients once used the make-up artists at Sephora to get her face done. It cost her about as much as she’d have paid for a lip gloss, and she looked awesome. However, there is something to be said about having someone on location with you, if nothing else than peace of mind.
What do you prefer-studio or natural lighting?
I prefer natural lighting because it makes each photo shoot unique. It also makes the location much more flexible.
What are your thoughts on retouching?
Of course there will always be some retouching done – but there is a line between making you look like the best version of yourself, and making you look like someone else. It is similar to plastic surgery (which I’m not a huge advocate of): you should really know when to say enough is enough. It can be so easy to get a little carried away and remove every single mole or freckle, take out every single wrinkle, and bleach the teeth whiter than snow. Your photo, however, should look like you! And I assume it is safe to say that you are not an upper east side cougar. I like a photo to look natural.
John Keon started his photography business nearly two years ago, although he has had many more years to develop a passion and love for photography. The majority of his skill has been self taught, however he’s very fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring and talented people which he’s learned so much from. This was one of his motivations of moving to New York four years ago from Washington State.
If you have more questions, feel free to contact him via his website at: johnkeonphotography.com
I began performing right out of high school doing roles in local dinner theatre productions, but I think I knew I had to be involved in musicals since I was a small girl. It is a passion of mine, and I adore all aspects of the art.
What skills do Musical Theater actors need to have to compete in today’s Broadway market?
I think a good knowledge of the repertoire and how you fit into the market from a casting point of view is essential. You need versatility in your voice and range, and a variety of songs in your book that represent the kind of roles you can play. You also need the drive to create your own opportunities and look for the theatres that may have a show that you are right for.
What do you see as the future of Broadway?
We are moving in a direction of pop and contemporary musical styles that incorporate the kind story telling inherent in musical theatre. This makes musicals accessible to new audiences and is inspiring the young writers and new artists. There is something for every taste in musical theatre, be it opera, jazz, pop, or even rock. Still, I love the traditional styles that are influenced by Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Bernstein and the greats. I think these paved the way and have influenced the hits like Les Miz, Wicked, Light In The Piazza and Beauty And The Beast. These types of shows will continue to represent Broadway along side the newer forms.
What does your company BroadwayDemo.com do?
We provide an affordable means for musical theatre artists to record a high quality vocal demo, and we go a step further by making their demo available to casting professionals 24/7 in a simple yet individualized web page. Artists who wish to have mp3s of their tracks can purchase our Premium Package, while budget minded artists can purchase our lower priced Producer Package, which includes 24/7 online access to your demo but not the mp3s. From helping the artist choose their song list, to recording several takes of each song and editing the best takes, to creating the webpage, we do it all! We pay all licensing to ASCAP and BMI so online sharing of your demo is legal, and you can embed you Broadway Demo into your personal site too and still be covered by our licenses. We also promote our members on Facebook when they have success stories, as well as inclusion in our showcase page, which is frequented by new composers looking for voices for demos of their new works.
Why is a Broadway Demo needed by today’s musical theater actor?
As an artist you must be proactive! It is becoming more and more competitive, and harder to get seen for projects. When a casting director or agent is deciding who to give that last appointment spot to, a vocal demo and an online presence is the difference between getting seen or not! We have so many clients sending us stories of how their BroadwayDemo got them an agent, got them a big audition, got them a callback when someone Googled them after an EPA or Chorus call. After an EPA or Chorus Call when the casting pros are looking through their “keep” pile they can actually visit your demo on an iPhone, computer or iPad and might hear a different style or sound they didn’t know you had. I was offered a cruise contract without even going to an audition. They simply FOUND me on Broadway Demo. Broadway Demo is what mailings were when I started in this business. Everything is now a click away
Do actors need a webpage or website for their business?
A webpage should be like a headshot and resume. BroadwayDemo is like a digital headshot and resume with a vocal demo! We consulted casting directors and agents when opening the business and designing the pages. They wanted simple, easy to access, clean and unfussy. As few clicks as possible. The casting professionals know that we do not do any pitch correction, and it is an accurate representation of the singer. You wouldn’t hand a headshot resume that was 12×14, with a 3 page resume to a casting pro, so why have a webpage that is over stuffed. The main information should be right their and easy to navigate.
Follow this link for more information on BroadwayDemo.com
(Producer/Vocal Coach) Tina Marie is one of NYC’s premier musical theatre coaches. She a Casting Associate for NETworks tours with several projects, and is also a working actress. Acting credits include understudying the lead roles in the First National Broadway Tours of Victor Victoria and Kiss Me Kate,Marie/Ensemble in Beauty and the Beast (Las Vegas) , and regional productions of Into the Woods (Bakers’s Wife and The Witch) and Falsettos (Trina) . Currently, she is in a development deal with EMI Music Publishing for a Broadway musical that she conceived entitled Chasing Rainbows about the childhood of Judy Garland with book by Tony Award winning writer Thomas Meehan, and existing music from the MGM/Feist Robbins catalog. She spent 4 years as the Musical Theatre Panelist for the Young Arts, National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (NFAA) ending her last 3 years as Chair. Tina Marie directed Oklahoma! at the Village Light Opera Group in NYC and The Fantasticks at Gallery Players in Brooklyn, as well as “Little Shop of Horrors” at Infinity Theatre Company.
David’s Music Director credits include Play it Cool(Off Broadway), The Shadow Sparrow (O’Neill NMTC), That Other Woman’s Child (NYMF and Chattanooga Rep), A Lasting Impression (East 3rd Productions),The Fantasticks (Gallery Players and Infinity Theatre), Little Mary (Not For Broadway Festival) My Way (Infinity)and Little Shop of Horrors (Infinity, Music Supervisor). Pianist/Keyboardist credits include Beauty and the Beast (Las Vegas) and Kiss Me Kate (First National Broadway Tour), as well as rehearsal/audition pianist work for the national tours of (among others) Hairspray, Spring Awakening, Oliver!, The Drowsy Chaperone,and Rent. He is currently arranging songs from the MGM catalog for a new musical about Judy Garland’s early life entitled Chasing Rainbows,in collaboration with EMI Music Publishing, book by Thomas Meehan.