EOC 006: Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie Discusses the Casting Process and Offers Tips for Actors

tips-for-actorsHello peeps, and a Happy 2015 to you and yours.

For those who noticed my absence, I apologize for this unplanned hiatus; I was moving to a new home, but now I’m back with the latest episode of the Elements of Cinema Podcast, where I interviewed Bonnie Gillespie, a casting director and independent producer living and operating in Los Angeles.

As it happens to so many of us, Bonnie has a colorful (if not complicated) journey where she jumped a few times between art and academia before she found her “calling.” I relate with this because I too have suffered the same dilemma, so I understand where Bonnie’s coming from, and I’m sure you do too. But more on that later.

Bonnie is the author of four books that, together, give a deep and comprehensive insight into the business of acting and casting. Her most famous book, Self-Management for Actors, is a business-oriented guide for actors that has been listed again and again as one of the top must-have acting books.

Here’s the episode:

 

Show Notes

On this show, we talk about:

  • Money and fulfillment
  •  The casting process
  • Why Bonnie prefers working independent projects over studio films
  • The “bait” that brought Bonnie to LA. Twice.
  • Bonnie’s journey from student to actress to journalist to casting director.
  • Bonnie’s epiphany that made her drop out of her PhD program and pursue show business one more time.
  • Bonnie’s publishing company, CricketFeet.
  • Bonnie’s books, including Self-Management for Actors
  • “Book the room!”
  • “Stay Ninja!”
  • Why you should never work without a signed contract.
  • Quote: “If I had known how popular going into casting would make me, I would have done it in high school.”
  • The right attitude towards being success adjacent: “Anytime I see someone else succeed, I’m happy, for it reminds me I live in a world where success is possible.”

Highlights

When I asked Bonnie for some advice she could share with us, she said: “Stay open,” which I think echoes one of my favorite aspects about Bonnie’s life – her professional trajectory.

Regardless of how you define or measure success, looking at Bonnie’s career, books, website, column, and podcast, I have to think that she’s found fulfillment in this unlikely niche. I say “unlikely” because after you listen to the interview it’s clear that Bonnie, from the outset, never really imagined herself as a casting director. Or at least it was never really her main goal. However, by staying open, she’s embraced many of the curveballs life has thrown at her and spun them into positive learning instances. It’s the proverbial lemons into lemonades.

If you’ve not listened to the podcast or if you just want to recap, here’s what happened: Bonnie started off as an actress, doing her first professional performance at the age of seven in Atlanta. But for college she pursued a more academic degree: journalism (something that was “required in her family”), but as an artist, she minored in photography and acting. In 1993, Bonnie moved to Los Angeles after graduating to pursue an acting career. During the Northridge Earthquake, Bonnie went through “a little crisis” as she calls it. Not being where she wanted in her acting career, she decided it was time to return home and go to grad school for a degree in Instructional Technology.

But during the Age Twenty Eight Epiphany, the acting bug tickled Bonnie again, so she sold everything she owned on eBay and returned to La La Land to give acting one more shot. It didn’t pan out as she planned, but in her survival job as a journalist she discovered her calling: to demystify the casting process and the business of acting. Bonnie was so good at it that eventually she became a casting director, where she’s found success and fulfillment.

And I can’t express enough how inspiring and encouraging her journey is to me. Especially when you imagine yourself in Bonnie’s shoes during those crises. We’ve all being in similar situations, and we know the temptation to give up can be overpowering. But persevere you should and persevere she did. Bonnie’s story has a happy ending. So if you have to remember one thing from this interview, remember this: “Stay open!”

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to listen to the full interview in the player found on this page above “Show Notes”.

Bonnie Recommends

Books for ActorsThe book Bonnie suggested for us was The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, which I have not read yet, but here’s how the publisher describes it: “A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.” In other words, it has the self-help, motivational kick that so many of us need often. Check it out.

As for advice, I’ve already mentioned the “stay open” mantra above, so I’d like to shine light on another concept that Bonnie brought to our attention: Abundance. I’m talking about how we sometimes feel when we hear that a friend booked a gig or is otherwise successful. Hollywood and competition are synonyms. The demand is only a tiny fraction of the supply, so everyone is fighting tooth and nail to book gigs. I think it’s natural that we feel jealous or, dare I say, even resentful when someone books the gig we had our eyes on. But that’s the wrong attitude, and Bonnie nails it on the head. Instead of a negative reaction, we should feel happy that we live in a world and a business where success is possible. If you know someone who hit the jackpot (sold a screenplay, was cast on primetime show, won the Palme d’Or), you are “success adjacent,” and that should feel good. Bonnie’s suggestion in this case as that you ask your friend out so you can pick their brains and research how they became successful.

If you want an app to stay motivated and feel rewarded, Bonnie recommended the iPhone app Balanced. It also helps you stay productive and organized in a healthy way. The sales pitch is to find inspiration by making sure you practice some basic activities that boost your wellness. You can read more about it on the developer’s website.

The Bonnie Connection

If you wanna hang out more with Bonnie, you can follow her on Twitter @bonniegillespie and friend her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CricketFeet. If you wanna join Bonnie’s newsletter, head over to her website where you can find all of her links, resources, bio, and services. Also, don’t forget to check out her podcast The Work, which I totally recommend, as it’s both informative and just pure fun!

 

Other Ways You Can Listen To The Show

For those who don’t know, the Elements of Cinema Podcast is available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can install those apps in your smartphone and listen to us wherever you are! You can download those apps respectively from the Apple Store if you have an iPhone or the Play Store if you have an Android smartphone.

EOC 003: Interview with Shenita Moore, actress

actress headshot

Shenita’s headshot

In this episode of the podcast, I speak with actress Shenita Moore, who I met back in 2010 on the set of a short film that Shenita produced titled Queen Victoria’s Wedding. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Shenita is a working actress with tons of invaluable insight. In this the take, we discuss:

  • How moving from city to city helped Shenita developed interpersonal skills that make her a better performer.
  • The difference between an agent and a manager.
  • Why moving to Los Angeles with like-minded people with similar goals is a great idea.
  • How little money you can make as an extra.
  • How a gig can pay your bills for five years!
  • Marilyn Monroe’s quote: “Hollywood is a place where they will pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul.
  • Dorothy Parker’s quote: “Hollywood is the only place where you can die from encouragement.”

Check out the episode here:

 

Here’s Shenita’s acting reel:

 

Show Notes

Highlights

One of the most insightful things I heard from Shenita was about the circumstances under which she moved from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. I liked the story she shared because many of us are riddled with that dilemma: when should I move to Hollywood? For those who live outside of California or outside of the United States, moving to Hollywood is a big step, and one that deserves preparation. Quite often, that step comes with doubt and second guessing. Well, what Shenita did seems like sound strategy: she moved to Los Angeles with other actors and her manager.

Now, this may not always be possible for everyone, but it’s a worth a shot. Whether you want to be an actor, director, writer, producer, etc. who’s planning to move here, why not group up with others who have a similar goal. Your “team” can move together and try to break in the business together. You guys can watch each other’s back and help one another. I wish I had done that! I moved to Hollywood in 2008 all by myself and the process was painstaking. I definitely could have used some help. And now, more than the ever, the internet can really help you find people in your own state and country. Communities like Stage 32 and Facebook can connect you to other entertainment people. If you are moving here soon, give it a try!

Shenita Recommends

The must-read book Shenita recommended for us today was Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business by casting director Bonnie Gillespie. Filled with tips and strategies to help actors succeed, this book has appeared in many lists as of one of the best books on acting ever. By the way, Bonnie is a guest of this show in the upcoming Take 6. Stay tuned to hear from Bonnie herself!

Let’s Talk About Marilyn

I looked up the quote by Marilyn Monroe: “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” It first appeared in Marilyn’s autobiography My Story. However, the book was published in 1974, 12 years after Marilyn’s tragic death. The website QuoteInvestigator deems the quote controversial due that fact that the book is a posthumous work. Here’s the longer context in which the quote appeared in the book:

In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not by what you are. Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.

 QuoteInvestigator concludes saying that the quote is probably not a complete fabrication, but a ghostwriter may have helped shape it.

In any event, the quote is still relevant and powerful. I stand by my interpretation: Hollywood is a place where your persona and the products you can offer are more valuable than you as a human. Read the fine print!

Agree, disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.