Casting Directors Krisha Bullock and Jamie Snow of Bullock and Snow Casting give us an inside look at the way they cast talent.
Specializing in children’s comedy television shows such as Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Victorious, Krisha and Jamie share what it’s like working with child performers, casting LGBTQ characters and why their love for the entertainment field keeps them laughing throughout their exhausting day.
Why did you become a Casting Director?
I actually “fell” onto casting. I had always loved the entertainment industry and was in my early 20’s, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I went to register to be a Background Performer, while I figured myself out. While there, I asked if they needed an intern, they did, and that’s where it all began! I cast Background, then moved into Commercials, then transitioned into Film and ultimately landed in Television. The first TV show that I cast by myself was a Nickelodeon show, back in 1997.
What’s the difference between working with young talent vs. adults?
The biggest difference between young people and adults for me is that there is an assumption that adults will do all the work, and come fully prepared for every audition. With young people we know that they are still learning and may need some extra time and/or extra notes to understand the role. With everyone, it’s the most amazing feeling to see an actor really bring the words on the page to life, to fully embody the role and bring their truth to the performance.
Today we are seeing more inclusivity in roles such as LGBTQ characters. For LGBTQ characters, do you lean toward recommending real life LGBTQ people? When you put out the word to agents & managers that you’re casting an LGBTQ character, are you allowed to ask for LGBTQ actors and straight actors, or is that not politically correct?
We are so thrilled that the industry is paying attention to inclusivity!! When we are seeking a specific type for a role, we do everything we can to find authenticity within that role. So yes, in this scenario, we would ask the reps to submit authentically LGBTQ talent for us to consider.
You and your partner, Jamie Snow, have Zoom workshops that talent can sign up for to learn about the business and keep their skills sharp. What opportunities are there for your students?
When acting schools request us, Jamie and I both will teach audition technique workshops. They are educational opportunities for talent to practice their audition skills with us. We go over different ways that can be used to prepare for an audition, and share some of our personal experiences, and answer questions. I’ve found that a workshop can help young talent who don’t have much experience auditioning gain an understanding of what the process can be like, and the more that they practice, the more comfortable they can get with that process.
What are the challenges of casting a play vs. screen?
Casting is essentially the same across every medium. Ultimately we are looking for someone who brings their uniqueness to the role, brings the role to life, and makes us (the audience) feel moved in some way, by watching their performance.
There are certainly subtle differences between film vs theater. For example, in film casting we are looking for the emotion to be smaller, more intimate because the camera will be so close to your face. In theater casting we are looking for your voice and emotion to be much bigger, so that it can be felt all the way to the back row of the theater.
Anything else you want to say?
I feel so lucky to have found a passion in casting, and to be able to share my days with my incredible team. I’m so grateful to all of the amazingly talented actors who I’ve had the great pleasure of watching create their art.
You started in show business as an actor and then made the decision to transition after college to Casting Director. Why did you choose to become a CD? How did you learn about running a business?
As I came out of college, I thought I still wanted to pursue acting. I was a stand-in on iCarly and Victorious in their early seasons and got a close look at what life was like for a working Actor, day in and day out, the pros and the cons. It was on set, as a stand-in, when I realized the acting life is not what I wanted to pursue. The life of an Actor is very unpredictable and spontaneous and I realized I do not enjoy pitching or promoting myself.
Casting is a combination of things that I love: acting (reading with the actors in auditions), directing (giving notes on the reads with my own creative point of view) and having some organization and predictability in my life. I crave structure and routine, but still love the creativity of acting, so casting is the perfect fit for me.
My business partner, Krisha Bullock, taught me everything I know about the business of casting: being a good leader, empathy and love for Actors, and that life is more than just work. Work/life balance is key and the happier we are, the happier the Actors are, which means we get the best performances out of them. Every Actor has been in a room with a stressed out and miserable casting director, and I’m sure they would all agree, it’s not good for creativity.
You work with a lot of young talent, having cast such shows as Nickelodeon’s Sam & Cat, Henry Danger, Game Shakers, Victorious and iCarly. How did you land the gig casting for Nickelodeon? Does Nickelodeon have specific guidelines you are required to follow?
I work well with “young talent” because I was “young talent”! When I was 14 I recurred on The Amanda Show on Nickelodeon. I stayed in touch with the producers of the show as I went into college and reached out to them when I needed an internship my senior year. The internship turned into a stand-in position which led to my relationship with Krisha and led me to working in her office.
Nickelodeon’s casting department has grown and changed over the years. When Krisha started at the network she was creating the casting guidelines because there wasn’t a specific formula for how things should be done. Today, there are a lot of steps we take in the casting process that Nickelodeon requires. Mostly, sharing of information and collaborating on inclusivity and forward thinking. We share the same passion and goal as our Nickelodeon Casting team, to ensure all kids feel represented when they watch our shows.
When casting, how do you know what the production is looking for? Have you ever recommended an actor that did NOT fit the description you were given?
We’ve been working with most of our Producers for many years. In the beginning of the relationship, we ask a lot of questions to understand their taste, but as the years go on it becomes more of a short hand. We can anticipate what they are looking for by just reading the script and using our imagination. Sometimes, we have an idea that is different from what is written on the page and it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re lucky that our Producers are generally open to anyone, regardless of race, disability or gender identity for the roles. They just want the best Actor to embody the role — usually, whoever is the funniest.
At what point did you join the Casting Society of America? What criteria did you have to provide to be accepted? What benefits do you receive by being a member?
I joined the CSA in 2015. You need 100 weeks of experience in a casting director position to join as a casting director. The CSA is a community of Casting Directors, Associates and network level casting execs who support and uplift each other. We share resources and celebrate each other’s victories.
Being a Casting Director is not an easy job. Please share some stories about difficulties you’ve had and how you overcame the barriers presented.
Krisha and I both like to keep a positive perspective about what we are doing. Even when we are extremely stressed and pressured, we remind ourselves that we are not curing diseases or defusing bombs. We are making television, mostly for children, to make them laugh. When you put that in perspective it’s easier to take a breath and just keep marching forward. We spend the majority of our days laughing, so it’s hard to complain about that.
Anything else you want to say?
Since this is an article geared towards Actors, I just want to say that as a young Actor, I did not really appreciate the Casting Director’s DESIRE for me to do well. I wish I could go back and tell my young self, the casting director is ROOTING for you. When you shine, we shine.
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