Jaimie Beebe is a Los Angeles-based casting director, who is just, well…fun. Filled with enthusiasm about her job, she is all about making the audition experience enjoyable, and genuinely wishes she could book everyone. Basically she’s the casting director next door, the opposite of the intimidating stereotype. Unfortunately for me as an NYC-based actress, she’s probably not someone I’ll get to work with anytime soon. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting her take on the industry through this phone interview.
You started off as a production manager and line producer. How did you make the transition from that to casting director?
Well when I was in production I ended up kind of doing every job because I was at a very small production company. And one of the jobs I ended up doing was casting, and I loved it. So I was like wow, this is really more where I need to be. So when I left that company I tried to get into casting. It’s a little bit harder to get into scripted. So I actually started out in unscripted and I spent a few years casting all your favorite reality shows.
Was that fun?
It was fun in a way, I had a great time, but it still wasn’t where I wanted to be. So eventually I moved into scripted and that’s kind of where I am now. And I love it. I just felt it I guess you could say. Casting is awesome, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s like a happy job.
That’s the main thing, if you can find a job that makes you happy. What do you think makes your casting company unique?
I’ll tell you what I’ve heard from other people, especially actors, is I’m available. Like I’m open, I’m available, I think I’m easy to relate to. I’m there so the actors can succeed. I want to tell everybody yes all the time.
You’re all on the same team.
Yeah we’re on the same team. I think I’m really approachable and stuff like that. So I think personality wise, it just fits. And I work for the same companies and the same producers and the same directors over and over. So as far as making me unique, I just think being approachable and being open.
Just by phone you do sound like you’re very approachable, and I can see how that would serve you well in this line of business.
I’ve heard about other casting directors, and they’re really cool in the audition room. I’m just more like, let’s do this, it’s fun. It should be fun you know? Sure it’s a job and it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also awesome. If that’s what you want to do and you’re able to do it, then that’s like the best life ever.
You’re so positive. So just curious to learn a little more about your job. Can you take me through what a typical day is in the life of a casting director?
Well I usually wake up and my golden retriever is standing over me drooling waiting to go outside.
[Laughs] Love golden retrievers!
They’re the best, that’s how I wake up. I mean every day is really different, especially lately. I’ve been working from home obviously a lot more. But I’ll talk more about what I’ve been doing during quarantine which is kind of different for me. I usually go on Instagram in the mornings. And I’ll type in like #selftape or #monologuemonday. And I’ll look through self-tapes and stuff like that on Instagram to see if there’s anybody cool that sticks out that I can save and put in my little folder. So that’s kind of what I started doing and it really became something fun that I would look forward to every day. I check and see what people are posting, because no one’s working. But people are still practicing and putting content out there. So I’m kind of looking for new content. Before that every day is really different. Watching self-tapes, doing auditions, reading a script, lots to do. But yeah I mean I’m always looking for new actors that I haven’t seen before, I love that.
Looking through Instagram and trying to discover new talent does sound fun.
Yeah it’s really nice you know. It’s nice to see what people are putting out there, especially the positive energy that they’re putting out there during the quarantine because it’s a crazy time that none of us have really been through. So it’s nice to see how many people are just like, “All right, I’m gonna try this now.” It’s great.
I love that you cast so many different type of projects, from commercials to music videos, short films, web series and feature films. Do you have a favorite category to cast for or do you love them all?
I mean I love them all, but I guess anything that has to do with horror or crime or true crime or a thriller, like that kind of stuff. Because I love watching it and it’s fun. I love monster movies, gore, serial killers, all that stuff. So that’s really fun. But in the same sense I also will cast a lot of student films because I love working with these new students. I mean they’re so creative and they’re so honest. And they have such a fresh new approach, and they want to think outside the box. They want to cast outside the box. They’re so great. And when I first started out in casting I would go to the universities and I would literally kind of stand outside and be like, “Hey so does anybody need a casting director?” I’ll do it because I needed experience. And I didn’t have any and scripted is really hard. It’s hard to get into. You have to know somebody and work for you know ten big casting directors for many, many years. And I was like, I kinda just want to go out and do it, like I want to do it my way. Which fortunately did work out for me. So when student filmmakers come to me, unless I’m so busy I can’t, I will definitely work with them. Because the other side of that too is they graduate, and they’re going to go on to more and more and bigger things. And I’ve normally continued working with student filmmakers for years and years. So it helps my career and hopefully it helps theirs.
What is it like to cast for a music video? Is that a much different audition process than the other mediums?
It kind of is. The music videos I’ve done, most of them were more direct bookings. I think I probably auditioned one or two that had them sending a self-tape of some sort. They’re not really speaking on film for the music videos which is interesting, because it’s almost like they need more acting ability. They need to portray this without any dialogue which is really cool. But I do also have a tendency to work with a lot of the same actors over and over when I know that they’re great, and I can trust them and know how they work. So with direct bookings I like to work with a lot of people that I already know which is cool. But yeah most of the music videos have been more direct booking type of stuff. Usually they’re looking for a specific look or style or something like that. Because it’s more about the look and the musician usually.
It’s nice that you have these relationships with actors where you’ll keep bringing them in for different things once you know how good they are.
Oh definitely. Well I like to be able to trust that when I put somebody on set they’re going to be a cool person for lack of a better word. We don’t want to put a diva or somebody on a set and then get complaints about them. So when I do hire somebody that I haven’t worked with before, I’ll always call and see who they’ve worked with last and see how they were on set. Because if I’m putting them in something I need to make sure that I know how they conduct themselves and act professionally.
It sounds like you’re a very hands-on casting director.
Yeah I try to be. Well you know it’s my name and my reputation as well. When I put somebody into something it will come back to me if there’s an issue, I’m one of the first people they’ll call. But in the same respect when somebody’s really awesome they also call me and say that.
What’s the best way to impress you at an audition?
I would say the best way to impress me is to own it, to know what you’re doing or to act like you know what you’re doing. But whatever way you choose to do your audition, just be confident. Confidence is number one. If you’re doing it completely wrong I’ll just let you know, and you can redo it in the way that I had envisioned or the director had envisioned. Or I can be like, “Wow I hadn’t thought of the way that you’re portraying this character. This is amazing.” So I don’t think there’s any wrong way as long as you have confidence.
Confidence for sure goes a long way.
Just own it, whatever it is, own it and be sure of it. And that’s going to come across more than anything else.
Since you cast projects like short films and web series, you audition a lot of new actors, I’m assuming. Are there any common audition mistakes new actors tend to make?
Well I think that they need to really prepare. I think sometimes new actors think they can just kind of come in and wing it. Don’t try to wing it. I’d say prepare, to the point where you can be off-book, or prepare enough to have that confidence level. And I also think there’s no need to come in and be like, “Oh I’m so nervous.” Because that doesn’t do any good because to be honest, I’m nervous too. Like I have to be in there and I don’t want to mess anyone up. I want everyone to get the job. So I don’t need to know that anyone else is nervous.
Actors might not realize, the person on the other side could also be nervous.
Sure you know, because if I’m reading with them or if my reader is, I don’t want to throw anybody off their game, let’s say if I have a weird look on my face. So I’m always really conscious of that because there’s a lot that goes into it. And I know these actors prepare so hard. And everybody wants each audition that they go in for, they want to book and I want everyone to book it too. So yeah I would say don’t act like you’re nervous. And if you are nervous great but you’re an actor. So don’t let me know [laughs].
Great advice, thank you for that. Taking a step back before the audition, when you are going through submissions to select who you want to see, what is the most important thing you are looking for?
Well the first thing we see is the headshot. So headshots need to look like the actor. I cannot stress that enough. There’s times when unfortunately I’ve brought an actor in based on the headshot, an actor I didn’t know, and they show up and I don’t even recognize them. So you have to look like your headshot. I know headshots can be expensive. They shouldn’t be, you really don’t need to go get the most expensive headshots. It really just needs to look like you, and be very well lit I think is the key. Show a little personality in your headshot. That’s awesome. But I’ve seen so many crazy weird headshots [laughs]. It’s very strange. But a lot of you, a little personality, great lighting, and that’s all that’s needed, simple and just to look like you. I think that’s number one, it is the first thing that we see.
To just look like yourself. And a natural look right? Not too much makeup.
Exactly. And usually with a submission, we get several different photos and so if you throw one in there where you’re dressed like a policeman and the role is looking for a policeman, that’s really cool, that’s great. But it still has to look like you. It can’t be ten years old. If I’m looking at a photo of you with totally different hair and it’s ten years old, I’m going to be really confused when you walk in the room. And the same with reels. Keep them updated. It’s important too. Show your more recent work that you’ve got. Because especially if you’re working you’re going to keep getting better and better and doing different things. So I think that’s really important to keep everything updated.
As we slowly get out of this quarantine, do you think the industry is going to bounce back? Do you have any projects getting lined up for when things open back up?
Yes, yes and yes! I do have projects I’m working on already for as soon as things open up. I think that we’re definitely going to bounce back, I actually think we’re going to bounce back better than before. Because I think that we can be more streamlined in everything. We’ve seen that during the quarantine, that we can streamline everything and we can do things outside of the box. All the content that’s been produced during quarantine is absolutely phenomenal. I’ve just seen so much, and you’re talking about one person in their house making crazy amazing content. So I think that’s something that the whole industry needs to take a look at, because there’s so much out there that we could be doing. And I think hopefully people see the quarantine as kind of a good thing, a little break. But really good for everybody to reset themselves and get right back on track.
A sunny outlook from a sunny person, who suggests we get drinks the next time I’m in LA. A casting director so approachable you can have drinks with her? Cheers to Jaimie Beebe, and to what I know will be a long and successful career.