I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Casting Director Rachel Reiss of Liz Lewis Casting Partners. Rachel has been with the company for five years, and discusses the ins and outs of being a successful Casting Director in New York City.
Christian Roberts: How long have you been a CD at Liz Lewis Partners?
Rachel Reiss: I’ve been with Liz Lewis Casting Partners for about five years. I started at Telsey and Company casting theater and film and then fell into the non-scripted world. During that time I did commercials intermittently. Liz’s company was a great opportunity to do it all – non-scripted, film, commercials, voice overs etc.
Roberts:What outlets are best for finding new talent?
Reiss: We do it all. What makes us good casting directors is that we find talent everywhere and anywhere. I teach nationally, I see as many performances as possible, whether theater, comedy or film. I go to the improv theaters all the time. Many producers request improvisers so that if there is a last minute change, the talent won’t be rattled. But every project requires a different level or type of talent, depending on the client’s goal. So every project I approach with new eyes and pursue different approaches to find that perfect talent.
Roberts: Has the world of online content helped you in Casting for various projects? If so, how?
Reiss: Online content has expanded the boundaries and amount of work out there significantly. We always tell people that if you don’t have a lot of work to show, make your own. We try to watch all the web-series out there. The easier it is for us to see an actors’ work, the easier it is for us to call them in for the right role. In terms of the casting process, it has sped up the process a lot.
Roberts: How often do you teach at One on One and do you find outlets such as this helpful in casting for projects?
Reiss: Classes, seminars, and any opportunities to meet with casting directors and agents, help. From my side, it’s about seeing what the actor can do, seeing how they take direction (if the class calls for that) and having the conversations about the talent’s goals. And again, the more people I meet, the bigger my arsenal of talent is. So studios such as One on One are a great way for me to meet talent in an intimate setting. Also tools such as online content and reels, help quite a bit.
Roberts: What’s the hardest obstacle you’ve had to face to get to where you currently are?
Reiss: Making the jump between scripted and non-scripted was a big challenge. They require very different methods of work and the industries are kept pretty separate. But thanks to amazing mentors, hard work, and convincing people to take a chance on me, I now get to do it all. And I truly believe my experience in non-scripted makes me a better casting director, no matter the project, because I approach each project with an out of the box and fresh eyes mentality.
Roberts: What are some words of advice that you can pass on to anyone looking to have a career as a CD or an Actor?
Reiss: For those who want to get into casting, I would recommend getting involved with CSA (the Casting Society of America). As a casting professional, it is wonderful to have the support of colleagues and work with them to increase the visibility and standards of casting. For those just starting out, it provides great networking opportunities.
For actors, I would say the more you can see acting from the business side the better. That entails putting in the time, having the tools (headshot resume, etc.), being professional. showing up on time, and displaying proper etiquette (like any job) and understand that we, as casting directors, are rooting for you. Part of our job is to make you look good, so if you are right for the role, we will do everything in our power to help you get there. If we give you direction – no matter how off base it may seem, it’s for a specific reason. Working with actors is one of the fun parts for us! Let us guide you.