Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
I have been very fortunate to book some of my favorite casting directors and other industry professionals as our guest speakers for our Casting Networks’ free monthly seminars this year. I was tickled when casting director Chadwick Struck spoke to our group on June 21. Chadwick is one of my favorites who is a wonderful actors’ advocate that has stayed oh-so-kind & humble over the years. Here is his bio-
In 2010, Chadwick was voted by readers of Backstage West as Favorite Film CD / Runner-up. Chadwick has cast voiceovers, commercials, theatre, television, internet/digital, and feature films. Chad got his start working in episodic television casting for a very busy Casting Director on Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise (Pilot), and Star Trek video games. He then went on to work in feature films with a well known feature film CD, including Herbie: Fully Loaded, Just Friends (starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, & Anna Faris), Chaos Theory (starring Ryan Reynolds), Walkout (dir: Edward James Olmos; HBO FIlms), and The Heartbreak Kid (starring Ben Stiller, Danny McBride, & Malin Akerman). Chadwick has been busy the past few years, working on Envelope, The Ventriloquist, Spirit of a Denture (Kevin Spacey stars in all Three), The Smile Man, Saving Norman, and Love’s Routine (Willem DaFoe stars in Last Three), all six for Trigger Street productions. Zombeavers (Tribeca 2014) produced by Benderspink, Armory, & Evan Astrowsky, A Green Story, Tbilisi, I Love You (Starring Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell), Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, Poker Night (starring Ron Perlman, Titus Welliver, Giancarlo Esposito, Beau Mirchoff, Halston Sage, & Ron Eldard), Heebie Jeebies (SYFY TV Movie), Flying Monkeys (SYFY TV Movie), Sequence (Best of the Fest – L.A. Shorts Fest), Origins of Wit & Humor, Makings of You, & Cover Artists (Relativity Media).
Chadwick began, “How’s everybody today? [Enthusiastic group response] Nice! So we’ll try to make this a little bit of an interactive experience. I’ll give you my spiel here in the beginning, and then we’ll get into some questions, but let’s start off if anybody has any updates or exciting things going on. Anybody want to talk about that? Is that a strange way to start?” An actor chimed in, “I’ll start,” and told how she had just been offered representation. Other actors’ good news reports followed.
Chadwick continued, “Cool! In about a week or so from now, I’m going into my 17th year of casting. I started as a college student working for a well-known casting office on the Star Trek TV shows. I moved on in late 1998 and worked for another well-known casting office. Both casting offices were great, doing a ton of TV shows, so I kind of started off in a bit of a factory everywhere I was working. I’ve always been pretty gifted with a good memory. I was into collectibles: sports cards, comics and such, so I’ve always been able to keep a good way of retrieving things and putting a map in my brain with memory-related things, so being in an office where there’s like five and six shows going on at a time, where we’re constantly sharing ideas and being able to remember those successful players, is kind of the ‘rules of the road’ for me. I’ve been kind of forced to learn by doing different genres and different formats and it’s been great.”
Chadwick continued, “After working with these wonderful offices, I went and worked at the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson at the Center Theatre Group. I was fortunate to work for another amazing CD. We got to work with Sir Peter Hall and the Shakespeare Repertoire of 1999 (Measure for Measure & Midsummer Night’s Dream), Enigma Variations (starring Donald Sutherland and Jamie Sheridan) and also help cast (Neil Simon’s play) The Dinner Party (starring Frances Conroy, Henry Winkler, and John Ritter). After working at Center Theatre Group I went back and worked with the folks I started with for about another two years. That included the pilot of the series Star Trek: Enterprise, so that was a great experience….casting female Vulcans coming in with the makeup and with the ears falling off and such [laughter]. So if you want to ask questions about makeup, I can tell you if it is good or not for the audition. After working with them for a couple of years, I spent a total of seven years in television. Gary Zuckerbrod and Reuben Cannon were two of the great casting directors that I was also fortunate to work under. I got into features with longtime Farrelly Brothers Casting Director, Rick Montgomery. We were doing Herbie: Fully Loaded and Just Friends simultaneously. I was fortunate because a project came my way through Bold Films and Trigger Street, and both companies produce great content. This project was Mini’s First Time (Tribeca Film starring Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Nikki Reed, Jeff Goldblum, and Carrie Anne Moss). This was my first feature film Casting Director credit.
Since 2007, I’ve had my own business, and that year I did seven films. Some years it’s been down to four or five. The last two years, I’ve done 26 projects…within these: nine full-length films, two of them for the SyFy Channel, but not always on breakdowns. I use a lot of my in-house records and previous experiences of people that I meet to cast. A lot of the time, I go a little under the radar when I’m seeking out (talent)…sometimes you’ll see a breakdown and sometimes you may not. Since 2010, I’ve completed five films as a producer and three of them have gotten some kind of distribution.”
He added, “My personal pet peeves…I really love an actor that is well-prepared, that comes and thinks of multiple ways to play it knowing the ‘inside the box’ choice as well as ‘outside the box.’ I tend to enjoy the outside-of-the-box way. My experience with working in TV versus film is TV is more instrumental and obviously there are great performances on television. I don’t mean to cheapen them but when you’re auditioning for a TV show and trying to win some love and credibility in an office, we want to see what you can do with the lines beat-for-beat and not changing anything, more suggested movement, no pantomiming, a lot of that stuff, so being rigid and understanding the pacing of the show and the instrumental task at hand. Working on Star Trek, we had some pretty layered stuff. We worked with classically-trained actors so there was voice and movement-related things going on. That tended to be a little different. Then with going to work on a procedural drama, it really stayed more that regimented way that I was discussing. Whereas film, I think it’s more about the behavior between the lines: the play, the characterization, and not being married to one way; so when an actor comes in and kills it with the words and they do a great job, but it’s kind of missing that flair or that flavor, or that entertainment value, as a casting director, you’re like, ‘Great but…’ You don’t mean to be that mean person but it’s really exciting when you can kind of step back when somebody has all these ways they want to play the character, or they’re coming in with a different vision than the writer or somebody else—and it works!
We rely a great deal of the casting process on the talent that comes through when you’re working on Independent films, because a lot of times these scripts have have an error or they may not be complete; or we’re kind of trying to figure out what kind of actor we’re looking for. Through the process, if everybody comes in and plays it just as the lines are written with no flair, it is going to have that kind of ‘vanilla’ or ‘usual’ feel, but, if an actor understands what the purpose of the scene is and then they bring a flair or some playfulness…or what I call an entertainment feel to it, you can kind of step back and be more of a co-pilot with that talent that comes into the room. Working with what’s brought into the room is something I think is a strength for someone like myself. I try to be a fly on the wall when need be, or step in and help out or work with what’s there.”
An actress stated that she acted as a teen, then walked away from it and is now back to it many years later because she loves acting and is told that she’s “a natural,” but she “never gets the part” and asked if “do they do that to everybody?” Chadwick responded, “Well, the tendency is that everybody believes that LA is a bit more charming and positive and will tell you that ‘You’re great,’ whereas New York is a little bit colder and like, ‘You’re the worst,’ so I think it’s a matter of a case-by-case basis per (casting) office. The only thing you have control over is making an impact in the audition and counting that, trying so hard to not worry about what might have been a loss. Or not getting a job because you want to keep it positive, walking in and out of the door as best you can.”
An actor asked about making very bold choices in an audition and Chadwick’s answer was one I had never heard a casting director advise, “Me personally? For film–especially indie film–I’m loving a risk-taker. That’s my favorite thing. I think when an actor takes risks and tries different things (you should always keep a journal of all these efforts too because you can remember what worked and what didn’t work), then that ‘blueprint’ can, go on for that similar role one year or six months later or whatever. I think as you stretch your instrument and continuously try to do something that might be a little bit different or a little bit bolder, you’re going to be that actor that’s going to feel a little more instinctive and comfortable in making such choices. You may fall on your face horribly the first five times [laughter] but if you’re a strong player and you’re willing dust yourself off and get back up, you’re going to continue to grow and continue to be able to do different things. I think that’s the kind of actor who can plug in to different genres too, because they’re thinking a little bit more and they’re a little more active versus kind of doing what the material tells you to do.”
Chadwick paired up about a dozen actors and gave out scenes. He had the actors get up on the stage to do their scenes and then gave them multiple redirects. It is always helpful when a casting director guest does this, so we in attendance can see how challenging a casting director’s job is. (Editor’s note – It is often easier to be an audience member watching and to see another actor’s choices than to be the actor in the hot seat auditioning!)
After the scene work, an actor asked Chadwick to clarify his term “instrumental” again. He answered, “Instrumental would be the things that are necessary to complete the scene. The instrumental task at hand is, the things you have to do to produce that scene. Basically, the procedural scene of her’s (referring to an earlier scene): she has to deliver it in a certain way. The charismatic part of it would be the ‘flavor’ or ‘personality’ on top of the things that are driving the scene. Is that making sense? The elements that you have to convey in an audition would be more of the instrumental and the other would be the charismatic or the behavior in between.”
Then an actor asked Chadwick what he thought the differences in the phrases, ‘in the moment’ and ‘organic’ meant and if they were “conceptually in the same family.” Chadwick replied, “More or less, yes. Organic is definitely overused over the last few years but we’re always trying to see some truth in that moment. Often we’re looking for the naturalized performance – where you have instinctive, naturalized, organic moments – but then you also have heightened comedy where you still want to be truthful within that heightened way. If you’re doing a broad comedy, you still want to make it believable, even if it has that ‘plastic-y’ or slightly heightened feel where it’s not grounded in a Napoleon Dynamite overly-naturalized way.”
In closing, Chadwick’s “last words of wisdom” were, “On a selfish level, I’m lucky to have you all here today. I’m really a big fan of actors. I think working in the independent world, I work kind of hand-in-hand in a brotherhood and sisterhood of actors. There is less separation whereas sometimes there’s that gap when actors feel, ‘Oh…those casting directors….’ I feel immersed with you guys. I don’t know if these are ‘words of wisdom’ so where am I going with this? [laughter] I say to stay true to yourself. Know your strengths but don’t be afraid to take risks. When you take those risks, as mentioned before, I feel like you only learn something about yourself and having that sift through your instrument, you feel it walking and talking and on your feet doing it instead of just thinking about it. So when you’re taking those risks, you’re adding more stuff to your toolbox. I think the only thing that you can do as an actor is continue to become instinctive in the different formats and the different genres. Number one, know the format you’re working in, if it’s TV or film, and know the rules of the road and don’t be afraid to bring some entertainment to it. There were some great performances today.”
Thank you Chadwick for a fun and enlightening morning!!!