Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
What a fun and lively Inside the Industry Seminar we had on February 22 with the smart and enthusiastic casting director Chad Ritterbach!
Here is Chad’s bio-
Chad Ritterbach serves as the founder and managing director of bokcreative inc. With more than a decade of experience in casting and entertainment, Chad specializes in working with both seasoned actors and real people to provide creative solutions for his clients. Having worked with established directors and photographers with names such as David La Chapelle, Peter Arnell, Ellen von Unwerth and Spike Jonze, Chad has also provided commercial casting services to some of the worlds most recognized brands. Not stopping there, Chad has also provided music video casting services for notable and Grammy award- winning performance artists such as Britney Spears, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Madonna and Rihanna to name a few.
Here is a brief overview of some of the things Chad covered-
Chad spoke of his early years as an actor then as a high-fashion modeling agent. He then continued about how he branched off on his own and launched bokcreative going on eight years ago. He said, “It’s so universal and timing is everything. This is not something I ever went to school for. This was something that I did not know but I just ended up on the other side of the camera, I absolutely love it because I have a passion for it. I’ve got a passion for the actor. I’ve got a passion for people. It was nice to see something totally different than just high fashion. She (his former employer, then partner) gave me an eye for what real people looked like: young, old, missing limbs, freckles, braces. Just the beauty within people that was different from the fashion eye—long, skinny, and tall. What real people looked like and how do you embrace that and how do you embrace originality and good acting skills and what brings you to it?”
“I cast everything. I cast film, I cast commercial, music video and high-fashion print. I loved that I got in this business at a very young age and that I was pliable and people could mold me. I learned everything about this business. I learned about it before technology even caught up to this. I remember when Beau Bonneau, the owner of Casting Networks/LA Casting first started the system and I was one of the very first ones to scan in a headshot into the system and I didn’t know what the system was going to do because ‘back in the day,’ we did piles and piles and piles (of headshots). ‘Yes/No/Maybe’, ‘Yes/No/Maybe’ and then you’d turn over every headshot and then pile all the different agencies separately. You would have a pencil and you would call the agency and write down the time they (the actor) would come to audition. That took so much time and that was at the end of the day after you had been casting from 10:00AM-6:00PM. We took Polaroids and you filled out a size sheet for every single casting session. We would have to build binders this big of the Polaroids and the Size Sheets of what you look like now and then we’d have to copy it into four binders because one went to Chicago, one went to New York, one went to the directors’ house and one went to the producer’s house. It was so much ‘man work’ and I don’t want to say waste but it was what it was back then. So I would work until 2 o’clock in the morning from 9:00AM and now this industry has evolved itself where myself, I can have a life! I’m casting from 10:00AM to 6:00PM and right at six, I can send off a link. I’m done for my day because it’s automatic.”
“I mean, I made my keep and I started in the ‘old school’ way and I’m still going and still learning and I still have a great passion for all of it. There is no specific genre I love because I love doing it all. It’s interesting because one day I can cast babies for a Gerber commercial or I’ll work with David LaChapelle and cast like drag queens, transexuals, and very interesting and artsy stuff. Or I’ll be on a film where I live in Bakersfield for a month and I’ll be casting the ‘locals—the Taco Truck Lady and the Bus Driver. Those projects are really interesting and deep because I love real people and I love actors too.”
When an actor asked about self-submissions for jobs, Chad said, “For 99.9% of the jobs, I do open it to public submissions. I need to see new faces and new faces move to Los Angeles every single day. They signup to Casting Networks every single day. I’ll tell you when I’m looking at my desktop, you’re all lined up. One says ‘BBR’ (an agency) and public submissions, I could care less if you submit yourself or the agent submits you. I’m looking for somebody who can be that role. So it doesn’t hurt at all to submit yourself publicly. Half of the jobs, I wouldn’t be able to do if I didn’t have a public submission. Say for instance, it’s non-union and pays a $200 rate, which we all want to work and be in front of the camera. It’s not about the money. It’s about you getting in front of the camera and doing what you absolutely love. Agencies are really not going to submit on a $200 job because they’re not making a lot of commission off of it but publicly, I’m getting good talent because you want to do it and you want to get your face in front of that camera. Sometimes it gets very difficult because with technology and everything moving so fast, I’ll be awarded a job at two o’clock in the afternoon. It takes me thirty minutes to type it up and to get the breakdown out. That’s 2:30PM. They want me to cast the very next day, so it sits for about two hours and I know it goes directly to your phone when I send out a public submission or project. Sometimes an agent is on a two-hour lunch break, so guess what? If you’re with that agency and that agency is at lunch and they haven’t submitted you and you don’t submit yourself, you’re never getting in that room because at the end of the day, I’ve got to get my schedule out. I don’t have 24 hours to even prep a job. Sometimes I have two hours because at that 2:30PM time, I’ve got two hours to let it sit and then I start selecting and I’ve got to send my schedule out by 5:30 or 5:45PM to agents or the time comes directly to you for the next day, so it never hurts to publicly submit yourself to any job. I say, ‘Go for it!’”
Another actor asked Chad if there were any jobs that would hurt the actor’s career when they are first starting out and then further mentioned that he was approached about doing a “Reality-type Chippendale” show. Chad responded, “That might not be the best if you want to take this seriously and with everything being leaked, that could get into the wrong hands in five years when you’re up for a very serious role. I will tell you this. I did a commercial job… (as he chuckled aloud)…where they wanted like a ‘hot Dad’ I think it was like ______ Resorts and he was in the pool with the wife and they had a kid but they wanted a hot Dad. So I cast a hot Dad. It was a Disney company that noticed on his resume that he had ‘Stripper’ under his Special Skills. They hired him but with this stripper, we need to know if there is any footage and how deep that footage is. So I go to the agent and they’re laughing on the phone. [laughter] I say, ‘He’s about to lose this job and what is the extent?’ He was a guest star on a little show where they did a birthday party for a female and he was a hot cop and he took off his shirt. That was the extent of it. He was shirtless, so he thought, ‘Oh, I can play a stripper.’ Luckily, he still got the job but sometimes things can still can come back and bite you. Go with your instincts and if you want to do it, do it. If you don’t want to do it and think it’s going to hurt you, always go with your instincts with everything that you do in life, even if you’re not doing this anymore. That’s the one piece of advice. If you feel that it’s right, great. If you feel that it’s not right, then it’s not right.”
To a young actress’ Mom’s question regarding her daughter’s hair, Chad answered, “Especially with ethnicities. If they hire a Mom with straight hair or curly hair, it’s really great to see if you do have ‘ethnic’ hair, you can change it up a bit because you can crossover to different nationalities depending on what the hair looks like. With boys, boy’s hair is boy’s hair.”
· What is he currently casting? “Casting directors work like actors. We get put ‘on avail.’ So, I’m on avail for four jobs next week. Right now today, I’m not on anything but could I be next week or they could release the avail? Yes they can. We work exactly like you work. We get excited when they put us on avail and then they never call back and we’re like, ‘Arrggghhhhh!!!!’ [laughter] but, my most exciting thing right now is that I’m building my own facility in Hollywood that I’m really proud of. The foundation is up and the 2×4’s are in place. That’s my next fun project right now.”
· Monologues? “I think it’s an ‘old-school’ way of doing things. You’ll notice that there are so many young directors that are coming up right now, it’s a new breadth of this business and I think it’s more about connection and giving about a paragraph but a whole monologue unless it’s staged in theatre, I don’t know that anybody needs to see that much because once you’re on tape for about two or three minutes on that camera, I know you’re that character. I know that I’m going to take that chance on you and you come back to the callback and they give you an actual monologue. (for the character you are reading for) Yes, I do see them fading out because it’s only two or three minutes that I need to see you on camera to know that it is exactly what it is that I am looking for.”
· Headshots? “I’m very visual and observant in a photographer’s sense because I see faces and I see you being in the commercial, so I don’t really go through resumes. This (holding up a headshot) is the most golden thing that you’ve got going for you. That first headshot…sometimes when there’s 5000 submissions, I’m not scrolling through your pictures. I see this one headshot and this is what I select and I’m just going off this one headshot as your golden opportunity to be in this business, so you’ve got to make sure you have a good photographer and something that really represents what you truly look like. A lot of people end up putting twenty or thirty photos on their Casting Networks site. If you’re a good casting director like I think I am, I don’t have to see you in a carpenter hat to think you could be a carpenter. [laughter] I don’t really need to see you in a nurse’s uniform to think you could be my nurse. That’s my job. I’ve got to create your character for you. Unless you do something outlandish and crazy like you blow fire or are a stiltwalker, or you do a good impersonation of an Elvis or a Marilyn Monroe, those are always good photos to put up or if you’re a skateboarder or a surfer. An action shot to sell yourself, that’s always golden. Or something that you do that is different from anybody else in this room. Even if you’re good at playing a meth addict and you’ve got a picture where you’re looking a little crazy, that’s something great and sellable. When you submit to jobs, you can change that first photo, so you know specifically what you think they would be looking for and you really want that photo to represent you to get a chance to get into that room to audition.”
“I’m only one casting director sitting in front of you now but I love anything (shot) outdoors. I don’t like too much ‘in studio’ because I feel there is so much ‘cold’ if you’re up against a dull background. I’m bringing you in because I want to see you and the way to show you with a little nature, but not too much but a little nature and natural light on you. That’s going to look like the real you. I just have a passion for seeing something that’s outdoors and natural. Ladies, very little make-up. Simple and polished yet natural. Something that feels very soft and not so hard unless you’re comedy and there’s a funny background behind you and you’re making some weird face but that could sell you when I’m hiring comedic actors.”
· Callbacks & Social Media? “Sometimes when you’re in a callback room, my producers will Facebook and Google your name. If it’s Disney, they’re very strict and they’re like, ‘Oh, she has a red cup in her hands…I don’t know if we should hire her.’ Sometimes, that does happen! Or I’m casting a job and they look up and Google a name and see a guy in his mesh underwear and they go, ‘I don’t think that we can go with him.’ It’s a really quick industry and everybody investigates, so play it as safe as you possibly can, so that it doesn’t hurt you.”
· “I find 90% of all my talent off of LA Casting.”
Chad said, “Submit yourself to everything. If it’s no-pay, who cares because guess what? On that no-pay job, it’s a director that’s about to do a Chrysler spot and you’re in front of that director…’I want that girl in my Chrysler spot.’ So you’re doing something for no pay and then you get a National commercial out of it, you just need to be on that set in front of the camera. Don’t be picky unless you know it’s like background and you don’t want to. Sometimes I’ll call when I’m booking background and I will let you know that I am booking background but I am only booking 5 of you, so it’s not 300 of you waiting to eat a sandwich and a cup of Kool-Aid and you’re in this line forever. [laughter] I will be specific going, ‘You know my director hand-picked you. It’s $75 bucks for the day and there are five of you guys. It’s going to be fun.’ So I’ll specifically let you know, so if it’s 300 people you can say, ‘You know, I don’t feel like doing that today’ and that’s okay. Submit to everything, everything, everything!”
Chad’s last “words of wisdom” were, “Like I said, submit yourself for everything that you think you are right for, whether it’s pay or no-pay because you never know working with that director because you never know what they are working on next. It’s about making that connection. Be knowledgeable. Listen to session directors when you go into that room. Don’t do anything too wild or outlandish. When you do get that callback, make yourself known in that callback room. One word of advice is that I do get a lot of mailers when you mail your postcard. Just for me being one individual casting director, you want to mail a postcard if you’re with a new agency or if you’ve just signed with an agency, if you have a guest spot on NCIS on this episode. If you do anything that’s kind of crazy like blow fire or ice skate and or if you want to send an ‘action shot’ on a postcard because that’s a specialty. Those are kind of rare and we do keep those. If you’re just sending me this (Chad held up an actors’ 8×10 hardcopy headshot) do I hold onto it? Most likely no because I work on a project to project basis and there is nothing different from this shot than any other shot unless you’re a Marilyn impersonator and there’s a picture of you as Marilyn, yeah, I’m going to keep that. If you’re on an episode or signed with another agency, those are good times but to just keep on mailing, mailing, mailing and mailing them a shot of yourself, I don’t keep them. They go in the trash, so spend your money on really good headshots. Always have them in the car. Commercially, I never take them because it’s all digital. If I’m working on theatrical, I sometimes do keep them but I’ve already got access to all of this so I don’t really need the hardcopy but if I ask you for it, you’d better have it. But you don’t have to do a ton of mailers unless there is something that you want to announce or if you cut your hair and look completely different, then I’d send those out. I don’t want you to waste a lot of money on those mailers on postage because everything you need is on Casting Networks/LA Casting and that’s what’s selling you and getting into those auditions. Save those 40 cents per mailer up and use it for a really good headshot and classes.”
Thank you Chad for an engaging and informative seminar! Chad’s newly-built casting facility will open shortly after this article is published. My very best to you Chad!
950 N.Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038