Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
It is so interesting how things have a way of working out! For February’s Inside the Industry Seminar, our original guest speaker, the wonderful casting director Megan Foley, was snowed in and had to cancel the day before our scheduled Saturday seminar! Ms. Foley was very apologetic and even offered to call other casting directors to fill her slot. Then, wonderful casting director Renita saved the day and with Renita’s strong following on Facebook and Twitter, with less than 24 hours until the seminar, we had a full and very receptive house! Special thanks to volunteers Jessica, Terri , Richard and Casting Networks’ Mary for their help this with this seminar.
Here is Renita’s biography-
Renita is an undisputed “Who’s Who” in the world of Casting. With a seemingly psychic eye for spotting Superstar Talent and matching them with projects, Renita has been WOW-ing her clients since 1999. Specializing in character-driven comedy commercial spots, Renita’s recent General and Hispanic Market projects include: AT&T, CA Lottery, McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Lowe’s, Home Depot, Budweiser, Axe, and more. She is based in Los Angeles with additional offices in New York and Boston. She assembled the memorable ensemble cast of Jonas Åkerlund’s critically acclaimed SPUN (2002), which includes Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Eric Roberts, Brittany Murphy, and Mickey Rourke. She also cast Sarah Silverman’s buzz-heavy comedy JESUS IS MAGIC (2005). One need only read a portion of her credits list or view her website to get that Renita “plays big” and with the best of the best! Renita has put a slew of actors, some of whom are now the most sought after in Hollywood, into projects just before they hit the “big time”: Jeremy Renner, Emmy Rossum, Simon Helberg, Josh Gomez, Izabella Miko and Kate Micuccito name a few. She’s even shared the big-screen herself alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman in NEXT STOP WONDERLAND! Renita employs a transformational approach to casting as she presents a new realm of what’s possible in this arena. She created the first-ever TRANSFORMATIONAL DECLARATIONS CD FOR ACTORS and donates at least 5% of net proceeds to philanthropic organizations through her CASTING WITH A CONSCIENCE program.
Renita began by saying, “Good morning you guys! I’m so happy to be here! I’m not Megan Foley. [laughter] Megan is awesome! I’m sad for you that she’s not here, but excited for me because Mary called me yesterday morning and asked me if I could come and speak with you today. One thing that you just get to know about me right away is there is pretty much no greater joy and privilege than me getting to do this with you. Me getting to contribute in a sweet way, me getting to be with you and me being part of having your lives work better and your lives be more fun and fulfilling is really part of what I am on this planet for. The fact that you’re actors is sort of like the side note to that. The fact that you’re actors is my access to you guys having great lives so other people can have great lives. That’s sort of a new discovery for me as well just in terms of figuring out how to really make a difference and really care for people the way I do. I realized that I have this audience called actors because I’m a casting director that enables me to empower you from a career standpoint but more important to me is how are you from a life standpoint? That’s really, really what matters to me. So… My name is Renita, I think I said that once but I’ll say it again. I am a casting director. My main office is here is Los Angeles. I also have satellite affiliate offices in Boston and New York. I love what I do, I love the city that I get to do it in and I love the people that I get to do it with!”
Renita then said to the audience, “Quick question. If you look to your left and your right, how many of you actually know the person you are sitting next to already? (a show of hands) Okay…good…you’re ‘regulars!’ That’s cool. You actually already know each other. That was like about 50% or maybe a little less. I have a request which is we’re going to take the next few minutes here…I have a little music, a new song that I am wild about and I think you guys might like it too. The title of it is Know My Name. It’s by a group called Nightmares on Wax. What I would like to do is literally take the next three minutes and I want you guys to go around and meet each other. Now my request is obviously go to people you haven’t met yet. Walk up to them and just say…(as an example) if I’m doing it with you, I’m going to say, ‘Hi I’m Renita.’ … ’Hey there. My name is Victor’… ‘Victor, what do you like about your life?’ Victor-‘My confidence and giving back.‘ Renita -‘Awesome.’ Then Victor is going to ask me the same thing.” Renita’s response was, “What I like about my life is that I get to do things like this, be with people and make a difference.’ That’s what I would like you guys to do for about three minutes…let me get the music ready because that’s important. And the question is not ‘What do you like about me?’ [laughter]…It’s ‘What do you like about your life?’ That’s a very good distinction!”
After a few minutes of enthusiastic group sharing and “meet and greets”, Renita continued, “I get so excited when I have this opportunity, that I literally can’t stop thinking of all the stuff that I want to talk to you guys about, share with you and ask you and have you ask me, so we need about five hours! Can everyone stay? [laughter] No…we’re only going to be here until noon.”
Renita then said, “I’ve already shared with you a little bit of what matters to me. Just out of curiosity, how many of you are on Twitter and how many of you follow me on Twitter? One note about Facebook is I’ve got two Facebook pages-A fan page and a regular Renita Casting page. I’ve made a changeover recently where I’m using my Renita Casting page for my work/client relationships, so that I can build more jobs, so I can give you guys more opportunities and I’m using the fan page to keep in touch with actors in my actor community, to offer opportunities, etc…If you would ‘Like’ the fan page, that’s how you’ll hear from me, keep in touch with me and hear what I’m up to, but you probably don’t want to ‘Friend Request’ the other page because I am actually in the process of weeding it out and making it a ‘Client Only’ page right now. What happened is that I maxed out on actors and I couldn’t accept any client requests and that wasn’t working.”
Renita continued, “I have something planned a little bit later which is an exercise that I want to do with you guys. I read an article the other day and if you do follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you might’ve already read it. This article blew my mind and expressed in a way that I haven’t been able to put it so succinctly to people and especially to actors, what you could do around creating your career and creating your life and sort of like a daily practice that you can put in. We’re going to do at the end because it is something that I do every day in my life about everything that I am committed to, not just my career. To me, it’s one of the most powerful contributions I can make to you and something I can give to you to take away with you especially with it being Academy Awards weekend.
Before we do that though, I feel like at this point, I could sit here and tell you how I got here, who I am and what I do, but I feel like you guys know that, so if you have specific questions during Q and A (questions and answers) just ask me. I’d rather hear from you. So what I’d like to do is a Q and A part where you guys get to ask me questions and I have a couple of requests during that. Did you guys watch the SAG Awards? One thing I love about the SAG Awards is at the very opener when they trail the camera around and everyone is finishing their dessert and they land on someone who we all know, they say, ‘Hi, I’m so-in-so and when I was coming up in Hollywood, someone told me’…it’s usually a story about someone telling them they’d never make it. Things like that. It moves me to tears every time. At the end, they say, ‘My name is so-in-so and I’m an actor.’ “ Teary eyed, Renita said, “I get so moved by it. I get so moved by the time people are sitting there like what they’ve been committed to, to be sitting there and I think that’s something that I want to share even tomorrow as we watch the Academy Awards. It’s one thing to love peoples’ dresses and it’s another thing to have loved them or not loved them in a movie, but like when you’re watching someone get nominated and when you’re watching someone stand up and receive an award for their work, are you sitting there present to like what it took to get there? Are you sitting there also getting that that’s also your peer and that can be you? More importantly, that’s another human being who is having their dream come true?” More in tears, Renita said, “I always get moved from that…I’m a cryer. You’ll learn that about me.” [laughter]
So today in the Q and A, when you introduce yourself to me, before you ask a question, I’d love for you to stand up, I’d love you to tell me your name. I’d love you to say it as, ‘Hi. My name is Renita and I‘m an actor and what matters to me is….’ And tell me something that matters to you and then ask me your question. You got that? Stand and introduce yourself as if the camera is on you at the SAG Awards or Golden Globes like no kidding. This, by the way, is not just for a fun practice on a Saturday morning in the Senior Center. This is called “like what it’s going to take for your career to go forward,” okay? So there is also a very practical method to all my madness as well. Then ‘what matters to me is…’ and tell me one thing that matters to you ask your question, then I’ll answer it.”
Renita’s passionate seminars are a challenge to encapsulate in synergy and sense of community. After a spirited and moving Q and A, here are some points that were covered.
New Media and being an actor-
- If you’re serious about acting, you have to be on Facebook and Twitter. Think of how you can contribute. When people told Renita about Twitter, she thought, “I don’t need one more thing to keep up with” but since then, she has been able to do her job faster, better, has made more contacts and has had more fun. She added, “Use Twitter to follow other people. There are tons of professionals all over the world sharing information, opportunities and anecdotes over Twitter. It is mind blowing what’s available to you. Audition opportunities, course opportunities, speaking engagements, seminars, workshops…it is exploding and it is only going to grow.” Also, when Renita needs interns in her office, she will put it out of Twitter and Facebook.
- The actor community on Twitter has “Tweetups” like meet-ups. Casting directors and agents are joining too.
Submissions and auditions-
- Renita puts out casting information on Twitter and Facebook but still accepts/does the submissions through Casting Networks
- Renita casts a lot for the Hispanic market.
- How do you know your agent submitted you for a job? 1. Trust your agent. Talk to them about your special skills, etc. 2. If you do self-submit, put a note saying, “Hey, my agent may have submitted me. I’m with ___ Agency.
- Pay attention to your explanation at the beginning. It’s there to help you.
- For callbacks, they still use hardcopy headshots. For everything else, it is mostly digital.
- In callbacks, it is usually the first time the director and the ad agency have been in the room together since they agreed to do the job. This might be the first time the ideas have started flowing again because of the actors.
- With callbacks, you may be able to improvise with the script and should or create a button.
- Have a good reel or no reel. Renita is not a fan of reels where she cannot hear you speak.
Gifts from actors-
- Do whatever is an authentic expression of gratitude from you. (Thank you cards, flowers, wine, wine, baked goods, etc.) But nothing is expected of you.
Other important points-
- Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude!
- Be present to your thoughts and to your desires.
- Renita said that she’s an actor and loves being in front of audiences but she resisted the fact that maybe her performance isn’t on a sitcom or in front of the camera and said “Your goals do change.”
In closing, Renita shared the dynamic goal exercise from the article How Three Powerful Words Can Put You on the Path to Happiness by Martha Beck she had spoken about earlier. As various individuals participated in this exercise, and many were moved to tears as they affirmed and described their lifelong dreams. Renita then was given a rousing standing ovation!
I am very grateful to know Renita as a very cherished and respected friend and colleague. Thank you!