Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Casting Networks does not have repeat guest speakers for our monthly free member Inside the Industry Seminars annually but as I wrote here earlier in the year-
“Our seminar May 21 started with some excitement when a new employee at the facility where the seminars are held forgot to open the space for us! Thanks to two delightful Los Angeles Police officers, fun casting director/guest speaker Killian McHugh, our valued volunteers, a gorgeous SoCal day and our seminar actor attendees who displayed their best improv skills, our very first ‘al fresco’ seminar was great! Thanks all for your good natured spirits and flexibility!”
Our outdoor seminar was truly wonderful but indeed because of this facility snafu, we invited Killian McHugh to come back for a “Part II” seminar since he was unable to work with the actors attending in May.
Here is Killian’s bio-
Killian McHugh came to Los Angeles in 1998 to pursue acting and actually booked the first job for which he auditioned! Since then, he has become a very successful actor in commercials. He began his career in commercial casting in 2000. Over the years, he has worked with just about every top casting office in the commercial industry as both a casting associate and as a session director.
He has also worked with many of the top commercial directors in the industry as a camera principle, and through the casting process. In 2005, he found his home at Alyson Horn Casting (AHC Inc.) and quickly became her “No.1” session director. In 2006, he founded Killian’s Workshop. This series of commercial workshops is geared towards teaching actors the intricacies involved in having a career in the commercial industry. In 2010, Killian’s workshop was voted best commercial workshop in Los Angeles in the Backstage West actor’s poll and Killian was also voted best workshop instructor in Los Angeles from that same poll.
He was also promoted from session director/casting associate to casting director within the AHC Inc. organization. When asked about his philosophy and point of view with which he teaches, Killian responded “I am all about empowering the actor. I am not teaching people how to book a commercial, I am teaching them how to have a career. ” “Leap and the net will appear” is his philosophy for casting, teaching and living.
Below are a few highlights from our November seminar. We also always enjoy it and learn when we can see our directors and casting director guest speakers doing what they do best with actors up on their feet!
Killian gave commercial copy for an MGM Grand Hotel spot that he cast to several sets of four actors who got up on the stage and read.
Afterward, Killian’s insights were very enlightening. Killian told us, “This was a fun little scene a while back. The pay wasn’t so great but it was an amazing booking because they flew you First Class to Vegas and it was for the MGM Grand, so you stayed in the suite and you had access to their food 24/7 and everything that you see if you look online at their commercials… the guy getting the massage, they did all the things for the actors. They actually got the hot stone massage, when you see them drinking the drinks, they’re actually drinking the drinks. [laughter] When you see them eating food, they had lobster served to them. They were at the nightclub partying, so it was an amazing four-day booking. So sometimes, you take a job because that’s kind of cool.” [laughter]
Referring to the actors who had just read in groups at the seminar, Killian continued, “Now…the reason I didn’t give specific critiques is because I wanted to see what everybody did as a group. Everybody did the same thing as a group even though people have commercial workshops on their resumes, how many people have heard of ‘cheating out’ in this room? (A show of hands from the audience) That’s just about everybody but nobody did it that came up here! And this is the problem with commercial auditions and that’s the main thing I wanted to point out to this because it happens every time. I said specifically the words to every single group that came up, ‘I am the camera‘ and I said, ‘I’ll also be the voice of the clerk’. Everybody did the same thing! They did all their reactions over here. (to their fellow actors) Now because we are in the room, we can see them all and that was okay because it was like a play to us. But when you’re doing this commercially for your career, the people standing next to you aren’t the ones picking you! They can’t pick you for that job. The people who are picking you are inside that camera. There is no artistic fulfillment to what we do. We are merely putting you on tape so that somebody in another city can see what you look like. If they cannot see you, they cannotbook you, you see? That is one of the things I say in class. My analogy is, if I couldn’t pick you out of a line-up, if I couldn’t swear in court, who you were, I can’t pick you for this job. You see, the camera equals the money. Everything has to be out to that camera so we can see your reactions. Cheating out does not feel natural but when you learn how to do it correctly, it does look natural. But it doesn’t feel natural to your body until it’s engrained in you. When I say in my class, it’s going to take 6-8 months until you forget about cheating out and then it happens and you’ll text me one day, ‘Oh my God! I didn’t think about it until I got home!’ That happens all the time but you have to understand that camera is your money, not that person next to you. No. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever look at somebody in a scene. It looks weird if you never look at somebody. Look at them for a second or so but the rest has to be out to that camera.”
Killian continued, “Another thing is that you don’t have to push it. Less is more & subtle is funnier. This was a zany, wacky couple (referring to the script) but that can be interpreted in many different ways. Every person did a different version. There is no wrong or right in what you do as long as you are grounded in reality. Again, it doesn’t have to be a caricature. When actors do that, they’re indicating. You never want to indicate as an actor, you just want to act. To feel it.”
- “If you think the thought, it will show up on your face”
- “Subtleness is smarter and funnier”
Then referring back to the readings, Killian said, “What I wanted to show isnobody made it about the client.”
Killian said, “Acting is a very tricky thing. LA is a very tricky thing because it’s sort of like you get in a perpetual Groundhog Day. With the weather, with the auditioning and all the stuff, you can get stuck in this rut where ‘I’ll do it tomorrow…’ because every day seems the same here. We don’t have the seasonal changes and things like that. So…time flies by, okay? So you have to take a moment… whatever moment in that day is …whether it’s five minutes or one hour a day or whatever it is you do & say ‘That’s my job. This is what I do for a living. I have to further myself today and every day of the week…’ then I can go to Malibu, then I can go to the Runyon Canyon, then I can do what ever I want but this has to come first because…and this is really what I teach in my class….if you don’t have that drive, if you don’t have that determination, if don’t have that obsession for this and I don’t mean this commercial thing we’re doing here. I mean for the theatrical world, the problem is that somebody in this towndoes and they will beat you every time, you see?”
Killian said, “Two things I’ll leave you with. One is and this is what I try to teach in my class and it will help you as a person and that’s what I care about more…you must watch Charlie Rose. You must Tivo Charlie Rose every night. That’s one assignment as an actor. He makes you a better artist, a better citizen and a better person. Thursday nights’ show and I will empty my bank account to anybody who can show me a better hour of television. I get to be the judge of that hour…[laughter] but Thursday nights’ show about Shakespeare was mind-blowing! I was almost in tears…not because it was like a sappy sentimental thing but because it was so pure and wonderful! You must watch Charlie Rose.”
Killian continued, “The second thing is you must watch Joan Rivers’ new documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Now regardless of what you think of her and her humor, you have to watch it because you are an actor and an artist. If you don’t have the drive that this 76 year-old woman has, who is already famous and rich, then you have to seriously re-think this. [professional acting] Now my own personal critique of the movie and you don’t know what editing does but I feel that maybe she’s at this part where she doesn’t enjoy it so much anymore, from this fear kind of thing that we sometimes fall in to. Regardless of that part, you have to have that drive now at your level because that’s what she has at her level.”
In closing, Killian mentioned that if your passion is no longer acting, to find what else you are passionate about, no matter what it may be. He stated, “If that’syour passion, go do that thing! That’s what I’m trying to say. You have to figure out what your passion is. If it’s this [professional acting] then it has to be how I teach my class -noble sh**, take no prisoners, all the marbles, all the time! If you discover it’s something else, don’t feel like you’re quitting.
There’s a difference between walking away and running away. But whatever it is you find, you have to still attack it with the same determination I’m talking about with this. That’s it. How you do one thing in life is how you do everything in life! That’s how I teach and thank you for coming out on a Saturday!”
Then rousing audience applause! Thank you Killian for another very informative, forthright seminar!
To read our in-depth The Networker article about Killian earlier in the year: