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Tracy WeisertSynopsis by Tracy Weisert

With her 25,000+ Twitter followers, commercial casting director Danielle Eskinazi set a seminar attendance record when she spoke at our free Inside the Industry Seminar on a very hot August 31st. Danielle’s parents attended too and Danielle said, ”My parents finally get to see what I do.” It was a fun, lively and informative seminar with lots of laughter!

Here is Danielle’s bio-

Danielle Eskinazi is an award-winning casting director with an eye for talent and a sixth sense when it comes to spotting substance beneath the surface. With over two decades casting films, television, theater, and commercials, Danielle has cast such known talent as David Bowie, Rosanna Arquette and Woody Harrelson, while also launching the careers of now-successful actors including Hank Azaria and Milla Jovovich. She is highly respected in the business for her creativity, integrity, and ability to draw out audition-nailing performances.

After several years of casting films, Danielle dove into the fast-paced world of commercials. Today Danielle Eskinazi Casting has cast over 3,000 national and regional spots and is known for finding edgy, interesting, and talented actors to suit her directors’ and clients’ needs.

Danielle has been nominated for the Talent Managers Association prestigious Seymour Heller Award for Best Commercial Casting Director of 2009, and was a runner up twice for Favorite Commercial Casting Director in Back Stage West.

She has been sharing her insights by teaching workshops at such venues as the Stella Adler Theater, and speaking on panels including one at the SAG Foundation, which was aired internationally. Danielle is also affiliated with the AFI Women’s Program, helping first-time directors cast their shorts.

Danielle’s latest venture is Actvice, an online service she created to give immediate and invaluable feedback on audition rehearsals, monologues, scenes, reels, and/or headshots.

Danielle began, “I have one question. Are you guys here for the air conditioning or me? [laughter] That makes me feel better. We have a packed house today. Thank you for coming Labor Day weekend. My name is Danielle Eskinazi. I’ve been casting for 25 years. And yes, I’ve been asked back, this is my second time. (speaking at our Casting Networks seminar) I’m going to go back a little bit. I started in retail and I was doing that for ten years and thought I was going to kill myself and I asked a friend of mine who worked for one of the biggest agencies at the time. I said to her, “What can I do in the industry? I have no idea.’ She said, ‘How about a casting director?’ I was like, ‘Okay!’ [laughter] So I started that path. I had no idea that I was going to end up here. I thought it was a one-time shot. Two days later, I quit my job and I was hired by Risa Bramon and Billy Hopkins which is crazy! There were so many people that wanted that job. For some reason, I got it and I had no experience whatsoever. It was a film called At Close Range with Christopher Walken and Mary Stuart Masterson. It was an amazing, amazing film. They were working on the East Coast and they needed someone working on the West Coast. I walked in. They had an office for me. An office. [laughter] I walked in and they’re like, ‘This is your desk.’ I had no idea what was going on. ‘Okay, I’ll just sit here.’ Sean Penn was sitting in my office and he said, ‘Do you mind if I just call my wife?’ and that was Madonna. I was like, ‘No, go ahead.’ [laughter] And I thought, ‘This is where I belong.”

Danielle continued, “So I worked with Risa for a while. She was my mentor actually. She taught me so much. Has anybody seen [the film] Casting By…? It’s an amazing documentary. I hope you all see that. A friend of mine, Lauren Lloyd who is also a casting director, was working for Marion Dougherty at the time. I would call her every five minutes, ‘What do I do now? What do I do now?’ She said that I would have to read with actors and thought I was going to die! ‘Read with actors? What do I read?’ I had no idea. So anyway, I worked with Risa Bramon for a while, then I went with Vickie Thomas, then Lauren Lloyd and then Lora Kennedy who did Argo. I had amazing mentors in my life. This was an epiphany for me. I think that if I had always wanted to be a casting director, I don’t know if I would be here right now. I just sort of followed my path and I really enjoyed it and I didn’t think of the future. I just thought that this is the moment that I love and I’m getting paid a lot of money for it. It was great and after that, I worked for Amanda Mackey and she did A League of Their Own. I started getting films on my own and then a commercial production company asked to hire a theatrical casting director, so they asked me to do that and then I never went back. So here I am…in front of you.”

Danielle went on, “I love casting commercials because you see a lot of actors. It’s really quick. With my ADD, it works really well for me. [laughter] So, let’s have some Q’s and A’s here and please let me help you through whatever you need…that you feel blocked from. Here’s where it gets silent.”

Here is an overview of a few topics Danielle covered-


An actor asked how long the actor should stay with their agent after she had taken the classes and got the new headshots the agent recommended, yet was not going out on auditions. Danielle said, “That is an interesting question but you know that the commercial business is very ‘ebb and flow.’ Sometimes you get five commercial auditions and sometimes for a month or two, you don’t get any. I always say to give your agent a year and if nothing happens and you’ve done everything in your power to do your job—because it is a 50-50 partnership as you know. You can’t wait for the phone to ring. Then you need to move on. You might love them but business is business.”

Piggy-backing on that answer, an actor asked about communicating with your agent and how often. Danielle responded,  “Bring them a cup of coffee…seriously. I mean bring them a treat or something. You know, it depends how often you want to communicate with them because you don’t want them to go, ‘She’s on the phone again.’ You want to be there for a purpose. If things aren’t happening for you, you want to have one or two last meetings with them before you move on. Sometimes it doesn’t work. In the beginning, they are all like, ‘We need you. You’re fantastic!’ and then you don’t get a call, so then fix the problems that you think need to be fixed. Things like pictures, going to workshops, networking, and if that’s not working and you’re doing everything that you possibly could do, the best way to communicate is to say, ‘I’m leaving and I need to go on.’ You can’t stay with an agent because you’re scared of not finding another one. That’s not how the business works. You have to always live on the edge. This is a career that you chose and it’s not always an easy one. I mean, I send out my reel 6-7 times every two years. I make up new reels. Anything to be proactive. Just keep on that.”

An actor also asked if Danielle had ‘favorite agencies she worked with’ and she said, “No. I really don’t. I work with directors for 10-12 years and if I worked with the same agents all the time, they would see the same people so I go through my list from A to Z. Sometimes the smaller agencies are better for me because they go out and hunt more for new actors.”

Commercial conficts both SAG and Non-union booked jobs-

A mother of a young actor asked if her child had shot a non-union retail store’s commercial, would that conflict with a similar retailer’s SAG commercial. Danielle replied, “No because it is non-union, but they will want to know. Most of the times non-union spots don’t have conflicts. It’s always good to tell the casting director, ‘He has a non-union ____ spot. Would that affect it?’ Don’t just get him in to audition. Once we get you on the set and find out there is a conflict, everybody is in big trouble. You always have to communicate. Be open to communication. Don’t be afraid like, ‘He won’t get an audition.’ You don’t want to wait until the very end because that’s happened. I have to tell you, this was a horrible time in my life and it wasn’t my fault, of course. [laughter] We were doing a pharmaceutical (commercial) and we went to callbacks and had this woman. We hired her and loved her. Production was so happy. She was approved by the clients, the ad agency, the director, the producers…everybody. She was on set and I get a crying phone call from her agent. She just got a check to renew her contract for another pharmaceutical. She was on set. This was a million dollar set. [audience groan] So I had to make the call to the producer and say, ‘Listen…..’ They shut it down. They had shut it down and had to spend another $500, 000 to get our back-up. Don’t hide anything because I’m telling you, it’s not good.”

Paraphrasing copy at commercial auditions-

Danielle said, “They have writers and writers are hired to write. When we’re in callbacks, that script was approved by the ad agency and the people who hired the ad agency, so if you just say the product and ‘make it your own,’ it’s not their commercial anymore. We hate to say this in SAG but you can improvise or use ‘buttons.’ But to make up your own commercial and just use the product, we can’t send that link to the ad agency. That’s not what they signed off on. They’ll have you improv a little bit just to see your personality but we’re going to ask you to say the exact words, so we can send that link to the ad agency that sold off on the creatives. Try to stick to the copy as much as possible but, of course, use your personality.”


Danielle replied as she slyly smiled, “Turn me off? How much time? [ laughter] Not a lot of things. If you are professional and you come in and you’re on time, you dress the part or in essence of the part and you know your dialogue, you and I are okay. This just happened to me the other day. Our lunch is usually from 12:30PM-1:30PM and this guy comes in about 12:45-12:50PM. He’s in my lobby and I happened to walk by and he is looking at the board. I said, ‘Can I help you?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know what I’m here for.’ [laughter] I’m like, ‘Okay…did you talk to your agent? You don’t know what commercial?’ He said, “Yeah, no.’ That kills me because I could substitute you and a thousand other actors who would be there on time, dressed the part, who know the dialogue. That kills me. It’s a waste of day for me. So that’s my pet peeve. I didn’t mean to yell at you.” [laughter]

The process when Danielle gets a job-

Danielle said, “Okay…the whole process is this. A producer called me and says we’re putting you ‘on hold’ for a job and I jump up and down for ten minutes and that’s it.  {laughter] Then I get ‘boards’ (storyboards) and scripts, then I have a multitude of conversations with the director and the ad agency. We have a conference call of what they are looking for and explaining the boards and what they want to see in auditions, so I know a lot more. When you walk in, I know the whole commercial from soup to nuts. Then I put out the breakdown and start choosing the actors. The pages are a hundred photos so this is why I wear glasses. After that, I make up a schedule and call you guys in. If there is dialogue, I send it out. Always ask your agent if there is dialogue. Please always do that. Once you do that, you come in and audition. After that, we send them the link at the end of the day and they send us their callbacks. We set up callbacks. We’re in the room with you guys and usually people are asking me if we should wear the same thing. Yes, I just figured it out. Wear the same thing. [laughter] It’s so true. After that, you leave and we have this huge table and we start putting the pieces together. We’re all around this round table and we put the cast together. Once we put the cast together, we have one link that we send to the clients that everybody has agreed on—the ad agency and the director. Then there is a backup link that’s hidden in case they say, ‘Hmmm…we don’t like this one person.’ We’ll say, ‘We’ve got someone else that we like’ so we send them that and then we book them (the actor) and that’s my favorite part of the job!” [laughter]

Paying for casting director workshops? “It’s totally up to you. Do you want to spend the $35 dollars on a dress or do you want to meet a casting director? Or dinner? Or take a casting director to dinner. [laughter] A lot of people think it’s unethical to pay for seeing somebody but we don’t put them on. We are asked to do them. It’s up to you to whether you feel like you sort of have to spread yourself and meet people. I can tell you this, that 80% it works because I call a lot of people in from my workshops. I absolutely do. I would not take a penny honestly if I was just doing this for the money because I don’t need the money. I do it, for me, to meet new actors and it really has worked for me the past two years I’ve been doing them. My directors are so happy because they’re like, “Ah, fresh faces! It depends on who the casting director is and what they have to offer, Just really check it out before you do that. There are a lot of really good ones though. I added, ”But you also become such a better cold reader just doing your craft.” Danielle then said, “Yeah. Do you want to meet someone like Lora Kennedy? Absolutely! Do I want to meet Joe Schmoe? No, I’ll keep my thirty-five bucks and go to dinner. Do your homework too.”

Postcards? “No I don’t look at postcards and I’ll tell you why. Postcards get thrown out. I don’t remember things. I have a bad memory and if you’re going to be on a show or something that you’re really excited about, tweet it to me. Send me a link. I’ll look at that much quicker than a postcard that’s going to be thrown out. You know, no paper.”


Danielle looked at every attendees headshots. Some of the thing she mentioned were-

  • “The eyes are the most important thing with me. Eyes to camera. Straight on.”
  • “For me, I like more theatrical pictures. They are less, ‘Look at me!’”
  • “Blondes should not be photographed with white backgrounds. You blend in and it washes you out”


  • “The only thing that we don’t like is when your agents double submit you for every single part we have. It drives us crazy. Then you’ll have two appointments.”

Besides workshops, what other creative ways can an actor network with casting directors- 

Danielle stated, “I think this is the best forum honestly because there a lot of casting directors who are doing this more and more. I mean, they never used to do this years ago. For me, it’s beneficial because I can meet new people because I work with a lot of old directors…not old like they’re old. You also belong to LA Casting and you send your own stuff out. That’s great. Networking is the best thing that you could possibly do. I have no secrets. I can’t say, ‘Oh, you should go to the back door of……’ [laughter] There is none of that. It’s being at the right place at the right time. Simplifying your life. Don’t make your life so complicated. I lived with an actor once and I thought I was going to shoot myself! [laughter] Seriously! To get out the door, they’re like, ‘Do I wear this? Do I wear that? Where are my sides? I lost my sides!’…. I was reading the paper and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ So you really need to simplify your life. There’s no hidden agenda that we have. There is no mystical thing you don’t know about. It’s being at the right place at the right time, learning your copy and having the ‘right’ look. Don’t make yourself feel bad if you have a bad audition. It’s okay because what’s going to happen is that you’re going to walk out of this audition,—and I’ve seen it in my lobby so many times—they walk out like this….(Danielle dejectedly walked moping with her head down) and that’s how you go to your other audition, so don’t lock yourself. It’s fine. It’s done. It’s over. Move on with your life and you have to do that. I’ve experienced that so many times in my life and you just can’t make yourself feel worse than you already feel like. You have to push yourself up.”

Danielle continued, “Be around a great support network. That’s really important too. Have a lot of people who ‘get you’ and who know what you do. My parents just found out today that I’m a casting director. [laughter] They’re like, ‘Are these people here to see you?’

Wow! What a terrific morning! Thank you Danielle for your enlightening seminar and your humor, wisdom and candidness! Follow Danielle on Twitter @DanielleCasting and check out her website at

Email Tracy, or find her on IMDB