Interview With Caitlin Jones, Casting Director for Liz Lewis
Written by Laura High
I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite people in the industry, Caitlin Jones, casting director for Liz Lewis. Caitlin is one of my favorites for many reasons, but the biggest one is that we are actually friends outside the industry. Caitlin and I went to Nazareth College together. We were one year apart, but worked on many different shows together either acting in them or hanging lights. Caitlin worked her butt off in the theatre along with getting top grades. She is now one of the most successful alumni from our theatre department. I was very lucky I could get an interview with her, since she works non-stop. She even said, “Laura, if it wasn’t you I probably would have rescheduled three times by now.” It probably helped that I’ve also walked her dog.
Caitlin teaches regularly at Actors Connection.
Laura: How long have you been casting?
Caitlin: I have been casting in some way, shape, or form since 2008. I started as an intern for Liz Lewis. Eventually turned into a full time job. I’m a Proud member of CSA. I’m also a voting member of the Television Academy, the Drama League, the Independent Film Partnership, and Casting Society of America’s Diversity Committee and Artios Awards Committee.
L: What kinds of projects do you cast?
C: A lot of commercials. That’s what Liz built the business from. We have expanded to other kinds of projects, but mainly commercials.
L: How often do you need funny people?
C: Every day. All kinds of funny people. Stand ups, sketch actors, improv, they all bring a different set of tools that can be considered applicable. Stand ups and sketch actors use set ups and punchlines, and in improv you have your game and beats. Funny is funny. Also, comedy people are not just called in for funny projects. We need them in dramas. We need actors who can find the funny in dark situations, cause that’s what we do in real life. Humor is how people cope.
L: As a casting director what are some of your pet peeves?
C: I get asked this a lot. I would say, being on time. If your more then fifteen minutes earlier, or late you’re fucking me up. Like if you don’t want to be late, get there early, just don’t sign in until it’s your time. There is this myth that you can come within a ‘time frame.’ No, if I scheduled you at 2:15, that’s when you come in.
Side note: After we finished our interview Caitlin went to go grab her lunch (it was her scheduled lunch break and we were talking for the first half). A lady came up to Caitlin and said (with a lot of sass), “Excuse me can I get seen? My audition was twenty minutes ago.” Caitlin very patiently said, “No it’s not, it’s my scheduled lunch break. I didn’t schedule you for another twenty minutes, but I’ll get you in as quickly as I can.” We got to the elevator and Caitlin said, “See, that’s what I was talking about.” I was shocked that the actor was that rude to a casting director–you know, the person you want to give you the job. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Caitlin: Continuing…..Other pet peeve is when people fail to take direction. Taking direction is about being a better listener. Learning how to make an on-the-spot adjustment. I’m not directing you just for fun. I’m doing this because I spoke to the people who are in charge and they told me to do it. My latest pet peeve people saying that doing classes and paid seminars with casting directors is a scam. It’s not. We are only as good as the people we cast. We do classes and seminars to find the best talent out there. We do this on top of the work we already have. People don’t understand how much work it takes to prep an audition. And by saying we are scamming you and shouldn’t get paid, makes it sounds like our time isn’t valuable.
L: What are things that can make a good audition go to a great audition?
C: Aside from following direction, making a strong choice every take. You’re the artist. Making choices is part of your tools. Show us how you would do this thing if you were in that situation. Also, being in the moment, and paying attention to the given circumstances. Pay attention to the situation at hand. You will act differently if your character is at home, in a movie theatre, or at the grocery store. There is a reason we give you all of that information.
L: If someone wants to start auditioning for film, TV, and commercials, what things will they need?
C: A good headshot. Do your homework and research the photographer. Don’t just go to the person everyone suggests. Make sure you and your photographer vibes match. You’ll need a resumé (even if you have nothing. Put what ever you have on it.) Belong to the casting sites, like Casting Networks, Actors Access, etc. Take some improv and acting classes. Submit for everything you’re right for. Let me be clear, only submit to stuff you’re right for. If I’m looking for 6’0” fire breathers, don’t submit if you’re 5’0”. Then when you start booking stuff, you can start looking for representation. They’ll help you get into the bigger rooms.
L: Many people believe you need a degree in acting to start auditioning, is that true.?
C: No, theoretically you don’t need any degree in acting. Johnny Depp didn’t graduate high school. It helps to have formal training. But you can get just as trained and honed by taking great classes. Just do the work. You should always be working. If you want to be acting, then every opportunity will be beneficial. Except for porn. Don’t do porn.
L: When you go out and see stand up shows and improv showcases, what are things that you’re looking for?
C: People who are doing their own thing. This is your material; it should show what you want to be doing. Just do your own thing and don’t try to tell someone else’s story.
L: Does being a clean vs. a not clean comic have any affect on you?
C: It depends on the person. I went through UCB, so I understand telling your truth involves no holds barred. Do I personally have a line that can be crossed, of course. But someone else might be different.
L: What are things that typically hold someone back from taking their career to the next level?
C: Themselves. Always, and every time themselves. If someone has a bad attitude, or they think someone should just hand them stuff. Just go and do the work. Something is going to give. Stay positive. Remind yourself why you choose this and didn’t get that degree in finance. Remember that reason. It’s never impossible, but no one can do it for you.