In my second interview for I Wish I Knew (a new blog dedicated to interviewing people in the theater and on camera business to get some answers about their journeys through the industry), I reached out to a casting director friend named Cathy Reinking (she/her/hers). As an actor, I’ve spent a lot of my career thinking casting directors were the untouchable, unreadable keepers of the gate to success. They seem scary and intimidating. But then I met Cathy who is one of the most open, nonthreatening casting directors I know. Like a lot of casting directors (seriously!) she is an advocate for artists. Whether you are an actor wanting to know more about what casting directors do, or you want to be a casting director yourself, I think you’ll find Cathy’s interview eye opening.
I met Cathy Reinking a couple of years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. I was working as an actor in the company, and Cathy came to the festival as a visitor through the S.H.A.R.E.S program (SHakespearian Actors Requiring Employment Soon). This program brings casting directors, directors, artistic directors, etc. to Ashland so they can see shows and meet with the acting company. I met many people through the S.H.A.R.E.S. program, but the thing that stood out about Cathy was her love for actors. She saw new plays and classic plays (many by William Shakespeare), and she was so complimentary, so passionate and so adamant that casting directors need to start employing new and different actors, not just the same 5 actors over and over again. Since then, I have had much respect for Cathy and love to follow her career as she dives head first into casting, directing, film making, coaching…the list goes on and on. Here’s a teaser trailer to one of her film making projects, The Real Man:
Additionally, many people are interested in what’s happening in Atlanta these days (the city, not the T.V. show)—Follow Cathy (links below the interview) to learn more about Atlanta, and the many things she’s learned since moving there from Los Angeles.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to become a casting director?
When I was a kid/teen, I wanted to be an actress but I was too self-conscious. When I was a theater major at UCLA, I discovered my love of stage directing and stage managing. My first casting job was when I was 35. It used my skills as a stage director and a stage manager because casting is not just about finding and auditioning actors. The administrative and organizational skills one needs as a casting director are tremendous.
Q: What do you love most about being a casting director?
I love working with actors. Always have. Great Actors have a special gift to share with the world. If all actors/performers disappeared, our world would be a very dark place.
Q: What is your biggest challenge associated with being in casting?
The casting business has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Unless you work in Network or Cable TV on an episodic show, the rates of pay have gone down substantially. “Indie” Films are precarious at best to get funding let alone finished and distributed. More and more indie film producers rely on casting directors to get a ‘Name’ (someone famous) attached before backers will fork up the money. This drives me crazy. Why not just hire great actors? It seems to me they are just using the same 5 actors and leaving hundreds and hundreds out.
Also, what’s changed drastically is the technology. Now a casting director has to have the skills of a filmmaker with all the taping, downloading, editing, uploading we have to do. In an effort to make matters easier, some casting directors and producer/directors have switched over to Self-Tapes, where an actor must send in an audition tape on their own dime and accord, with no real direction. Having live auditions in a room is the only way to see if an actor is great, direct-able, and intelligent
Q: What are 5-10 things you wish you knew before you became a casting director?
I would have taken marketing and graphic design classes
As a free-lancer, I’m a one-person-band. In order to keep costs in check, I have to do all my own marketing and graphic designs, which takes a lot of time, especially since I’m not a natural at it. But I have grown to love social media as a marketing tool.
I would have become an expert at finances and the psychology of money
Solvency (the ability to meet your financial obligations) is everything in the arts.
I would have started a meditation practice long ago
(writers note: check out the apps headspace, calm or Insight Timer if you’re interested in meditation!)
Stress is a killer, and everything related to casting is stressful
Knowing this, would I have chosen a different profession? Probably not. But working in the upper echelons of TV casting for 12 years was probably not the smartest move health-wise or for my work-life balance. A career in the upper echelons of any business requires 110% of you. It’s a selfish lover that doesn’t like anything or anyone else in your life. Tough on family life and self-care, if you aren’t vigilant about it.
You CAN actually use a theater degree
Q: What is a one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?
Q: Where can people find out more about you?
If you loved this interview, read the interview with The Get Down Actress Stefanée Martin!