Interview with Casting Director Vicky Boone

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Our latest blog entry is another in a series of first-person accounts from the Revelator staff. Today’s entry is a candid interview with one of our favorite folks, Casting Director Vicky Boone. Revelator’s own Alex Andreoni recently sat down with Vicky to find out what it takes to be a casting director, one of the most under-appreciated jobs in our industry:

Every industry has their incredibly talented people – those that stand out above the rest, using a combination of wisdom, strategy, and experience. In the world of Austin casting, one of those people is Vicky Boone. From the Oscar-nominated TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick, 2011) and multi-award winning AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (David Lowery, 2013) to independent films such as GOOD NIGHT (Sean Gallagher, 2013) and Revelator’s own feature film, THANK YOU A LOT (Matt Muir, 2013), Vicky has had her name attached to a multitude of films and television commercials, helping her to become one of the industry’s most sought after casting directors. I was fortunate enough to not only assist in a recent Revelator casting session, but afterwards I was able to pick her brain about how she got into the industry, as well as her thoughts on a bevy of casting related issues. For a film graduate, this was a class in and of itself.

Still courtesy of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

So you went from directing theater to casting for film and television… How did that change happen?

It’s sort of like theater was my first love and my first career, and obviously nobody talked me out of getting two degrees in theater, you know? But I worked in theater for twenty years, I worked as a director and I worked as a producer, and as an artistic producer. And the environment that I worked in was new plays, so I did a lot of work with writers, developing their work and that kind of thing… I kind of made the segue through casting because I was really familiar with actors, I knew all of the actors in town…that combined with the new play background made the transition sort of easy because I was really used to working with writer visions, so reading scripts was easy for me, working with actors was pretty easy, and I was just kind of looking for the most interesting job I could get as quickly as possible and that turned out to be casting. And it was a good fit.

Did you find that to be a strange kind of flip flop, from theater casting when it’s big and extravagant to film, which is all very subtle?

I think the training is the same, though, and I think that the talent is the same. So I think that a person’s talent can definitely transfer from theater to film and possibly from film to theater, because it’s all based on an internal life and imagination and choice making and relaxation. And they say the transition from stage to film is think loud thoughts, but you don’t think less interesting thoughts. So it’s just loud thoughts, and that’s film. But it doesn’t mean that you build the character any differently…for theater, you have to physicalize your choices a lot so that it creates pictures and images that can be seen on stage that pull focus to what’s important on stage. Of course on camera you create focus by frame, but the performance is the same landscape, but for film it’s just internalized a lot more. And one exercise I do, like if someone is not making that transition in the room, like they’re too loud, is I just bring the reader closer to them and usually that fixes it. You just create an atmosphere of actual intimacy and then people respond to the truth, so they stop shouting or projecting because the person is right there. It’s such a simple lesson but it’s really, really effective.

Still courtesy of “Thank You A Lot”

This one I’m sure you’ve gotten many a time, but what was your first real job in the film industry?

Well, my first real job in the film industry is funny because I had wanted to make this transition to film and, like I said, working in theater for twenty years had started to segue. I had taken a few classes, made a friend in one of the filmmaking classes and she had written a feature script, and she had the funds to get that script produced on a, like a low budget project, and I said, well, I’ll produce that for you! I don’t know how to produce film, but I’ve been producing theater for twenty years and I don’t really feel like going back to school, so this will be my MFA in film, to produce your movie and learn all that stuff. So I hired Chris [Revelator’s own Head of Production, Chris Ohlson] to line produce the film and that’s when Chris and I met, and I hired Megan Gilbride and that’s when they met, and we had a lot of great people on that shoot [Fall to Grace, directed by Mari Marchbanks]. And so that was my first professional job in film… and that’s kind of how that ball got rolling.

So in the simplest way, can you explain the casting process from beginning to end?

I think it depends on the nature of the show. A lot of times a casting director’s job is complete once the casting is done and that’s pretty much it and you have a great shoot. Some other projects are more organic, or lets put it this way, are organic longer. ‘Tree’ (Tree of Life) was definitely one of those because the aesthetic didn’t really distinguish between principles and extras, so for that world the search for a featured extra was just as important as the search for someone with a big speaking scene. I worked on that a total of eleven months and we got assignments all the way until the last week, looking for special people for this or for that, and a lot of real people scouting. So that’s one kind of film.

Still courtesy of “Tree of Life”

So is there a film that you cast or were involved in that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I would have to say that there are probably several that I’m really proud of because I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some really good films. Obviously ‘Tree’ was a really important experience for me and I just learned so much on it and it was interesting to work with Terry [Terrence Malick] and he has such a unique way of looking at things. One of the things I enjoy about casting the most is that I enjoy getting to understand the director’s language, like when they say “tender” what do they mean and how does it translate into what somebody’s doing and that kind of stuff… it was very interesting to see people’s intention and focus. I mean, I was exhausted and they were like, it’s day one. I was absolutely amazed that they could have that amount of energy and sustain their vision and interest in all these details for that long. And I really liked [casting] Gretchen (Steve Collins, 2006), that was one of my favorite projects that I’ve been involved with and it was a project that Steve Collins wrote and directed and I saw a screening of it five years ago and I was so proud of the movie. I was like wow, Steve has a very unique aesthetic and vision and we worked really hard on the casting. It was one of those things where every face was really taken into consideration and I just thought he nailed it. So much visual timing in it, there’s a complete mis-en-scene.

What advice would you give to an aspiring actor who is hoping to break into the industry?

I would do several things…I would find a really good coach and I would go to that coach and I would train. Then I would find collaborators through my acting class or through the graduate program at the university. I would find films to audition for and ways to start making a community and I would write for myself. These days, I mean pick up a camera, work with your friends to make stuff yourselves, don’t just wait for somebody to cast you or pick you or give you permission to be an actor. I think a lot of people do that now and I think that’s the way to go, just begin practicing making choices and making art and being in that situation.

So do you feel like Austin is a good place to be, for an actor?

Yeah, I think for an actor you can build a better body of work and a reel in a market like Austin or New Orleans than you can if you go to Los Angeles. I have tons and tons of friends who have been to Los Angeles over the years and I’ve seen them struggle and audition and they’re working actors and they’re the smallest role and they’ve had to fight so many people for that role and I just think it’s kind of soul killing. You can achieve the same with a little bit of an easier path in a smaller market and in fact work more.

And finally the famous question, what do you look for in an actor?

I think what makes people memorable is how specific and original they are on the inside and how that shows up in the performance. That’s what happens in a day like [today, during casting for a Revelator commercial], you see so many people do it somewhat the same and then you’ll get one person who has just like a complete freshness and it’s just because they’re thinking different thoughts. They’re thinking something else, they’re thinking I’m excited, I can’t wait, I’m doing this tonight. They’ve invented a completely different landscape and they commit to it and they have the basic gifts of an actor, which is that they make you believe what’s happening and so you just go with them and suddenly for a minute there forget that you’re watching a commercial audition and it just seems like a real person who had a real moment that nobody else had and then went on to do the other moments. But it’s that kind of originality, and I don’t mean like “I’m original, I’m so flashy,” I mean originality like it came specifically from her and it was really true to her and it shows up as interesting. Original like origin, like it originated, it didn’t come from something else. Think interesting thoughts, I think that’s what makes an interesting actor.

– Alex Andreoni
Production, Revelator

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