Last week I was reflecting on my casting director’s mission statement from 2006. Back then I went from full time stage (Producing Artistic Director) to full time screen and began casting mid-sized feature films ranging from $1MIL-$10MIL.
Mission Statement: To deepen, widen, educate the Talent pool in the NW, cast as many Pacific NW actors possible so that they can enjoy their craft + living wage whilst living in the beautiful NW.
When Sy Fy announced that Z Nation (which is shot in Spokane, Eastern Washington)) was to be renewed for a 4th season, I thought about all the Actors I had auditioned for Season 3 including those who had travelled 300+ miles to Spokane for producer callbacks. I recalled the NW actors that had been on hold, on avails, on right of first refusal or just on tenterhooks, waiting… I recalled the hundreds of details that go into being the lead Casting Director for a cable show, whilst living in Seattle and casting throughout the NW and LA. Then I thought back to season 2, and then to season 1. I recalled the plethora of moving parts, the juggling and assessing, the ‘sensitive’ personalities and fragile negotiations, the high octane momentum from day one of casting … and I came up with a new title for what I do: “Casting Producer”, and then I gave myself an imaginary “Certificate of Diplomacy – on a Grand Scale”.
Below are answers to some of the FAQs, casting metrics, and trivia about casting Z Nation, Season 3.
- The wonderful actress in the photo above is Kellita Smith who plays Warren, the leader of our heroes. Within seconds of our first meeting, and on hearing my British accent, she nick-named me “High Tea”. The name has stuck for 3 years in our Z-fam.
- *85% or more of recurring, guest and co-star roles in season 3 are Actors based in the NW.
- The current SAG wage is approx $900+/day. A 3 day contract is approx $2300; a weekly contract is approx $3000/week. There is usually overtime paid.
- At an estimate, NW Actors earned, per person, between $1000 and $20,000 for days worked on set.
- NW Actors newly cast in season 3 only, grossed collectively, approx $200,000+ during 5 months of filming.
- The above does not include re-curring Actors from season 1, 2 and 3 eg: Nat Zang – 10K, (series regular) Russell Hodgkinson – Doc, (series regular), Lisa Coronado – Dr Merch (recurring S1,2,3) Pisay Pao – Cassandra, (series regular) Mark Carr – Sketchy (S1,2,3) , Doug Dawson – Skeezy (S1,2,3), Sara Coates – Pie Girl (S1,2,3) are all NW actors.
- I received more thank you cards from Actors for season 3 then in any of the other seasons. Beautiful cards.
- I selected a small cadre (of actors), trained them in the art of being a reader for the Actor while supporting the integrity and casting needs of the Producers. We call it ‘the NIC way’. They are now dedicated NIC casting assistants.
- Portland Actors took Z Nation Producers by storm in Season 3 prompting me to travel to Portland to audition Actors instead of having them travel to the Seattle or do self-tapes.
- In Season 3, Producers were insistent on having the best Actor for the role, wherever that Actor was on the planet! There were only two occasions in 5 months and over 50+ roles when I questioned if the best Actor was selected.
- Of all the TV shows shooting in the NW, only Z Nation offers the NW Actor the opportunity to star in a 40 minute episodes eg: Kate Witt (309). Only Z Nation offers NW Actors the opportunity to audition and be seriously considered for series regular and recurring roles.
- NIC utlisies the casting software: Casting Networks to capture auditions and send ‘tapes’ to Producers. In season 1 we also utilized Casting Frontier.
- For Episode 306, we received 900+ submissions from talent agents for 7 (seven) roles, 500+ of the submissions were for women.
- To cast a black actor (Brandon Marino) in the double iconic role of “Elvis and Elvis Impersonator” was my moment of casting joy! It remains one of my greatest moments casting for the screen.
- I saw more auditions by female Actors between the ages of 30 and 60 (March -September 2016 ) then at any other time in my career as a casting director and/or Director in theatre.
- At producer callbacks I sometimes serve as the Reader in order to raise the performance bar. One actor was so funny, so present, so connected with me that I burst out laughing. I was literally unable to finish the scene. The actor was Austin Hillebrecht, Portland actor with Option Model and Media Agency. He booked the gig! (Ep 306)
- An episode of Z Nation is usually shot in 5-6 days before going into post-production. The ideal casting cycle would be 9-10 days. Sometimes episodes were cast in 2-3 days.
- In Casting Networks there is folder labelled: “Still To Be Cast”. In this folders are NW actors who came very close to being cast. At the close of season 3 – there are still 20 actors in the folder. The idea is that they ‘roll over’ into the next season.
- Admittedly not every role goes to a NW actor. Competition is a good and necessary part of growth and excellence.
- Youth Actors, aged 7-17 were significantly featured in recurring and co-starring roles. Of the guest/recurring roles for youth Actors 50% went to the NW.
- The most annoying habit from Actors this season in studio was ‘vocal fry’. The only thing worse than vocal fry was Actors having no awareness that they were committing vocal fry.
- One time I viewed 273 on-line submissions for the role of “FEMALE DRIVER”. She had 6 lines.
*All dollar amounts approximate and based on my own calculations.