The CSA Breakdown on Susanne Scheel

October 30, 2015

The “Rock the Kasbah” and “Wizard of Lies” associate casting director talks about her process, what all actors should know before auditions, and why having a long memory helps.

CSA member since... 2013

Upcoming credits: “Rock the Kasbah” (dir. Barry Levinson); “Hail, Caesar!” (dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen); “Hap & Leonard” (Sundance Channel, dir. Jim Mickle); “The Wizard of Lies” (HBO, dir. Barry Levinson)

 

What’s your typical day like?
Pre-read sessions in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon; video review or director sessions; making offers; speaking with agents and managers; reading scripts for future projects; researching aspects of a project.

 

What do you do when you’re not working?
I go to the theater and movies. I love to travel with my husband to see family or just to discover a great new place. I spend as much time outdoors as the current NYC weather allows since when I am working I spend 12–16 hours per day inside an office. 

 

How do you choose what projects you work on?
I read the script and ask myself, “Do I want to be a part of telling this story?” I have to connect to the story and characters. I also like to work not only with great artists but great people. We work too hard and the days are too long to work with people we don’t enjoy. When I love the people I work with, coming to work is a joy. 

 

Before actual auditions, how does the casting process begin?
There is no one specific moment we start the process of casting a new project. Sometimes the casting process for a show started three years ago when I saw a great new actor in a show and now I’ve finally found a role or script that the actor is perfect for. We do a ton of research on the time period and events surrounding the storyline of each project. We also make preliminary lists of actors we know. 

 

What is the most common audition room mistake you see?
Being under prepared, focusing energy in the wrong places, and not being organic and in the moment of the scene.

 

What do you want every actor walking into your room to know?

We are 100 percent your advocate and want you to succeed. You have to meet us halfway by being prepared and lovely to work with.

 

What makes for a successful audition tape? 
Good lighting and sound is a must. If we can’t see and/or hear you well, we have no way of accurately evaluating the performance. Once we can see the performance, it should be simple and not overdone. When actors are self-taping in a vacuum, the most common mistake is that actors “push” or do too much. Keep it simple and real. 

 

Any projects you wish you had worked on?
I am such a lover of Broadway and the stage but have not had an opportunity to work very much in that medium yet. I would have loved to work on “An American in Paris” or “Hamilton.”

In addition to open calls, where do you find new talent?
Acting schools, showcases, Off-Broadway and independent theater, Web series, short films; we watch anything we can get our hands on basically. Even if a show or production is flawed, I typically walk away knowing a new actor and that’s the goal. 

 

What is the best way for actors to build a strong relationship with you?
Do great work and the right people will notice. If you think it’s good, someone else will too.  

 

How important is training versus experience to you?
Training is an actor’s foundation. In other countries, training and education is at the top of the résumé. I think that’s where it belongs. 

 

What makes a successful casting session?
Coming away with choices. Maybe not a final decision but great choices. 

 

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to go into casting as a career?
It’s of course important to know actors and see and watch everything you can. Starting out in your career as an intern or an assistant, it’s all about being organized, helpful, and proactive. The most valuable assistant to me is someone who looks around and says, “What else can I do?”

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