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Features & Interviews

A Day in the Life of a Casting Agent - Clare McGinley of Spotlight Ireland
01 Jun 2017 : Katie McNeice
Spotlight Ireland Dublin Office, Bow Street, Smithfield
As part of our new series promoting training and employment in the Irish film and television industry, we’re catching up with staff from some of the leading companies in the country, in the fields of production, distribution, festivals and beyond.

So far we have heard from BG Team Lead Alana O’Brien who couldn’t emphasise the need to build your skills between jobs enough, while Post-Production Supervisor Sean Smith focused on working as communication as a key quality.

We now move into the booming world of casting, where it pays off to know the ins and outs as a future agent, but also for directors and actors to know what an agent’s role is in relation to development, pre-production and even being on set.

McGinley runs through the skills and qualities she has honed from her early days with Maureen Hughes to working on John Carney’s ‘Sing Street’, and tells us the importance of grasping the creative vision of the project.

IFTN: In 1-2 sentences, what are your primary responsibilities as a Casting Agent?
“In the casting world it's essential to keep an eye on fresh talent emerging from drama schools and societies as well as monitoring what type of roles professional actors are currently playing on T.V. on stage and in cinemas.”

IFTN: Talk me through your training background and what key skills you need to work in this role?
“In college I studied English, Classics & Psychology in UCD and reviewed Dramsoc productions. I went on to do an MA in Media Studies where I focused on Film. Maureen Hughes gave me my first break in casting and I continued my training with her on ‘Love/Hate’, ‘Raw’ and many productions for Druid Theatre Company.

“Experience on set is an invaluable way to observe all the departments coming together as one. I spent every day on set while ‘Sing Street’ was filming which was an education in itself and one you can't learn from a book. I know it's a cliché but but being a team player is crucial in such a collaborative industry. On a personal level you need to understand the director's vision and possess a genuine passion for the performing arts.”

IFTN: You come into a project at a different stage to other key creatives, so how do your key relationships differ from the ones the Development Staff, Producer or Director would have with the actors?
“Casting is a creative part of the pre-production process. You read a script and visualize certain actors in your mind's eye. The casting department is the first point of contact for the actor. It's your responsibility to lookout for them and make them feel at ease. It's amazing to read with an actor at the audition stages where you're rooting for them to get the part and see them in that role on-screen months later.”

IFTN: What kinds of projects do you work on or can it change from one to the next?
“I'm now working with Spotlight - the Home of Casting. We have all sorts of projects coming in. This year we have welcomed a significant amount of Casting Directors from the Casting Society of America (CSA) as Spotlight members. As a result, many U.S projects are now being cast on Spotlight in order to reach European actors too. The search for the lead in the Artemis Fowl feature is happening across Ireland at the moment and filmmaker John Carney has an exciting TV series in development which will also be cast on Spotlight.”

IFTN: What tips would you give young IFTN readers who are training at the moment or other professionals looking to branch into your area?
“I would advise IFTN readers who are looking to work in casting to get out and about and talk to people face-to-face who can give you some career guidance. Go to film festivals like the Galway Fleadh to increase your knowledge of what's going on while simultaneously making contacts and building relationships with actors, casting directors and producers. There will be a Spotlight hub at the Fleadh next month where we will be happy to talk to you in person - come and say hello!”

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