As vp of Features Casting for 20th Century Fox, Julie Hutchinson has the challenge of considering creative and marketing elements when she's casting.
"Casting is not magic," said Hutchinson
."We are satisfying all the creative entities involved in the project.There are a lot of people who need to be satisfied.While we are looking for talent, we are also visualizing the one-sheet for the film, knowing that profitability is a consideration.It's a balancing act between art and commerce."
Sometimes that balance tips to art, sometimes to commerce, but she's
happiest when her
team strikes the right balance between the two.
First Casting Job: Hutchinson
studied acting at U.C. Santa Cruz."Clutching my bachelor's degree in theatre, I went to New York to be an actress," she recalled.Hutchinson met now-retired casting director Barbara Shapiro through a friend and started working as an assistant to her right away.
During her five years with Shapiro, Hutchinson
found that her survival job had become her career.
Road to This Position: Hutchinson
took a break from casting--"I unsuccessfully explored journalism for a while," she
joked--and returned to Los Angeles to resume casting on a freelance basis.She
connected with Donna Isaacson, executive vp of casting at 20th Century Fox
"We did [1991's] Father of the Bride together," she
said."Then I went on to work with Amanda Mackey and Cathy Sandrich on Patriot Games."Hutchinson
and Isaacson got together again to cast the Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes action thriller Rising Sun from an office on the 20th Century Fox
Little did we know at that time that a few years later we would be here," Hutchinson
said.Before the department opened up, Hutchinson was director of Casting at CBS for three years.
"I spent three to four nights a week at comedy clubs scouting for our shows.I had a fantastic time learning about television.It's a totally different world," she
said.Hutchinson has been with 20th Century Fox for six years.
Currently Casting: Hutchinson's position is supervisory in nature, although she
does conduct casting sessions in the early stages of certain projects.Recent projects on her
plate include X2 (X-Men 2), Like Mike, and Unfaithful.She
is currently finishing the romantic comedy feature Down With Love.
Coolest Casting Gig: Hutchinson
chose to name her
coolest gig in recent history: the feature Unfaithful."I got the opportunity to be hands-on with that film before we put our casting directors on," she
recalled."I got to spend time in the room with [director] Adrian Lyne, who was fantastic to work with.We got to audition all of these up-and-coming and established actors for the lover role [ultimately portrayed by Olivier Martinez].I love reading with actors, and reading with actors for that role was quite memorable."
Key Things She
Looks for in an Actor: Preparedness.Hutchinson hopes actors will do their substitutions, backstory, and character analysis prior to meeting her
An actor going through the emotional process in the room with us is disruptive," Hutchinson
explained."That is not to say that we don't make time for work in the audition process, but an actor needs to be as prepared as possible."
Of course preparation has its limits, and Hutchinson
draws the line at memorization."It is a good idea for the actor not to be off book when he
reads for us," she
advised."Being off book causes the actor to be locked into the way he
memorized the material.We need actors to be fluid.Actors should be as fluent with the material as possible, have their choices ready, know their objective, understand the point of view of the character, but be ready to make changes when directed to do so."
Pet Peeves: Hutchinson
listed the usual pet peeves--tardiness and lack of preparation--but she
added attitude."We're remembering this stuff.We are paying attention to the actor as a whole.We can see if an actor is trouble.I've said to a director, 'Great performance, but life is too short [to work with this problematic actor].' You need to be somebody we want to work with, not someone who is phony or obsequious.The set is an artificial but very intimate situation.We have to figure out how you are going to get along with the whole crew."
Advice for Actors: "Be prepared.
Remember that we want you to be good," Hutchinson
described the ultimate casting director dream-come-true: "Our fantasy, as casting directors, is to make a major discovery and stop looking.The way actors can improve their chances for that is to do as much work in advance as they possibly can in terms of figuring out the character: read the script if it's available, make choices about the character, ask your agent to help get information on the storyline or character breakdown."Hutchinson
added that actors should not over-extend themselves."Don't ask too many questions.Keep your antenna up when you're in this room.A couple of concise questions are fine, but if you have a need to really explore the material, you should call ahead of time and go over the details with your agent."
Best Way To Get Seen by Her
: When Hutchinson was in New York, she
attended Off-Broadway shows and actor showcases three or four nights each week.She
is not as actively attending theatre in Los Angeles.
finds that a talented actor's rise will more likely be noticed when championed by a trusted agent."The best way to get seen by me," she
admitted, "is through an agent we have daily contact with and we have respect for.There are a lot of talented people out there without representation who deserve to be seen, but it is more difficult.It is up to those actors to figure out how to be seen."Hutchinson
recommended that actors keep her
updated with postcards and fliers for shows they are doing, and encouraged actors who send unsolicited headshots and resumes to include a professional cover letter."Since 9/11 we've cut down on the amount of unsolicited mail that gets to us," she
said."We really do prefer agent submissions.You are more likely to be paid attention to if you have representation."
Opinion on Alternative Submission Methods: "I am sure that's the wave of the future, but it's a wave I haven't caught yet," Hutchinson
mused."We are still casting the old-fashioned way.I go to my own lists and to the [Academy] Players [Directory] more than anything else.We have a pretty good handle on the talent pool nationally.If we are looking for something very specific or someone overseas, we will go online; but, for an average casting assignment, we're not going to go online."Hutchinson
noted that she
could have agents send 20 actors to her
office in 20 minutes, just by hitting a few buttons on her
speed-dial list.For Hutchinson's needs, the Internet does not provide that level of reliable service at this time.
Highlight of Her
Week: "To find an actor for a role and close a deal.To meet somebody I know is going to be a star.My heart will race when I know something is there.My gut tells me. It's a visceral response to the star gene.
...Julie HutchinsonVP, Features Casting, 20th Century Fox10202 W. Pico Blvd., Bldg. 12, Ste. 201Los Angeles, CA 90035
Casting Qs is a weekly column by Bonnie Gillespie focusing on the casting directors behind the projects.Suggestions for Qs are welcome via e-mail at CastingQs@yahoo.com. Today's News