Interview: Casting Director Scott David

Criminal Minds Casting Director Scott David talks about actor’s being unprepared, how we can find our "type" and Beckinfield!

I first met Casting Director Scott David at a workshop a couple of years ago. I had heard so many good things about him and his class that when I got the chance, I signed up immediately. In the class, we came in with a prepared monologue, he handed out scenes – long ones – and then improv. It was a really fun time and one of the best workshops I’ve attended.

Scott has been casting since 1996. He’s currently casting CBS’s Criminal Minds but he also casts for film, theater and web-series. In 2010, he was awarded the Heller Award for Favorite Television Casting Director from the Talent Managers Association.

He’s recently joined up with Beckinfield, the sci-fi mystery website where you can create and play a character, collaborate with others and showcase yourself as an actor. Each month, Scott watches the actor’s videos, chooses his favorites and gives comments on their performances. Check out my interview with the founders of Beckinfield here.

Scott is a truly great guy, he loves actors and if you ever have a chance to get in front of him, do it!

I talked to Scott about casting, actor’s being unprepared, how we can find our “type” and Beckinfield!

What should actors always remember when coming into your office for an audition?

Scott David: Oh, the first thing is always to be prepared. Dress appropriately and act professionally, those three are the most important things.

So, people actually come in with like inappropriate clothes?

Scott David: Sometimes, women will come in and be a little bit more suggestive when they don’t need to be. Sometimes guys will come in way to casual for a role meaning wearing jeans and t-shirt where the role might be something like playing a lawyer and you need to be wearing a suit and a tie. But the outlandish stuff is probably a little bit appropriate if the role is calling for not something a little bit outlandish.

Can you tell when an actor comes in your office unprepared?

Scott David: Yeah, you can.

Like immediately?

Scott David: Immediately. You know when an actor’s familiar with something and you when an actor’s kinda winging it.  Or you know when an actor’s really nervous. There’s definitely different ‘tells’ of what’s going on. Each person has a different one.

What do you see time and time again that actors do to shoot themselves in the foot during auditions?

Scott David: Shooting themselves in the foot would be something that they talk too much, they try to be too friendly with the people in the room, that they sigh or kick the ground or throw their papers down when they’re done or walk off in a huff or try to make excuses on why they didn’t do as well as they thought they did and half the time they did better than they thought they did.

What’s the top excuse that they give?

Scott David: I just got the material. My agent just got this to me. I’m late because there was traffic. Just typical, my dog ate the paper stuff.

And you know that’s a lie usually because when they say that “I just got the material,” you know you handed out like what, a day or two before…

Scott David: We know when we handed it out, a day before… that day, whatever. We know when it’s out there. It’s never the casting director’s fault.

No, of course not.

Scott David: Never, ever, ever, ever.

A lot of actors are wondering what’s the best way to get into your office? I know you do a lot of workshops, that’s how I actually met you and you called me in a couple of times. Is that the best way to meet you? What’s some of the other ways?

Scott David: That’s one of the best ways. Sometimes people have representation and they are able to pitch the actor to me that there’s something special or something unique about them, and that I should meet them, that’s the way that I met a lot of people too. Or, you know, do some good work that I happen to see and then I’m calling you, you’re not calling me.

You’re big on actors finding out what their type is. What’s the best or easiest way we can do that? Like I usually think myself as like the guy next door but lately I’ve been called in for the creepy guy next door. How do…

Scott David: [laughing] As we get older we all get creepier.

What?! How dare you!

Scott David: Finding out your type is something that’s the hardest thing for actors and people, to figure out in life, let alone being an actor. It’s really having an objective opinion of watching what’s on television and seeing if your picture looks like what you’re seeing on the screen. And seeing if your voice sounds like these people, if it’s really natural for you to be in that type of situation and I always defer to not everyone can play a cop. Most people can’t. In the TV world, you know, in the TV world.

I get called in a lot and I get call backs and I’m put on hold.  If that happens and then I don’t hear from the casting director for what could be a year or so, why is that? What happens behind the scenes?

Scott David: Well, behind the scenes, if the casting director likes you, they’ve called you in the first time and hopefully there’s something that comes up… in my world, I’ll call them in again, right away if there’s something that they’re right for.

But in episodic television, if you’re working on one type of show, you don’t always get the same exact role every week. You get the different regions, you get a different type, you get a different feel, you get different ethnicity, you get all kinds of different things, sometimes it could go six months to eight months, a year, without that type of character being seen again. And it doesn’t mean that you weren’t liked or anything like that. Especially if you were put on hold it means somebody really liked you, you just weren’t the choice that time.

Let’s talk about Beckinfield. How did you get involved?

Scott David: Well, Bob [Gebert, actor and one of the founders] gave me a call on Beckinfield, and said there’s this really interesting website for this mass-type television production online. And as he sent me emails and I checked out the site, and then he just ordered director’s guy and stuff, and the casting guy, I was more than thrilled and I couldn’t wait to get involved. The way of the future.

How do you think this can help actors?

Scott David: I think in expressing themselves and just getting comfortable on camera, even though it’s their own little camera. And I’m sure other people, as this progresses, will probably “invest” in making the product that they’re putting out there even better than it already is. Like, it won’t be before long that I’m sure someone will be using a Red camera for what they’re doing. You know what I mean, and want to make it look that good. I think before long, they’ll start lighting things or you miking themselves and it will really be something that they can explore and tap into any kind of bit that they wanna pursue with it.

I know Bob told me at South by Southwest that some people have actually gotten an agent from Beckinfield? Isn’t that right Bob?

Bob Gebert: Yes, exactly, exactly right. I know some agent interviews have come from it, and I know that one of the actresses – exactly what you said Scott – she hadn’t worked in a couple of years and booked a pilot and said that the reason she felt so comfortable in the auditions and was nailing them, that eventually led to the pilot, was the fact that she was doing so many videos on Beckinfield.

Scott David: That’s awesome.

Bob: And she was able to see herself on camera and see what was working and what wasn’t working, and got really comfortable.

Scott David: That’s really cool. And what else has been happening in, I would say the last five years of the business, because of the advent of YouTube and all these other sites, Funny or Die, I think production companies and studios have people scouring these different sites looking for unique and different people and trying to find people that they can meet or, you know, potentially involve in something through the avenues of these online products.

Do you think this can be like somebody’s own personal, I guess mini-web series if they don’t have the means or time to do one themselves?

Bob: Although we, we do supply weekly storylines suggestions or inspirations to create videos, they certainly can create their own stories as well. And the whole, one of the major reason’s Beckinfield exists is simply to inspire other actors to create their own content. And so, although it is about Beckinfield, it’s storyline takes place in the world of Beckinfield, the idea is that people can still really create their own little corner of that Beckinfield, that is all about them.

Are you impressed by the acting on the site?

Scott David: Oh, well, it was awesome. For sitting down, it took about an hour, hour and a half, to watch and critique the ones that I had to see, it was, I wanted to see more. I completely wanted to see more. It was like, “Oh wow!”

My favorite thing about anybody doing something is do something and leave me sitting there wanting to see more. Don’t make an end to your story or your scene, in this type of world yet, keep it going. It completely had me sitting there wanting to watch more.

Do you think something like Beckinfield is changing the way you’re going to find talent?

Scott David: I think it’s another avenue. Who knows where these people are, you know, I’m sitting here in Los Angeles, some people are sitting in Florida, Texas, New Zealand or wherever they are. It’s a way for people to express themselves and for people in the business and in the industry, in each city or each country, to see people. You know, it’s another avenue for people to express themselves, which I think is really cool. And you never know, somebody might get up there and it might be like the coolest, most interesting thing since sliced bread. And gosh there’s an opportunity for them, if they happen to be in L.A. or I happen to be some place or something like that, maybe some magic can happen. But for it to eventually evolve and change that way it’s gonna take a long time.

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