As part of the eBOSS Canada 10 Question Web Series, we were honored to interview Ashley Hallihan (CDC).
Ashley Hallihan is a Casting Director and Producer with her fingers on the pulse of the Toronto film industry. Ashley has taken Hallihan Casting from ‘local upstart’ to ‘trusted Toronto mainstay’ over the past three years, and she’s done so through her commitment to teamwork and collaboration.
Ashley … THANK YOU for sharing your journey, insight and advice.
WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A CASTING DIRECTOR?
I actually fell into casting without knowing much about it. I’m from a very small town on the East Coast and I found myself feeling restless. I’d been working at a bank for several years and I felt my inner artist freaking out. So, on a whim, I put my house up for sale and moved to Toronto in 2010 to go to Film school and become an editor (something else I knew nothing about). During our final semester, we all pitched a story idea for our Director’s project and they selected mine. It not only allowed me direct for the first time but also to run my first casting session. Near the end of auditions, an actor came in and he was the first one to truly bring this character that I had written, to life right there in front of me. In that moment I fell in love with the process of Casting. Soon afterwards I ended up working at Jigsaw Casting for about a year. I’ll admit that the fast-paced commercial world intimidated me quite a bit at the time. I eventually gave my notice and ended up nannying for a year, as I planned my next steps. I still took the odd casting job on my own, so in-between naptime as a nanny, I’d be putting out breakdowns; I’d hold sessions on the weekends, anywhere I could fit them in. I’d say the biggest moment for me was trusting that there would be enough work and that this passion of mine could actually be a career. Now here I am, approaching my 5th year as Hallihan Casting,… thanks to a lot of trial and error and a whole lot of hustling.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CASTING?
I’m a people-person. I love the thrill of discovering new talent and I love actors (most of the time… jk). I love the art of acting, but I’ve always been too shy to be one myself, so in my position, I still get to be creative and direct and play with talent in the room. I get to coach and help navigate actors to get to where they need to be in the scene. I also get to collaborate with so many talented Producers and Directors. I just love the prospect of getting to help put together the strongest ensemble I can for any specific project. I love that challenge and opportunity.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING ACTORS?
Make sure you REALLY really love it. Make sure it’s a career you’re following because your soul needs it, not because you just want a STAR. Work on your craft! Take classes – Audition techniques, Improv, Scene study. Everyone’s journey is different, so focus on your own and remember your ‘why.’ Be polite to everyone, because most likely, the person beside you, wherever you are, is also in the industry 😉 Have fun, surround yourself with like-minded artists and don’t forget to live your life at the same time.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT PERFORMERS MAKE WHEN AUDITIONING?
Not. Being. Prepared.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CASTING SESSION?
If actors show up on time, if they come prepared with an overall understanding of their scene and character, and can take some redirection. Most importantly, if the Director/Producers leave feeling excited and inspired by the options, I feel like I’ve done my job 🙂
IF AN ACTOR HAS NEVER AUDITIONED FOR YOU, WHAT CAN THEY DO TO HAVE THE HONOR OF THAT FIRST AUDITION WITH YOU?
Have some kind of footage available online. If they’re new, they won’t have a reel, but they can find a few scenes that would showcase their talent and put them on tape. It lets us see them on camera and get a feel for their energy.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
No two days are ever the same; it’s never boring. Some days I might not leave my computer, other days I spend in casting sessions. The plates are constantly spinning, whether I’m in communication with Directors, Producers and Agents, reading scripts, prepping breakdowns, managing audition schedules or sending out bookings (which is the best part). It never really stops. Jobs are usually in different stages and you’re pretty much always “on call”.
HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN A “WILDCARD”?
A “Wildcard” to me is an actor I might bring into the session that doesn’t meet the initial specs I was given. For example, a breakdown might go out to agents as “Doctor, Male, Age 35-45, Caucasian, Blond” If there is no specific reason why the Doctor HAS to be Caucasian or HAS to be blond, and I know an actor that’s a different ethnicity or maybe slightly younger, I’ll bring them in as well. It’s taking a chance because it’s not what the Director requested or envisioned initially, but if there is flexibility for change, then I love bringing in a few surprises. I’ve booked several actors that were wildcards to the session. Taking those chances are always going to be a hit or miss, but when it’s hit, it’s very worth it.
WHAT ARE 5 CHARACTER TRAITS YOU WOULD SAY ARE IMPORTANT TO SOMEONE WANTING TO GET INTO CASTING?
1 – A LOVE for actors
2 – Great Intuition
3 – Adaptability
4 – Willingness to work very long hours
5 – Mad, mad Multi-tasking skills.
Oh and passion… hustle and passion 🙂
TO VIEW A FEW ASHLEY’S FAVORITE PROJECTS – SEE THE VIDEOS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE
FOLLOW HALLIHAN CASTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
Below are a few projects that are meaningful to me.
PAPER YEAR – Feature Film
Directorial Debut of Rebecca Addleman (Writer of New Girl & Love)
A Short Film I Cast & Produced which won the Grand Jury Award in the Dances with Film Festival in LA
ALESSIA CARA – SCARS TO YOUR BEAUTIFUL
Casting this video and sharing so many personal stories of survivors from all walks of life, was very special to me.