Calgary-based actor, writer and teacher, Daniel runs Calgary Actors’ Studio and is ACTRA National Councillor for Southern Alberta.
We’ve all done it: walked into an audition room thinking… “I wonder what they’re thinking? I wonder what they’re looking for? I wonder (as we scurry off) what they thought?” And always: “How on earth can I do this better?” It’s time to swing the camera around to the person behind the table and hear about what we’ve all wondered. Casting Director Rhonda Fisekci… it’s time for your close-up.
Daniel: Rhonda, if you could give one piece of advice to every actor, what would it be?
Rhonda: Work the muscle. Constantly work the muscle. If you’re not actually engaged to perform (i.e. working as an actor), take a class, get together with colleagues and just work. And grow.
Q: Have you ever seen somebody two years ago and thought, “Oh, they’re good.” And then there’s nothing for them and you don’t see them for some time and the next time they’re in the room, you think, “Where did that person go?”
A: I don’t think that particular scenario happens. More like, I see somebody who shows promise and then I watch them grow. Then I think, “Now. Now I can book them.”
Q: What one thing drives you crazy about actors?
A: My pet peeve? Now that we’re in the digital era, actors are looking at their sides on their phones. In their prep. They don’t pay attention to the numbering in the upper corner and so when they open the PDFs on their phone, they don’t see all the pages. They come in, go through their first scene, I’ll say “Great! Let’s move on!” and they say, “What do you mean: let’s move on?” It’s a constant source of annoyance. To be fair, it’s not the experienced actors. I think they’ve figured it out. It’s more the younger actors. They live on their phones. They don’t open anything up on a computer, so they don’t see all those page numbers.
Jodi Stecyk during an audition.
Rhonda Fisekci is a Calgary-based Casting Director who works mainly in Western Canada. She’s been nominated for two Primetime Emmys, a Canadian Screen Award, a Casting Society of America Award and a Gemini Award.
Q: Then this is a recent phenomenon? Really the last three or four years?
A: Yes, I would say that’s accurate.
Q: I know you advocate for Alberta actors when you’re casting here. Has that ever cost you in your relationships with producers or directors? Have they ever told you to back off?
A: No. Maybe it’s my pleasant aggression. Nobody’s ever told me to stop. Maybe they’ll try to redirect my attention to another actor, but I always try and... remind them...of the amazing talent we have here in Alberta.
Q: You saw La La Land?
A: I did.
Q: No actor can sit through the part where Emma Stone is going to all those auditions, without bursting out laughing or crying or both, because it’s so deadly accurate. Somebody tapping on the door during your big emotional scene, or a person behind the table on their phone. What do you feel when you watch that part of the film? Because for us actors, it’s excruciating. And true.
A: I started out as an actor. Over 25 years ago now. And the audition process was brutal. I found it really challenging. And I then started working as an assistant to casting directors and I thought, if I ever become a casting director, I would make my room very safe: a place where actors can do their best work without all that nonsense. I just don’t think it’s necessary. I think actors put so much work into what they do, that for me, to dismiss them before they walk in the room is really arrogant and rude. I can’t be like that. I have to give them the attention they deserve.
Q: Do you ever worry that a less-experienced actor who is perfect for a great part may not be able to walk on set and nail it – in spite of finally nailing it at the audition?
A: Sure. There are the people who I know, and I bring in, but I always try to leave room for new people and I give them space. If I see consistency in their growth and in their auditions time after time, then I don’t worry about them being on set for the first time. But if somebody else goes to a director about “this actor” and I don’t have that confidence and the actor gets cast...then I worry.
There are the people who I know, and I bring in, but I always try to leave room for new people and I give them space. If I see consistency in their growth and in their auditions time after time, then I don’t worry about them being on set for the first time.
Tommy Clark during an audition.
Q: Then it’s not your call.
A: But I can tell the producer my feelings in a constructive way. And I also think it’s my responsibility to help bring actors along; the newly graduated. I know sometimes I’m too generous with my casting schedule, but I need that time so I can give the newbies three or four takes if they need it.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Top photo: Performers Chantal Perron holding sides and Lindy Lonsberry on screen during an audition.