'Always be nice' CDA award-winning casting director Leanne Flinn offers acting and casting tips
Leanne Flinn is a CDA award-winning casting director known for her work on hit comedy show People Just Do Nothing as well as a string of commercials for the likes of Cadbury's, Vodafone and Tesco and music videos for MIA and Stereophonics. Here she tells Mandy News about her casting career so far and what actors can do to get noticed.
Congratulations on your CDA award. Tell us a little bit about when you decided to launch your amazing casting career and business and how you went about it. You studied acting originally, right?
Thank you! I did, yes, at Italia Conti on the MT course. I absolutely loved it and, after graduating, I did a few small jobs but most of my time was taken up by teaching dance and drama. After a while, I realised I wanted to try something other than teaching so got a job as a runner in a production company.
Here, I took any opportunity given to assist casting directors as I realised my acting and teaching skills were a great advantage to casting. I was lucky enough to be given an amazing opportunity to cast a few high profile music videos with a brilliant director who took me on to cast more exciting projects!
What is the key to being a great casting director?
A good eye, intuition, empathy and organisational skills.
Who do you interact with on a daily/weekly/annual basis? What are the challenges and rewards?
We interact with agents, actors, producers, directors and casting studios. You have to learn to manage budgets, expectations and all kids of personalities. There are many challenges but also lots of rewards. It's rewarding being able to give someone a job and also watching the final piece on screen.
You’ve worked with huge clients such as Vodafone, Cadbury’s, MIA, Tesco, Stereophonics. What changes when working with such huge brands? Is there more time?
To be honest there isn't much difference working with a huge brand/client to a smaller brand. Often you are still working to a very tight schedule. The budgets may be better which sometimes leads to bigger agents suggesting good clients but I will still keep my options open and see the actors I think are right for the job.
Tell us about casting and working with artists and directors on music videos as you’ve done quite a few amazing ones! What’s the setup and how does everybody collaborate to create the outcome?
Music videos are always great fun and very creative. They are approached like a short film so usually the crew do them as a passion project rather than a job. You work closely with the director to get the right cast. It's how I started and it gives great opportunities to actors and crew. It's very collaborative. The producers often have their say on creative choices.
You won CDA awards for “This Girl Can, Phenomenal Women” and “Womankind”? Did they feel particularly special, challenging or interesting to work on?
Very special. Especially This Girl Can as it's such a big deal for women. We also cast the first campaign and since that one came out approx 1.6 million more women started exercising after seeing the first campaign! It's such a great impact. We loved casting this one. The women we met along the way truly were phenomenal. We co-cast this with Martin Gibbons casting for some of the Manchester women.
Both This Girl Can 'Phenomenal Women' and Berlei 'Womankind' were top fave jobs for me last year and I love the fact they all feature women! Both also directed by the inspiring and fab woman Kim Gehrig!
What advice can you give to actors in terms of being great in a casting or self-tape scenario?
Be yourself. Especially when you come into a casting. Don't try to please too much. The ident is the first thing a director sees so if you are being 'stagey' at this point (and that's not usually your personality) then it can immediately put them off you.
Most of the time we are looking for naturalistic performances so just keep it as real as possible.
Prepare as much as you can. Learn lines if they have been given to you in advance and research the director and see their style as it may help with the performance they are after.
And general advice to creatives wanting to get into – and stay in – the industry?
Network and be nice. Always be nice.