'Lose the nerves' CDA award-winning casting director Emily Tilelli offers acting tips and more

Emily Tilelli is a London-based CDA award-winning casting director – and founder of ET Casting – known for her work on mini-series Deep and Surf Therapy as well as a string of commercials for brands such as Next, Captain Birdseye, Paypal and Morrisons. Here she tells Mandy News about her casting career so far and what actors can do to get noticed.

30th May 2018
/ By Andrew Wooding

Emily Tilelli casting director EMILYTILELLI

Tell us a little bit about when you decided to launch your amazing casting career and business and how you went about it.
My first ever full-time job (at the age of 19) was as a receptionist for a casting consultancy in Sydney. Within three months I was promoted to casting assistant where I worked on feature films and commercials. Then after two years of booking in casting sessions, operating cameras and running smaller sessions on my own, I joined a great casting director (Kirsty McGregor) where I became a partner and had a successful agency for seven years. 

When I relocated to London in 2007, I started out as a freelancer, working with some of the UK's top casting directors and in 2011 set up ET Casting.

***** Check out our EXCLUSIVE interview with CDA award-winning casting director Sue Odell *****

Who do you interact with on a daily/weekly/annual basis for castings? What are the challenges and rewards?
Clients (production companies, ad agencies, brands, directors), agents and actors. And then there are thousands of “real” people we find through our research for our real people projects. The biggest reward is casting an unknown and having it launch their career (eg. Abigail Hardingham in Nina Forever). The biggest challenge is fighting for better rates for actors as budgets are ever shrinking.

How much travelling do you do and why?
The team and I have travelled all over the UK for various real people projects (McCain’s for example) and we’ve been to the majority of European capitals casting for international TVCs.

At least one of us goes to Edinburgh Fringe each year to scout for up and coming talent.

What changes for both yourself, the producers/directors and the actors when casting a TV show, commercial, music video or feature film? And what stays the same?
The main difference for me between casting for film or television and commercials is the turnaround time. A commercial can be briefed and cast all within a 48 hour period whereas a film will take months. 

With an independent film for example, we will need to find at least one artist with some profile to give the film a better shot of being funded or picked up for distribution. This can take weeks of list-making and pinging ideas back and forth with the director and then once we've made an offer to an A-Lister, we wait for the agent and the artist to read it and respond. Already the process is taking an age! 

Then at audition stage, while for a commercial we might allow 10 minutes for each artist, for a film we'll have so much scene work to get through that usually we'll allow a minimum of 20minutes per artist. We could never cast an entire film in a day whereas with commercials, we cast umpteen roles in a day all the time. 

Casting for film and TV generally takes a lot more consideration and work!

What has been the hardest role to fill or most challenging job?
Nina Forever was the most challenging but equally the most rewarding project to cast.

***** Read our EXCLUSIVE interview with CDA award-winning casting director Leanne Flinn *****

You won a CDA award for Heartland? Did it feel particularly special, challenging or interesting to work on?
We loved the sound of Heartland from the get-go – a narrative driven music video with a great team behind it! We’ve worked with Ollie Wolf (the director) before and we loved that his music videos have a clear narrative-based structure. It’s fun being asked to cast interesting faces for highly visual videos but having an actual script gives the actors (and us!) an opportunity to really explore these characters in studio.

Having our two leads in for a recall was special in itself because their chemistry was palpable!

What advice can you give to actors in terms of being great in a casting or self-tape scenarios?
Relax and lose the nerves, you've been chosen over hundreds of others to be seen! You're there because we want you to be there and we want you to do your best!

When self-taping, quality is very important. We're not expecting visual effects, even titles, but the audio should be strong and the visual clear.

And general advice to creatives wanting to get into – and stay in – the industry?
In my opinion, being a casting director is the greatest job in the world but then I would say that! If you're interested in casting perhaps offer your services as a reader so that you can spend some time in a studio seeing how it all works and maybe contact casting directors in case they're looking for an intern, an assistant or are just happy to give you some work experience. 

Some casting directors do look for part time helpers when everything gets busy too.

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Joanna Zwierzynska


Very interesting article.

BMA Artists


Amazing. Thank you & Congrats