'Sweat blood!' CDA award-winning casting director Emma Ashton shares self-tape tips and more

Emma Ashton is a London-based CDA award-winning casting director and founder of Ashton Hinkinson casting along with casting director Debs Hinkinson. Together the duo have cast commercials for brands such as Debenhams, M&S, IKEA, Snickers, Mercedes and more, as well as music videos for Ian Brown and Florence and the Machine. Here she tells Mandy News about her casting career so far and what actors can do to get noticed.

20th June 2018
/ By Andrew Wooding

Casting director Emma Ashton EMMAASHTON

Congratulations on your award. Tell us a little bit about when you decided to launch your amazing casting career and business and how you went about it.
I decided to become a casting director when I was working as a production assistant for Blink Productions in soho around 1996 .The directors often asked me to find people for their films and commercial work and it just developed from there - prior to that I had done my degree in Film and was making all sorts of films and low budget projects.

Tell us what Ashton Hinkinson strive to do as a team and what an average day/week/month looks like for you guys?
Debs and I work closely together building up good relations with agents and our producers and directors. I spend a lot of time working on quotes and helping the producers I work with to win their pitches. Once they hopefully have succeeded in securing the job then we begin to work on the casting itself. 

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

You’ve worked with some massive brands like IKEA, Paul Smith, Mercedes, M & S, Snickers, Debenhams and more. What is the key to approaching commercials casting work? 
Getting the fees right and having good relations with the agents so that they trust us and our judgement on who we consider to be a good client , this enables us to put forward their best actors for our sessions.

With new forms of advertising constantly cropping up; with branded content, social media and web videos etc, what changes for you in the process of working on those? Or is it the same as doing TV and other forms of advertising?

I think Its pretty much the same process really.

You won a CDA award for Eatkarus? Did it feel particularly special, challenging or interesting to work on?
Yes we knew it was quite an unusual and special project and would require a deep search to find the right child to play the lead role. We saw a lot of kids for this as you can imagine. In the end Joseph Harman was chosen not just because he was a very strong little actor but also because he had the right temperament and resilience to cope with a demanding shoot. We needed a child who wouldn’t be fazed by long hours in prosthetics and wearing a heavy suit whilst running up a snowy mountain!

The director Alex Feil and Joseph worked really well together and produced a wonderful performance. The whole cast was a joy to find and really fun to work with, we had to keep the fats suits in our tiny office for nearly a month leaving hardly any room for us to sit but it was worth it, did get some funny looks carrying them through the streets of soho to the casting suit every day though :)

What advice can you give to actors in terms of being great in a casting or self-tape scenario?
Listen to what the casting director says in the actual session very carefully and don’t assume you know what they are gong to ask you to as quite often I will ask actors to do something off page that has nothing to do with the script but it will let me get the action I need to show the director what he has asked for. 

We don’t have much time in commercial casting session maybe only 5 or 10 minutes with each person so its crucial to not wast time and to keep an open mind.

And general advice to creatives wanting to get into – and stay in – the industry? Both for casting directors and actors.
Sweat blood!