18 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Making The Cut: Career Advice From Casting Director Louise Kiely
29 Nov 2012 : By Dylan Newe
Louise Kiely cast rising star Jack Reynor in 'What Richard Did'
Louise Kiely has built her reputation as one of Ireland’s leading casting directors. This year alone she has cast a number of up-and-coming Irish actors in successful films, including Jack Reynor in the critically acclaimed ‘What Richard Did’, as well as the upcoming BBC series ‘Quirke’, which has just added three new characters, ‘Ripper Street’ which wrapped production in Dublin last July, and ‘The Sea’ which is currently in post-production in Dublin.

In our latest Making the Cut series, Louise Kiely tells us why being a casting director is harder work than many believe, how she made the switch from being an actress and why she wouldn’t change her job for the world.

Generally, as a casting director my day starts either two ways… meeting with directors, divising a plan with directors, doing a character breakdown, doing a character brief, or scheduling casting days. Alternatively it could be in a casting room.

People think that it’s a very creative thing and you can just sit there going ‘Yes! No!’ The reality is that it’s a lot of hours put in to things like research, paperwork and scheduling "

In that case we’d be filming the actors, doing the auditions and uploading the videos for everyone to see in the evening time. So it depends whether it’s working in preparation of the casting or actually doing the casting. In terms of preparation and what people don’t tend to know is that you have to know your technology. I use Vimeo, which is private, so whether it’s in Ireland or I’m sending it over to directors in England, it’s the most accessible way so that everybody can watch it at their convenience. You have to have a good camera, a good tripod and you have to like that stuff. So it’s a bit technological in that way as well.

Today for example, I had a meeting with a director and a producer, and through chatting I just get a sense of the script. I come from an acting background; which I don’t think is a necessary thing, plenty of casting directors don’t come from acting backgrounds. But when I read a script I just break it down to essentially get a sense of all the characters, and put a shortlist together of who I think would suit those roles. And then I go away, I work a lot on my own or with Karen Scully who works with me, and we put it all together then. We have our mighty casting days where we shortlist people and then see where we are.

The most common misconception people have about my job is… that it’s fabulous all the time. It’s a great job and I love it, don’t get me wrong, I adore every minute of it. But it’s hard work, there’s a lot of admin. And I guess people think that it’s a very creative thing and you can just sit there going ‘Yes! No!’ The reality is that it’s a lot of hours put in to things like research, paperwork and scheduling, and sometimes that can mean a lot of late nights. You have to be a creative person of course with the world that it is, but you also have to be really organised because at the end of the day you have to be responsible for your work and people have to know what you’re doing when you’re working to a deadline. But as I said, I love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Louise was responsible for casting Jack Reynor as Richard in Lenny Abrahamson's ‘What Richard Did’

The practical tips I would give to somebody trying to break into the industry as a casting director would be… to immerse yourself in the world of it and be interested in people. Somebody said to me when I was starting ‘There’s always room’ and I do believe that. If somebody wants to be a casting director I think that they should do it because it’s a great job.

Assist a casting director and you can learn that way. I didn’t assist, I sort of found out the way I was going. What’s essential is watching movies, going to the theatre, keeping in it, you have to know who everybody is and you have to know it well. Being a casting director you have to talk to people and be able to read them. You have to be interested in people; I was talking to another casting director last week and we were saying that it’s the chats or seeing someone in a tiny part in a play perhaps and picking up on something special.

On a practical level then I’d say assist, go see as much as you can, do any sort of casting you can. I really believe that, especially at the beginning in putting in the hours. See as many people as you can. Commercials are fantastic as training ground because you get to see so many people. You’re exhausted at the end of the day but the practical learning is invaluable.

The people who helped me get where I am today are… I have loads of people who took a risk on me that I’m extremely grateful for. Lots of production companies in Dublin, lots of directors, and they’ve been hugely patient and very warm and welcoming. Each individual director has inspired me in some way or another. I suppose at the very beginning, me and the actress Orla Fitzgerald started together and although she didn’t continue with me I don’t think I would’ve done it without her. Marian Quinn was the first feature film director that I worked with and that was called ‘32A’ in 2006 and that will always be very special.

The best thing about my job is being able to give an actor a job, which is so bloody hard for them in the first place, that’s very satisfying "

The best thing about my job is... being able to give an actor a job, which is so bloody hard for them in the first place, that’s very satisfying. Also, when they’re so excited to do it, that’s brilliant too. Of course it would be amazing if an actor that I cast won an award but for me I get a big kick out of just giving them work in the first place. Another aspect is the people that you get to meet and the projects that you work on.

The projects will start and it’ll be really exciting and then three months later there’ll be a new project and that’s really exciting again because it’s a whole new group of people. And we have great fun on the casting days! I come from a legal background also so I love the process of negotiating the deals with the actors. The paperwork and contracts, contractual rules and conventions on that side I also find very interesting as well.

Websites you should surf/books you should read for inspiration… I think every actor should be on Spotlight, or on Fishpond which is really great as well. My friend Ali Coffey founded that. I’m very excited to see a documentary coming out which is called ‘Casting By....’ and it’s a documentary about a very famous casting director and hopefully it will demystify things in a way. I think the best thing that you can do is watch the movies, watch the special features. Read plays as much as you can, immerse yourself in it. It is a different one in that you can’t go to work to learn it but you can certainly upskill yourself in the real world about it. People always ask ‘How do you become a casting director?’ and it’s tricky enough to learn how to get into but actually in practical terms it’s not that tricky to get into. It’s great, I would recommend it to anyone.

Click below for previous 'Making the Cut' intervews:

Mark Geraghty: ‘Ripper Street’ Production Designer

Nathan Nugent: ‘What Richard Did’ Editor’

Ronan Hill: ‘Game of Thrones’ Sound Designer

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