Casting Director Rachel Flanagan Talks Austin Actors and Keeping it Real

August 8, 2012

Rachel Flanagan is Austin’s outspoken and spunky casting director, and when she gets a gig, we know it’s going to be a good one.

Agence Talent recently asked Rachel for the answers to our most burning questions. Actors, take notes!

AT:  What led you to a career as a casting director?

RF:  I started in the music business for the punk label Slash Records in Los Angeles. I continued in the music business for another ten years, mostly for record companies. I also worked directly for The Thompson Twins and Terrence Trent D’Arby. It was in the music business that I discovered I could recognize talent. Once I entered the film industry, I realized the two businesses are very similar, but only after working with casting directors Billy Hopkins and Don Philips did I find my calling. I realized casting was my passion.

AT:  You’ve worked in bigger markets like LA; what made you move to Austin and are you glad you did?

RF:  I’ve been in LA and I wasn’t impressed with what I saw in the music business or the film industry. There are some terrific people in Los Angeles but it can be toxic. I wanted to continue working without the super-sized egos and politics. People in LA are there for themselves, giving it a narcissistic essence. I had wonderful experiences, met amazing people, and have great stories. In the end, however, I wanted to simplify my life. When I moved to Austin, I didn’t know a single person but I saw it as a great adventure and a challenge. Although initially I did consider New Orleans and New Mexico, Austin won out. I love Austin and feel very blessed and grateful to be living and working here.

AT:  Speaking of LA, can you compare that market to the one in Austin in terms of actors, ethics, and overall industry?

RF:  Actors in Los Angeles will take any job until they “make it,” which rarely happens. So, there is a huge group of people who are frustrated waiting tables instead of polishing Oscars. Actors in Texas don’t have the luxury of what I call “lightning in a bottle.” There aren’t the same opportunities in Texas so the actors here are more realistic. They pursue other careers and succeed at them, making Texas actors much more rounded and interesting individuals. As far as ethics, living in a right to work state without the protection of the union is a lot more challenging. I feel productions come to Texas to take advantage of the cheaper labor.

AT:  As an agent, I’ve seen many changes to our local industry in the past several years. What differences do you see, and how do you account for them?

RF:  I see clients with smaller budgets and lower rates asking for more and longer usage. It appears to be a concerted effort to tighten the belt on film, TV, and commercial production initiated by corporations. It’s hard to have sympathy for a huge food conglomerate, bank, or insurance company that whines about not having enough money to pay a decent rate to actors when they are profiting billions. Having said that, low money is better than no money. If you’re waiting for the industry to return to the “good old days,” it’s not. You have to acclimate and adjust or you will be left behind.

AT:  What is local talent really good at and where do they fall behind their competition?

RF:  Texas actors are not going to 3-4 auditions every day nor booking as many jobs as actors in bigger markets, thereby not getting the ‘on-camera’ experience. A lot of them are green but eager to learn. I’ve seen huge improvements from the actors who attend acting classes. I think actors should be in a class that challenges them. I love working with the actors in Texas and am very proud of them. They get better with every take.

AT:  What three things should every Austin actor do when he/she walks into a casting session with you.

RF:  Have his/her sizes, a resume, and a headshot on Casting Networks.

AT:  What are your biggest professional pet peeves?

RF:  Actors showing up at callbacks without a resume and headshot, using a headshot that looks nothing like the person, or using the same headshot for years. Also, women who wear too much make-up. Ladies, please stop wearing dark or red lipstick. Let your natural beauty shine thru!

AT:  Is there a secret to making it in this business as an actor, in your opinion?

RF:  As Robert Redford’s agent once told me, “There’s no such thing as luck; it’s when opportunity meets ability.” The only thing anyone can give an actor in this business is an opportunity. It’s up to the actor to have the ability. How does an actor get ability? Acting classes, character study, acting with your whole body, and learning to be subtle. Also, keep your body in good shape.

AT:  Where do you see our industry in five years in the wake of current economic challenges, technological changes, etc?

RF:  That’s the million-dollar question. I wish I knew!

AT:  If you could have any superpower bestowed upon you, what would it be?

RF:  Time travel.

AT:  Thanks, Rachel! We are happy to have you in the here and now!

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