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jodilong's Blog

February 1st, 2011 Comments

IN THE TRENCHES-It's PILOT SEASON! Interview with director and casting director Risa Bramon Garcia

It's Pilot Season, where those lucky writer/producers who had their scripts picked by the studios to make a pilot, are now casting their projects. I thought it would be good to introduce you to Risa Bramon Garcia, a casting director and director (bio below) I have known since our early days in NYC. She is also a wonderful acting coach and teaches acting classes. I recently had the good fortune of reconnecting with her and decided to take her Master Acting Class. I am so glad I did! Her understanding and passion for the process is unsurpassed and so infectious it inspires you to do your best work. Her classes are a great road map not only for the actor starting out, but also for the seasoned veteran looking for a "tune up" or work out.  She holds classes in NY and LA and you can find her on:

Facebook: Risa Bramon Garcia Master Class and Coaching

Risa agreed to answer some questions for the ForTalent audience, which I hope will get you thinking differently about your auditions - especially during pilot season. Merde!

What do you most look for in an actor at their audition? 

I look for someone who is comfortable in his/her own skin and in the skin of the character. Able to slip into (if not already in) the character. Still being authentic and true to oneself. Bringing yourself into the room with confidence and a knowing of the material and the character so that you can show us, teach us about the scene and the role. Focused, ready to work. From the focus and comfort with the role, from the centeredness, comes an abandon of having to please anyone. And a freedom to play and make specific, bold choices, choices that are yours and yours alone.

Do you do preliminary or prescreen auditions? And why?

I don't consider any audition a prescreen. As soon as you come into the room, you're working. I like to work with actors without the pressure of producers and even directors in the room. That may be unusual - and I'm more comfortable with it because a director myself - but it's a great way to give actors more of a working room, without the pressure of the tiny space filled with tons of antsy writers and producers waiting impatiently for the magic to  happen. These days, with so many auditions being taped and watched later on computer casting sites, the experience in the room with a casting director is often the most significant work you'll do. 

What would be the single best advice you would give to a young actor trying to break into the business today? 

I have a few pieces of advice. Most of all, do your work. Focus on the work and not the career. Work on the text, on your character, so that you're so ready to come into the room and live the scene.  And make committed choices that excite you, so that you can bring that into the casting room and show your unique self.And think of yourself as an athlete, so keep yourself tuned, however you can. Find ways to be an actor all the time. Get inside it every chance you get. Auditions are those chances. As well as finding a company, a community of artists like yourself, a place where you can work out all the time.You're an actor. You love to act. So make every audition, every acting experience an opportunity to be an actor. Fully.Do other things to express yourself. Write. Create work. Watch movies. Study great actors. Read. Get inside it whenever you can. Find inspiration and bring that to your work.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a casting director, especially during pilot season?

Facilitating the marriage between the actors, the roles, the vision of the creator of the material (show creator, writer, filmmaker) in a way that allows the creative process to come alive in an honest way, with so much distraction, so much focus on things other than the creative process. Focusing on the work and not the politics and the egos that sometimes drive the day and suck the creativity out of the process. During pilot season everyone feels desperate (to get the pilot cast so that it'll be picked up, to get the job for the $ and career, to do it in a compressed period of time, to force success) and it's so important to duck and cover. Stay in the work. Let the bullets fly above you. Taking the spookiness out of the room is hard. So that actors can do their best work, even if the room itself is full of tension.Competing for actors with the 40 other pilots going through the same thing at the same time is insane. Unnatural. Ridiculous. And yet we do it season after season. Because those are the rules. But the only real rules are the ones that show us how to stay inside the moment, do our work, do it as well and as inspired as we can, and then let it go after that. Then it's up to the gods. But if we've done our work fully and with love and excitement, we've given the gods lots to play with.



Risa Bramon Garcia

As a casting director Risa, has cast over 65 movies including Desperately Seeking Susan, Wall Street, Something Wild, Angel Heart, Fatal Attraction, Born on the Fourth of July, Talk Radio, JFK, Sneakers, The Joy Luck Club, True Romance, Speed, How To Make An American Quilt, Dead Presidents, Twister, and Flirting With Disaster and numerous television shows, including Roseanne, CSI:NY, and the recent Universal/NBC series, The Cape, which is currently in production of its first season. 


Risa was a Producer on Oliver Stone’s films Heaven and Earth and Natural Born Killers, movies she also cast. 


As a director, Risa recently completed directing a feature film in Canada, The Con Artist (aka The Love Child), for Myriad Pictures, Maple Pictures, and Telefilm Canada, starring Donald Sutherland, Rossif Sutherland, Rebecca Romijn. It had it's world premiere in the Zurich Film Festival. She directed the feature film, 200 cigarettes, for Paramount Pictures, Lakeshore Entertainment, MTV Films and Mike Newell’s company, Dogstar.  The movie stars Ben Affleck, Kate Hudson, Paul Rudd, Dave Chappelle, Casey Affleck, Courtney Love, Christina Ricci, Janeane Garofalo, Martha Plimpton, Jay Mohr and Guillermo Diaz. 


Her directing television credits include multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone for New Line Television and UP,  Life Stories: A Deadly Secret for HBO, The Hidden Room: The Rogue in The Bathroom for Lifetime Television, and  Between Cars for Comedy Central. Risa was a Producer on the NBC television show, Grand, for the Carsey Werner Company, and on The Hidden Room for Lifetime Television.


Risa founded and produced two seasons of ACT ONE in association with Showtime Networks, a Festival of one-act plays.  She has directed extensively at The Ensemble Studio Theatre in NY where she’s been a member since 1981.  She’s directed at the Manhattan Theatre Club and Second Stage in New York, and with Naked Angels in L.A.  Risa has directed new plays by Edward Allan Baker, Bill Bozzone, Wil Calhoun, John Patrick Shanley, Richard Greenberg, Alan Zweibel and Jon Robin Baitz, among others.







Wow! This is so informative! Thank you for sharing this to the community, Jodi!!

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