Casting Director Mark Summers
Let me introduce you all to Mark Summers, one of the UK’s leading casting directors, Lacara had the pleasure of chatting to him and delving into his life as a casting director
Although Mark has been in the business for years his enthusiasm is amazing, still very driven and exciting to chat to. A real inspiration for not only all child actors and casting directors but also business people, Mark really is a breath of fresh air when in his presence, it was so interesting chatting to him.
So how did it all begin Mark?
I was a young kid that could probably sing before I could speak! My parents were not the slightest bit theatrical but they believed that if you are going to do something then do it well. My dad had a friend who knew someone that ran Barbara Speaks stage school and I started there at nursery age.
So your parents were not in the industry at all?
No, my dad was Indian and mum was Irish with no artistic back ground whatsoever. My mum was big on education. I think a lot of influence came from my mum she would play music after every meal time and it was a huge variety of styles from Diana Ross to Rock
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hounslow but spent a lot of time in the USA so I had dual nationality I would drop in and out of Barbara Speaks.
So how was your career as a child?
It was great, I did TV commercials, movies etc and it was all with the help of my supportive parents.
At what point did you want to become a casting director?
Growing up I always had a fascination of what was going on behind the scenes, asking questions about everything! Then at 16 started a theatre group for kids, then started seeing castings so began putting people forward, very business minded from such a young age. I started from a small room with a £50 ad in paper. I got to know director and actors and it grew. I have certainly had my fingers burnt a few times in business but it makes me work harder. But I would keep knocking on doors and show enthusiasm. As a kid I may have missed out on holidays etc but I was too driven in business and progressing my careers, you have to have tunnel vision.
What would you say to parents bringing up children now into the industry?
It is 24/7 you don’t know when opportunities are going to happen so you must be ready to answer phones. I got my first Michael Jackson job because my dad answered the phone at 3am. So its about having supportive parents.
1st rule kids have to want it and be happy with going to auditions
Rule 2, don’t concentrate on being famous concentrate on training
Rule 3, parents need to be committed, you can’t pick and choose seize opportunities, take them and grasp them.
Rule 4, you need to be a good parent and take them everywhere, be prepared to travel
Its also really important to have a good relationship with your agent, dont p**s off your agent!
A casting director is the headhunter we don’t use rude people!
What casting audition tips can you give?
When we are casting kids we will try and get castings done asap, in and out. Parents are not allowed in the casting director’s studio, its not a game, it is an interview. Parents want to watch but we need to see the child and the confidence. Remember the casting director is the gatekeeper
A casting director is employed to find people who fit the brief, they are also responsible to find any other issues ie are parents ok! especially if shooting abroad, they need to have parents they can work with. Clients will ask if the parents are ok!
Remember it is job interview, you are being judged from the time you walk in, both kid and parent.
Don’t bring 5 people to a casting its not a day out, lots of casting rooms are small.
Remember to prepare, research the job you are going for, look at previous adverts understand the brief, BE PREPARED
1st impression is the only impression they want easy going people that can do the job.
A casting director is trying to do a job, be friendly, relaxed and no over hairbrushing! A good parent should make sure kids have good energy, get them to run around block and make sure they are well fed.
Make sure kids are entertained, not on a mobile phones and games, we don’t want kids to have dizzy heads.
You must plan your journey and phone if you are going to be late, let your agent know.
Remember we also watch how parents treat other peoples kids!
How can kids improve their chances in the industry?
If you want to be a doctor you need to train, its the same if you want to be an actor you need to work at it. You must train!
Modelling is acting, take kids to classes, to build confidence.
Its not about being famous if you want to be the best you need to graft, go to theatre schools, modelling classes.
Parents need to find quality drama and dance teachers and the kids need to enjoy the classes. They don’t need to belong to a major London theatre school, classes are everywhere, its about gaining confidence.
The look may get you the job but the skill will win you it.
What happens if a child will not perform?!
The worst thing a parent can do is blame everything else, by saying they haven’t had enough sleep, its been a long journey or they are not feeling well etc. Just say its not their day! don’t make excuses, kids have off days, a casting director understands, we all have kids in the family, we are human too.
Its been a real eye opener chatting to you Mark, you really are inspirational, both for parents, children and myself as an agent, any last tips?
There is no such thing as a small job, commercials are big business, movie directors cast commercials. There are 10-15 casting directors that control 90% of the industry its really small and connected and interlinked
REMEMBER its not Xfactor! The look gets you in, skill gets you the job!
If you are going to be a doctor you need to train, its the same as being an actor you need to work at it.
Only a small percentage make it, train hard and work at it!
Don’t think about being famous, think about training and becoming the best!
We hope you enjoyed a little insight to Mark Summers. We are very lucky to announce he will be chatting to us regularly in the future offering lots of tips and advice for all children! Exciting!
Read about his casting associate Louise Mason