Written by: Lisa Peters
Our weekly industry talks have really become one of the many highlights of my time studying at Associated Studios. This week we had the honour of digitally meeting David Grindrod, one of the top casting directors in our industry.
David started off with telling us about how he started his career. After graduating he worked backstage at several productions as an ASM, DSM, company manager and general manager. After he was let go from a job, he got a call asking him: “Look we’re doing this show called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with this unknown pop star called Jason Donovan, would you consider doing it?” Between getting the job and starting the job, Andrew Lloyd Webber decided it would be a good idea to have school choirs in the show. Before David knew it, he was spending the next 8 months going around the M25 area drumming up school choirs. “I’m not quite sure how I did, but I did it. We then opened in the Palladium, it was a huge success. The rest, I guess in that respect, is history.”
After that, David joined Andrew Lloyd Webber’s office as a company manager, among them Sunset Boulevard. Having previously worked with director Trevor Nunn at the Shakespeare Company, David was presented with the opportunity to cast the second company of the show. “That’s how I got into it. It was kind of a ‘Do I? Don’t I?’.” Lucky for us, David decided to do it!
After doing a lot of work with the Really Useful Group, 22 years ago David decided he wanted to go at it alone. “I went to Andrew and said I’d like to cast for me. I said I’d like a room at the Palace theatre, I’d like to take all of your shows with me, is that OK?” It sure was, and soon after he started, David got the call to cast Chicago. And the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. “I got a phone call from a lady called Judy Craymer who asked if I’d consider doing a workshop of a show with music by ABBA. Doing that and everything that blossomed from it, that changed my life.” David tells us with a big smile. “That gave us the kickstart to do other shows and to do everything else.”
And everything else included not only a lot of stage shows, but also film and television work. “We’ve found a Maria, Dorothy, Joseph, Nancy, we even found Jesus!” David expressed his gratitude for all the projects he’s worked on in the past and the ones he will be working on in the near future: “I’m very fortunate and very lucky and things are happening, things will keep happening and it will all pull through.”
David then opened up the floor for questions. When asked about his work with graduates and what he looks for in graduates specifically, he promptly stated ‘talent’. He talked about how he’s cast quite a few of this past year’s graduates in Cinderella. David mentioned he appreciates good training, having a good background and knowledge going into the industry. He also elaborated on the importance of having a true resume. This is what makes him decide if you’re right for something, so it’s important that your Spotlight or resume shows who you really are: make sure the picture looks like you and everything you can do is on there and you can do it if asked to do it in an audition.
“Always make sure your picture looks like you, don’t do a lot of artistic things with it. It’s all about the face and seeing an interesting face. I’m bored with seeing pouty pictures. I just want to see your gorgeous smile.” He also advised us to have someone else pick your headshot photos, as you’ll always end up picking the wrong ones yourself.
He also emphasised that it is important to realise that we are all different, and we’d never all be right for the same role. It’s up to a casting director to decide if you’re right for the work, and they won’t bring you in if they don’t think you’d be right for something. “Especially now in covid times, we can’t bring in huge groups of people, so we need to make sure we get the right people in the room.”
When asked about any new projects he’s working on that are coming up, he mentioned Cinderella, Back to the Future, the Matilda film, Moulin Rouge and the Bob Marley musical. However, he also said that it’s hard to look much further in the future with everything that’s going on with the pandemic. Though things are picking up now with the vaccine and theatres reopening, David believes that, come February-March time things will start gearing up again. April-May is the time when the shows will start to open fully again. Once that happens, it will kickstart everything else. The opportunity to start new things will come again. “When you guys graduate this summer, you’ll be on a springboard into the industry.” Now, isn’t that what we love to hear as drama school students?
We then moved on to the topic of first auditions and David gave us a lot of tips and advice on how to navigate our auditions:
- Don’t listen to any gossip in the waiting room.
- Whatever you do to calm yourself, do that while you wait and just keep breathing.
- Walk into the room positively and without excuses. Don’t apologise for being there and don’t come in if you’re not in tip-top form.
- The person behind the piano is your best friend for the next 5 minutes, so make sure you treat them well and come in organised and prepared. Make sure your sheet music (whether digitally or on paper) is in order.
- If you’re coming in for a Rogers & Hammerstein show, don’t bring ABBA. You should have a good selection of songs in your folder. Be careful with what you bring and make sure you know it. Don’t learn it the night before, make sure you know those songs like the back of your hand.
- If it’s a pop musical bring some good pop repertoire. “With pop what I’ve found is, sometimes it doesn’t need a story. Sometimes you just need to feel the music. Some of these pop songs don’t have a story, they have a statement.”
- If you’re sending in a self tape keep it simple but emotive, don’t do too much with your arms, look above the camera and don’t move too far left and right with your body or your face, because it’ll be hard to see what you’re doing.
- If you get called in for a recall, bring in your own prints of the sides they’ve sent or your iPad. You’re not expected to have learned them by heart, so keep them in your hand and you won’t forget it. Just because you have it there, it will psychologically make you remember it.
- For a dance call, be honest if you’re a dancer or a mover.
- And then for the final rounds: you can all do it and don’t change what you’re doing. At this point it might come down to details like your height, vocal range or dance ability. Now everybody has to be able to do everything, not just dance or act.
- “If you get the job: hurrah! If you don’t get it, learn from that. We’ll have remembered you if you did a good job, so we will call you back for other things.”
Rounding off our talk David gave us his advice to stay positive in these strange times, and he told us to “keep busy and keep learning”.
It was wonderful to listen to David’s stories and his pragmatic and useful advice for the industry. It’s nice to speak to someone that is so down to earth and tells it like it is. I think I can speak for the rest of us that this talk has made us feel just that much more prepared to go into the industry next summer and rock those auditions! I’d love to thank David Grindrod for this lovely industry talk and the team at Associated Studios for organising it.