How and when did you get started in casting?
It was an accident! I actually just fell into casting. Let me explain: I wanted to be an actress growing up in NY. I never thought about casting or any other area of entertainment. I got accepted to the High School of Performing Arts, but never went. My dream was to be in show business. My parents sent me to college in Los Angeles, so that I would be closer to achieving my goal. When I graduated, I got a job working in a production company as a receptionist. My uncle, Arne Sultan, who was a successful comedy producer and writer, was working on a show at the time and set up the interview. Needless to say, I got the job. During the season the casting director quit and the assistant took over. I became the casting assistant. Thus I fell into the casting arena. I loved reading with the actors since it gave me the opportunity to act. I enjoyed the whole casting process and felt excited by it. When the show went on hiatus, I left the company and found a job with a casting company that worked on feature films and television. That was even more exciting. I worked for the biggest casting director at the time, Lynn Stalmaster. I started on the bottom, doing contracts and paperwork and gradually made my way to casting director. After four years with Lynn, I was offered a job at ABC where I became a casting executive, overseeing shows like Dynasty, Loveboat, Fantasy Island, Bosom Buddies, Three’s Company, Happy Days, Too Close for Comfort to name a few . At ABC, I had the opportunity to work with amazing people who have become some of the biggest producers, top television executives and movie moguls in entertainment.
You Seem To Specialize In Kids. How did that evolve?
After ABC, I left Los Angeles and moved back to NY for personal reasons. Upon returning to LA in the early 90’s, with a 3 year-old daughter, the business changed drastically and there were more casting directors moving into the neighborhood. More casting directors meant more competition. I freelanced when I realized I couldn’t go back to a corporate or staff job. I worked on movies of the week for Vin Di Bona and Kushner Locke. I took on a number of partners, but after a few years realized that I wanted to try it alone. I did independent features, also. One of the movies we did gave Denise Richards her SAG card. Also, Scott Wolf and Sean Whalen, to name a few.
About 8 years ago, a manager friend of mine set up a meeting for me to meet Sharon Chazin-Lieblein, who is the head of casting at the Nickelodeon network. A month later, Sharon called me and gave me the opportunity to work on a movie with her. I did and the rest is history! She hired me continuously and gave me the chance to work on wonderful kid-oriented projects. Thus began my niche of specializing in kids. I cast Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Unfabulous and the pilot of Drake and Josh. I did a few movies of the week for Nickelodeon as well. Acting schools across the country asked me to come out and audition their students and teach workshops. I have been doing that ever since. On one of my trips I found an amazing 8 year-old girl named AnnaSophia Robb. After one month in LA she booked a national commercial and after a few more months she booked the lead in the movie “Because of Winn Dixie.”
About 4 years ago, I started my relationship with the Actorsite in L. A., where I teach workshops; I just finished teaching a week-long actors camp for kids. I realized that so many of the kids auditioning for me here in LA weren’t prepared for their auditions. I found myself spending more than 5 minutes with many kids, coaching them and getting them in audition mode, while others who were prepared anxiously awaited their audition in the next room. That’s when I started teaching in LA. Agents started to call me to coach their clients as well. I cast, I coach and I teach.
What problems do you have dealing with stage parents?
I don’t have an issue with stage parents. I cast the roles and I’m rarely on the set. I have wonderful relationships with the parents of the kids I cast but remember – once they’ve been cast my job ends. I get along with almost everyone, but if I feel someone is overstepping boundaries, I handle it diplomatically.
How can stage parents be the most helpful to their kids and to the casting world?
We all love our own kids and want to see the best happen for them. This is a very competitive business and we are dealing with children. Remember they are kids and you are their leader! When your kid makes a decision to be an actor, he or she must have a tough exterior, because there is so much rejection. A good stage parent should be supportive of their child’s career. Be their biggest cheerleader and build a healthy support system for them. It’s an acting career so when they aren’t acting or it’s slow for them, keep them in acting classes so that they can continue working on their craft while they are trying to get acting work. It keeps them fresh. When you take them to auditions, be excited and positive. Don’t make a big deal about the audition. It’s just an audition and not brain surgery. If they do well, pat them on the back and move on. If they feel it didn’t go well, then reassure them that there will be other auditions and it’s not the end of the world. When your kid gets an audition, make sure you get them all the material they need. It’s up to them how long and hard they prepare for the audition. You can only remind then once, but really shouldn’t have to remind them at all. If it’s truly their passion, they will automatically work hard to prepare.
Many parents obtain information from other parents about auditions. Roles that are right for your child might not be right for another child who is the same age, same hair color, etc. One might have an edge where the other might not. If you trust your agent or manager, let them make that decision. It’s not yours to make. Hopefully you have a representative that can get your child into any audition he or she is right for. Leave the pitching to them and just be a parent.
You also manage. Is that rewarding?
It’s very rewarding. I love to find new kids and watch their growth as an actor. I love to see where they go. Between my travels and teaching, I am constantly seeing amazing talent and I try to help them all. I don’t actually manage per se. I don’t call casting directors and pitch. I don’t deal with the daily activities of the clients. I’m more of a talent scout. I work directly with one management company. I bring them clients when I find someone terrific. They make the choice as to whether or not they want to work with them. If they don’t, then I might suggest another company, but I don’t work with other companies. I want to help everyone. I just can’t. I do coach my management clients for auditions if it works with my casting schedule.
What are you casting and for whom?
I have been working at Warner Bros this year with their new division, Warner Premier. We are casting the new book series The Clique. It’s a tween book series that has set the teen world on fire. Alloy Entertainment, which does Gossip Girls, is also producing. We cast the first movie early this year and we are starting the 2nd and 3rd in the fall. We just finished casting “Scooby Doo, The Prequel” with Warner Premier and the Cartoon Network. We also recently finished a few roles on a George Lopez movie for WB. We are starting a new series for Nickelodeon next week called “True Jackson V.P.”, with KeKe Palmer, that we are so excited about.
My goal (and passion) is to produce features. I have 3 projects that are currently in development. The first one is “Stand By Love,” a romantic comedy written by Vincent Angel and being directed by Lesli Linka Glatter. We’re also working on film versions of two books, “A Summer of Kings” with AnnaSophia Robb and Corbin Bleu, and “Bloody Jack” also with AnnaSophia Robb.
How can actors reach you for coaching, etc.?
Very easy! Go to my website – www.HarrietGreenspan.com – and you’ll find all the information you need about what I do, when and where I do it, and how to contact me.