Slam Session: Ron Leach, Casting Director

Ron Leach

A producer, award-winning director and acting coach, Ron Leach, in partnership with Brian Levy, is one of Canada’s leading casting directors of independent film, television, theatre and commercials.

In the past four years, Ron has directed 10 international award-winning short films including, and is recently shot his 11th film Fadeaway in September 2015.

His most recent directorial endeavour GAYBASHER, premiered at the Boston LGBT Film Festival in May, prior to being included in the Cortes Metrage in Cannes 2014. He has taught his acclaimed course of acting skills for the camera at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival; Centennial College Film and Video Production Program, and The Vancouver Film School. Ron is a member of the Casting Director’s Society of Canada and The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

We asked Ron a few questions about the casting process and here’s what he had to say:

As a Casting Director, what do you look at/ what is a priority with each breakdown? What things matter most or don’t really?

The Breakdown is the industry portal to the casting room. A clever agent reads the breakdown for opportunity to get work for their actor, but moreover to give opportunity where casting against type might make an actor break out.

The breakdown provides the agent or unrepresented actor with a wealth of knowledge. The producers, director, writer and casting credits are all on there, and you can look these people up to see the type of work they do, and the tone of their films or acting style they prefer. You might also discover that your paths have crossed or you have professional associations in common – good to know coming into the room.

Moreover, the Breakdown gives you a synopsis, and complete breakout of every role in the film being cast locally – That gives you information, about your character in relationship to the other actors in the film – husband, wife, lover, brother, boss or passerby. Everyone has a relationship to another, and not reading the complete breakdown you deny yourself knowledge to make better choices.

What do you look for in a head shot?
Critical! When casting directors see submissions, they are thumbnails 25 per page. If you use a full body shot for your avatar on Casting Workbook or Breakdown Services your face is the size of a grain of sand. Hardly impressive or professional looking. Also, full body shots still look inherently like modelling shots and not actors! That can prejudice a casting director from looking at your resume or other photographs

Does an actor have to match the physical description (height, hair colour, eye colour, etc.) of a character exactly or is there some flexiblity?

This only applies to matching character traits in a family dynamic or if I need specific height weight ratios etc for stunts or other purposes. Again, casting against type is something we always look for. The killer doesn’t have to be a giant.

Does it help to have a video/demo with your profile on casting sites? Do you actually watch them?

Watch them constantly, if I don’t know the talent or haven’t seen their credited work (especially shorts and/or unpublished work).

Do you lean towards actors whose work you know or prefer newer faces?

Actors are actors… Naturally actors who I am familiar with come to mind as i’m reading the script, but I’m equally excited to bring new faces into the room. But an untried actor is a difficult sell to a network, so you generally will see fresh faces for smaller roles to test them but also because you don’t have to struggle to get them through the process of approval.

When it comes to resumés, which of the following items are most looked at:
Type of roles you’ve been cast in (ie Lead, principal, actor, etc)?

You weigh the experience to match the damands of the role. An actor who has never carried a film won’t have sufficient experience to carry a movie and therefore will never get past the approval process (unless a child, where we don’t expect experience or can experiment)

Name of Director, production company behind the projects you’ve listed.

If you haven’t seen the production to know the scale and professionalism, you go to the video demo to see the quality of the work, professionalism of the environment and the actors contribution. Actors should know when a film they made is hurting their career by virtue of it’s sloppy camera work or poor sound/light etc. Show your best, promote your best, where you don’t have experience highlight your training.

Type of training or teachers you’ve studies with.

Actors who train from a coach who has never worked in their field or fools. The IMDB is a great place to vet the quality of the education your about to invest in. If I want to study camera, and my teacher has no camera credits – presume he comes form theatre and the education you get will be worthless in a camera environment.

Union vs Non-union

Only to the project. Brian Levy and I cast both union and non union films. Interestingly, our absentee rate at non union auditions is much lower than union. As well, the non union actors generally are on time and have prepared more (unless reading for a lead). Actors need to stay non union until they have sufficient experience to go toe to toe with their union competitors. Joining the union too soon, can stunt your growth by locking you out of doing non union work for experience and material for your demo. Union work, however, will give you earnings sufficient to build your lifestyle; invest in your future; provide for your retirement. As well, you are protected on a union set and that is a prime function of ACTRA and it’s stewards.

Is there anything else that you wish people would do more?

I love actors who are self starters. The new paradigm of actor generated web series, short films, plays and the like are exciting to me and i’m interested in those artists that believe so fervently in themselves and surround themselves with excellence to further their career!

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