Since I am on a mission to introduce you to some people that I admire and respect in the entertainment business, I wanted to make sure to interview my friend Eric Kind. He is a personal manager and one of the 'kindest' people you could know. (Sorry for the pun. I am sure he gets that a lot.) We met up at Jerry's Deli for lunch. I worked at Jerry's for a short time when I first moved to LA. I sucked at it.
What has been your personal path to the entertainment industry?
I started out as an actor, and actually trained at one of the conservatories at the collegiate level. Over a summer I worked at Liz Lewis Casting in NY and really fell in love with that side of it. I wasn’t expecting that. But I found that I was still able to speak the language of the actor without being the actor. I was really getting into business side and I felt something between casting and agency would work for me. So I kind of knew right when I was out of college. The day I graduated from school, I applied for a job and at Buchwald in NYC, and soon started working there. After that I worked at two separate casting offices in NYC and then moved to LA. Once I got here, I worked at a production company for a little while, but ended up over at Lionsgate.
How did you go from working at a big production company to going into talent representation?
Well, at Lionsgate I was working in business and legal affairs in TV. And somewhere along the lines, someone asked me to do a workshop. When I walked in, I saw 30 actors. 28 of which, didn’t seem to know what they were doing. Many of these actors needed a classroom and not an opportunity to be ‘seen’. I felt empathy as a former actor and former casting worker. I just wanted to help these people. So I shifted gears and applied what I learned at the conservatory to turn the workshop into a class. Then all of a sudden I started getting a lot of requests to teach. So I teamed up with a Casting Director and we started teaching a lot. When I left Lionsgate, my initial thought was “Well, I’ll just go teach” because I really loved it. I really got some satisfaction out of it. That’s not an easy thing to jump into in LA. There are a thousand teachers. How am I going to get a client base? So I went to work for an agency and that really kept me close to working with the people that I loved.
From being a Talent Agent you became a Talent Manager. How do you see your current position differing from when you were an agent?
In my experience, I feel like the two are related. I’m still dealing with the actor’s business and my business and legal background in television really helps. But I’m also dealing with the other issues that come up. Or how they feel about auditions. I feel I have become more accessible. I don’t think a lot of actors call up their agents and say “Ugh, I didn’t feel so great about that one” because the agents are busy and the client’s don’t want to bother them. I really think that’s something that is lost in entertainment. This is still a service part of the industry. Agencies, management companies, Attorneys, PR, we’re all service people. We get paid for being of service. The client who is paying, is the boss. So I’ve really started taking that into consideration with every conversation that I have. I need to be helpful and serve in whatever capacity I can. Even if it’s just helping decide where to go for headshots or what part of town to move to.
Do you think training as an actor gave you a better eye to spot talent in your potential clients?
Yes and no. Because I think everyone has an eye for their own taste. If you see someone on TV who is not trained, and you like it, you keep watching it. If you don’t like it, you change the channel. I feel like I know someone can act just by talking to them. I can get a feel for whether or not we share some common history, and then I feel like I know where they are at.
Interesting. So as a Talent Manager, you can spot whether someone has talent or not. But how to you spot if they have potential to earn a living or not?
Those are the two different sides of the coin. You know it’s funny. I’ve been talking a lot lately to my clients about auditioning. Which is not the same as acting.
It’s like saying to someone “What do you do?”
And they respond “I’m a musician.”
And I say “Great, play the flute for me.”
And they say “Well I don’t play the flute. I play the piano.”
And I go “But yeah, you just said you were a musician”
And I feel like it’s the same thing with acting. There’s the ART. And then there’s the BUSINESS. I think there’s an ART to auditioning, and that’s just another side of the business. Many people think that just because they have trained as an actor, that they are trained to audition. But no, that’s not the case.
Is there something specific you look for in Kind Management clients?
I think it changes. Every month. I’m using this new tool called Active Pitch, which I love, and one of the services they have is that they pull clips from the shows you have been on. They will literally go find the show, edit the clips you are in and just put it right up on their page. And I don’t mean this as a plug for them, I was just really very pleasantly surprised. So I was talking to my client and said “You have 3 shows with 6 clips, this is going to go on your credit card that they have on file.” He said “yeah, do what you want. You gotta spend money to make money” And I thought “why can’t I have more like you?” You know, you tell somebody to go do this, and they don’t do it for four months. You tell someone else to go do this, and they don’t do it ever. You ask someone else to do something and they do it immediately. But it’s a back and forth. I’m sure some of my clients wish my manager did this and I’ve got to be accountable for it.
Do you have a niche? Are you the type of manager who likes a specific age range or look?
I don’t have a niche. I feel like I have been getting people with very few credits as series regulars on shows. Which is baffling because it goes against everything that I’ve ever been told. But I love being able to get that developmental actor in the room. It might come from the fact that I think I have a good eye, but I know my clients are going to do the job. That’s why I have them on my roster. That’s why I feel confident sending everyone who’s on my roster into the room, because I know they’re going to do a good job. And it’s not about booking the role, it’s about booking the room. Because the truth is, you’re auditioning for everything that casting director’s ever going to cast. So as far as my niche, I have 3 people on series right now. One of them had zero tv credits. Another one had a few. But one of the things that I want for my company is life-long clients. Just because you’re not doing great that year, doesn’t mean I am going to drop you. At some point, if I feel like I can’t help you and you’re better served elsewhere, that’s the only time I’m going to say “Hey, we should have a discussion about this”
How can actors get on your radar? Is there an appropriate way to get your attention?
Yeah. Don’t call me Gordon.
Is that what people call you?? Gordon??
Some guy wrote me this morning and started the email “Hi Gordon, I’m ______________. I’m looking for a new manager…” And that happens more often than you think. What happens is, people write the form emails, and copy and paste it from the last one. They forget to change the name.
Do you attend showcases?
I love going to see actors perform and talking to them after. Nobody teaches this in college. I went to one of the top schools in the world for acting. They didn’t teach me anything about the business. They taught me how to audition for stage and be on stage. There was nothing about TV or film. So, I like being helpful to new people. Because I remember what that felt like. Not having any information, so I would have to go find it myself. Some people don’t even do that. They think they’re just good with what they got. So I love going to those things.
What’s the most fulfilling part about what you do?
Calling the client and saying they got the part. I just called a client with a smile on my face and said “Still got your passport?” As a matter of fact, I called her while she was working at her restaurant job. She said how slammed it was and that she couldn’t talk right now. I said “no, no, no…you want to take this call. I’ll call you in ten minutes. Go in the bathroom” That’s the one thing that supersedes any amount of money. Hearing that joy in your client’s voice when you tell them the good news. Especially those first few bookings. When someone is REALLY a development client and you get to tell them they are getting their first network credit, it’s an amazing thrill. You can’t buy that sound in their voice.
So if you share in that excitement when they get it, do you share in the disappointment if they don’t get it?
Of course I care about disappointment. But I also have to be stronger than they’re feeling because they’re in a moment of vulnerability. And I understand that. I need to be someone to lean on. They’re going to go through every scenario in their mind : “What did I do wrong? How could I have changed that?” But there’s the old Chinese philosophy of: get knocked down 7 times, get up 8. And I need to be the person who delivers that message. And if they didn’t get something big, then there’s always the next one. If you’re getting to that space where you’re that far ahead then it just becomes a numbers game. It’s funny to me how people can be dismissive of certain roles. Like: “It’s just a co star. Who cares?” They’re all life changing. You never know what opportunity you can get from a co-star. That pilot may never go, but it may be directed by the next Martin Scorsese who works with the same people over and over again. That may be the life changing opportunity. As Sandy Meisner said: Every moment has a meaning of it’s own.
Do you have any advice for actors?
Yeah, I’m going to give the advice that an Emmy Award winning actor once gave to my class: If you have something to fall back on, you will fall back. If you could do anything else, do that. But if you really believe in your talent and this is all you can do…DO IT. It may not be in front of the TV camera or film cameras, or maybe it’s not with the Directors you’ve always imagined. Or if you enjoy making youtube videos, go make youtube videos. It’s not about the money. Money is never going to make you happier. It may make things easier. Figure out a way to make your career part of what you love. I happen to love actors, I love acting. But I figured out a way to stay involved in my passion without being the actor. So whatever it is, know there are other options besides tv or movie star
For my first obSETHed interview, I wanted to make sure to speak with someone I admired and who had the respect of the community. I chose Laura Adler, CSA and was thrilled that she agreed. She is a terrific Casting Director and the Administrator of the Casting Society of America.
The interview took place at the CSA office in Hollywood. I arrived a full thirty minutes early because they have massage chairs in the lobby of the building.
I auditioned for Laura a few years before when she was casting the show BETTER OFF TED. She doesn’t remember me from that audition. And if you watch my series, obSETHed, you know that’s a great thing.
I got some questions for ya.
First of all, Thanks so much for taking the time. Some people have written me, after seeing my videos, asking what ‘CSA’ stands for after someone’s name. Clearly it’s CASTING SOCIETY OF AMERICA. But if you don’t mind, I’m hoping you can tell me a little more about what that means.
We’re the largest organization of casting professionals in the world for film, television and theater. We’re global, with membership in the U.S., Canada, Europe, South Africa, and more. The CSA stands up for the quality of work of it’s members, and provides a great forum for people to gather information and support each other. I also feel that raising our profile has helped, and continues, to make people in the industry and outside of it aware of the amazing work CDs do. What I’ve noticed a lot since being at the CSA office and taking the phone calls from the members, is that it’s a great sense of community. CSA helps to uphold the standards that Casting Directors strive for.
It’s cool to hear that Casting Directors have a community of their own, because we Actors pride ourselves on having a large community and being able to depend on each other.
Exactly. Our website (www.castingsociety.com) offers opportunities for networking, and members can put out job searches to receive resumes from Casting Assistants and Associates who can sign up for these job listings without having to be members themselves.
If someone is interested in getting into casting, is the CSA website the right place to go? Or do you only want people who already have their feet wet?
It’s a great place to go because you can get lots of good information. But like any entry level position, there is a catch-22 where Casting Directors, especially during pilot season, are looking for Associates and Assistants who have the experience. But a lot of people who want to be Casting Assistants don’t have the experience and can’t get their foot in the door that way. Internships used to be an easier thing, and now obviously with all of the lawsuits going on, we have been advised not to advocate for internships until everything is settled and we know where everything stands.
Such a shame. Almost everyone I know, including myself, got their start interning.
It is kind of a shame. I got my start because I knew somebody. I actually got my first job with a completely made up resume.
But one thing that we are doing to help with that catch-22, is developing a training program for Assistants who have no experience. It will be completed within the next few years, as we’re currently working on the curriculum. It’s going to be a great program. Where literally, a person who wants to be a Casting Assistant, but has no experience, can take this course and learn everything. From etiquette in the office, to the different programs that they have to know. Like Eco Cast, Breakdown Services, Cast It and Now Casting. They'll learn the actual process of casting something and what the duties of a Casting Assistant are. It’s going to be like an 8 to 10 hour program. Actual classes. And that’s going to be a great tool.
I interned in casting for quite a long time because it was the best acting class I ever took. With those internship opportunities minimizing, will actors who really want to understand the casting process be able to take this class?
It’ll be open to anyone who wants to take it. I think it’ll be a great tool for actors to understand what the process is and how it works. I think most people do understand the concept, but they don’t have that insight into how decisions are made. And how completely arbitrary things can be.
Will the training program be taught by Casting Directors?
Most probably. The actual course will be run by trained facilitators who will also interact with CD guests. But what I’ve been told is that the facilitators will consist of about four CDs who have been trained to facilitate the program. Again, keep in mind that all of this is in the development stages, but that’s the plan as of now.
Sounds awesome. And what was your own path to casting?
I grew up in NY and my father was a Stage Manager and a Director in the Broadway theater world. I knew I wanted to be in the business, but I kind of felt like, at that time in the early 80s, theater wasn’t where I wanted to be. I decided to come out to LA and got a job at a production company. Alan Landsburg Productions, which at the time was kind of on the forefront of reality television. I worked on THAT’S INCREDIBLE, and another show called THOSE AMAZING ANIMALS. He did all those kind of reality type shows. I worked there for 4 years and then my dad moved out here and was stage managing. He got me in the DGA. I did a few things in the DGA but I just didn’t really like the AD kind of life. I was at a crossroads, so I put it out to friends that I was looking for a job. And I got a call from a friend of mine who said “I’m working on a show and they’re looking for a Casting Assistant. Do you think you would want to do something like that?” And at Alan Landsburg Productions, Alan was married to Linda Otto who was one of the top Casting Directors of the day and an old family friend. That’s actually how I got the job at Lansburg. By calling Linda and saying ‘I’m moving to California and I need a job.” She said “Come work for us” . Linda’s Associate was Randy Stone, also a wonderful Casting Director, and I used to love to go sit in their office and look at all the submissions. Actually, when I was a kid I used to love to look at the Players Directory at my Dad’s office, where I’d read a book and wonder: if they made this book into a movie, who would be good to play so-and-so? I would just do that in my mind, and I always had a great memory for Actors. I thought that it could be fun. I could do that. But I had no experience whatsoever. So I called Randy and I said, I’m going in on a job for a Casting Assistant tomorrow and I’m putting you down as a reference and I’m saying that I worked for you. That’s the part about the resume I told you I made up. Randy said ‘okay’ and I went in and got the job. It was my first gig.
One of the things that amazes me about Casting Directors, actually, is their incredible memories. Although you sort of stumbled into it, clearly you already had that super power.
I completely did. I always had a great memory for faces and names. And I would be obsessed with watching credits at the end of tv shows. I was a child of the 70s. And I watched all those shows. THE BRADY BUNCH, THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. I was obsessed with the actors. I knew who Jodie Foster was when she was on THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER when she was 9 years old. I used to go to theater auditions with my Dad and look at all the pictures, and hand the headshots to him as the actors would enter the room as if I was his little assistant. I always sort of had that encyclopedic memory for faces and names.
Did you ever want to act?
I did do theater and musical theater in high school and camp. But going to auditions at an early age, I just knew I didn’t have the constitution for it. I didn’t have the ability to let things go, and with all of the rejection...I knew I didn’t have that in me.
So once you started working in casting, did you just know it was a fit?
Instantly. Instantly. I always loved seeing new talent for the first time. I loved the experience of reading and finding someone new who was incredibly talented. I read Reese Witherspoon right after she did THE MAN IN THE MOON. We cast her in a Lifetime TV movie when she was 14 years old. And just being in the room with her, and just knowing that this kid was a star. She was going to be a star. You could just see it.
So going back to the memory thing, a lot of actors are afraid that the incredible memories of Casting Directors will work AGAINST them if they have a less than stellar audition. Does it work that way? Do you remember the bad auditions?
No. I remember the SPECTACULARLY bad auditions. But I could maybe count off 5 stories of that. It’s usually because something scary happened. Like someone pulled out a gun, or took their clothes off. Stuff like that. The truth is, you always see something special in an audition. Unless someone is truly not talented. And you rarely see people come in, who are represented, who are not talented. I mean, it usually doesn’t happen. Most people are good at their craft. So you can always see something.
I often like to tell actors, that auditions are NOT acting competitions. It’s not the person who comes in with the best technique who is going to get the part. It’s the person who is the best fit for the role.
And the Casting Directors have to know a lot about what the Producers are looking for, in order to know who’s the best fit.
Very true.. And it’s not just what they’re looking for. It’s putting a puzzle together. If you’re casting a family, and you already have a certain type, the ‘brother’ has got to be somebody who will fit into that world. So certainly not always the person who gives the best audition will get the job. And you can get married to your choices with your producers and your writers, and then you go to the studio and the network and they say “No, that’s not how we see it at all” Then you have to go back to the drawing board because the visions aren’t meshing.
Is pilot casting really very different from episodic casting?
Yes. With pilots, you are creating the ‘world’, it’s like you are giving birth to the actual series. With episodic casting, it’s fast. You could be casting 20-25 roles in five days. It has to move fast, you can’t see as many people. You don’t have the opportunity to explore the characters and bring in as many actors as you want. Simply because there’s no time. Whereas in a pilot, you have from 8 to 12 weeks to do that. So you’re really digging deep. Seeing a lot of people. Hoping to discover new talent.
Do you think there’s something the acting community and the talent representative community can do to help Casting Directors get the acknowledgement they deserve?
Well, yeah. One of the things they could be doing is thanking their Casting Directors when they get awards.
That’s the main thing. It’s so frustrating to watch the SAG AWARDS, which are all about the performances, and to have your ensemble shows win their award...well who do you think put those people together? And they never thank the Casting Directors. The only show that ever thanked the Casting Director was MODERN FAMILY. They thanked Jeff Greenberg every year when they won, God bless them. And I think one year, the DOWNTON ABBEY cast. One year. But besides that, nobody. You rarely get an actor thanking the Casting Director that cast them in a role. And you rarely get a Director or a Producer to say it as well. I think Martin Scorsese is the only one that’s ever thanked his Casting Director when he won Best Director. He thanked Ellen Lewis.
It would certainly make sense though, that it could start with some public recognition from the people who benefit from the Casting Director’s work. Which is largely, auditioning actors. Speaking of which, some people are masters at auditioning and some people get very nervous. Do you have any advice for Actors going into auditions?
I always say that I want you to get the job. And this is how I conducted my sessions. I want you to do your best work. We’re on your side. I think some actors have the feeling that it’s an adversarial relationship. It’s hard for them to get through the door, and they feel like they have to prove something. If you’re coming into my door, I already think that you can do the job. I have faith in you. That’s why I want to see you. I’m interested in your credits on your resume, I’ve heard good things about you, I saw something that you did. I’m on your side already. And I will always be on your side because I want you to do your best work and get the job. Because getting you the job, means my job is done and I can move on to the next part. I think it’s important to create an atmosphere where an actor can do their best work. And I think they’ll do their best work if they’re relaxed, comfortable, and enjoying their performance.
The ironic thing is that an Actor always does their best work on the car ride home.
Absolutely. I work with my nephew a lot on his auditions. And though he is a very talented, working actor, it’s possible that I might be seeing something better than what the Casting Directors for the project might be seeing. Because nerves do overtake you when the spotlight’s on. No matter how confident you are. In any job situation. It’s not just Actors. When we have CSA Board meetings and I have to present stuff to the Board, I get nervous doing that. Because I’m not used to public speaking. It’s not my thing. I’m not comfortable in it. I’ll never forget this: My Dad was the production stage manager on the TONY AWARDS every year. I used to get to go to all the day-of rehearsals and it was great. Then when I was 16, I started working as a PA on the TONY’S. I think it was 1978 or 1979, and one of my jobs was to go get the presenter from their dressing room and bring them to their mark, right before they were going to come on stage. And one of the people I had to go get was Al Pacino. And at that time, I could not have been more enamored with him! Anyway, I go to get him, and he was...terrified. He was literally clutching my arm from his dressing room to the stage, where he stood standing and shaking. And he just kept repeating “The nominees for best actor are...the nominees for best actor are…” over and over and over again. Terrified. And I was like: He’s PACINO! What is he so scared about? You know what I mean? But when he had to go up there and just be himself, without the cover of the character, he was petrified.
Do you have any advice for actors trying to gain a solid career?
I feel terrible because I don’t have a magic solution. I don’t have a magic answer. But I would say that it’s important to get good training. Participate in showcases that are the result of your training. Go to a good college that has a great acting program. They all do showcases every year and you can get seen that way. Do lots of live theater in Los Angeles and New York. Casting Directors do go and see shows. Getting into class is really key.