Casting Director Verity Naughton gives all the key advice for young performers on stage.
In this episode of The Spotlight podcast, we’re joined by Casting Director Verity Naughton, CDG where we talk all about young performer casting.
Topics we cover include:
- What you should and should not include on your profile
- How casting works, Verity’s process and what stands out to her
- Tips for preparing for your next audition
- What’s expected in the audition room – what to wear, knowing your lines, and lots more
- Other advice for navigating the industry more broadly.
It’s a practical episode with lots of advice for performers and their parents alike.
35 minute listen or read the full transcript below.
Christina Carè: Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Spotlight Podcast. I’m Christina Carè. I work at Spotlight, and today we are talking all things young performer casting in theatre. Joining us today, we have Verity Naughton, CDG, who has cast some lovely young performers in some lovely productions, including The Ferryman, Matilda, School of Rock, and recently, she cast The Hunt for the Almeida. Verity takes us through lots of great information and advice for parents and performers alike, including how casting works, what the timelines are like, what they look for in the room and on your profile. Verity answers a number of common questions from our parents, so take a listen.
Verity, thank you so much for joining us on The Spotlight Podcast. I want to start by asking you about casting, and how you came to get into doing casting
Verity Naughton: Well, I started as a teacher. I trained as a secondary school performing arts teacher, and sort of knew that I wanted to work with young people and kind of within theatre, film, TV world. So I sort of left the teaching side, and a friend of mine was working at an agency and knew that someone was looking for an assistant. And so I came down and had a couple of interviews, and the rest is history.
Christina Carè: And as you say, you’ve worked a lot with children and younger performers. Why is that interesting to you?
Verity Naughton: I just love seeing how kind of young people can flourish given the opportunity. The most rewarding thing of the job is watching a child come into an audition room and sort of go through the audition process, maybe get the job, and then sort of watched them on stage or on screen and see how much they’ve grown. And it’s just lovely.
Christina Carè: Yeah. They’re at such a big potential kind of point, aren’t they, in their lives?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely.
Christina Carè: That’s lovely. I wanted to ask you a bit about the sort of projects that you do. Can you talk just a bit about what you like to work on? What are the sorts of projects you personally enjoy?
Verity Naughton: I love doing kind of big searches. I love kind of going out there and finding raw talent in different places, not the kind of conventional searches. I mean, I really enjoy those too, but the kind of the research side of it and discovering a school somewhere or child somewhere that’s sort of not really done anything before is really exciting.
Christina Carè: Right, yeah. Yeah, can you talk to us a little bit more about that, what that process is like? Do you just sort of show up in a school and say, “We’re looking for X, Y, Z?” How does that work?
Verity Naughton: No, I can’t really just show up anymore-
Christina Carè: Yeah, I was going to say…
Verity Naughton: … strange lady at the door. No, we sort of make contact with the schools. I just have a sort of pretty big database now with schools that I’ve built relationships with, and we kind of make contact through whether it’s email or calling head of departments or drama departments in different outside of school clubs, things like that. And there’s often a reason why their teachers put them forward, or we’ve asked them to come in and sort of… Highlighting that side that they obviously are suitable, and they are talented and get them feeling competent and positive about themselves so that they can just do their best, really.
Christina Carè: Is it kind of more about personality then, at that point, at that sort of age, a younger age? Or is there another quality that you kind of look for?
Verity Naughton: Personality and confidence. Obviously, you want someone that’s going to be able to deliver in front of a camera or on a stage. And just someone that has the energy, the energy and the sort of the want to do it as well and is interested in it. I think it’s quite easy to tell if a child is interested themselves or not. So that’s definitely something that we look for.
Christina Carè: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I want to ask you, then. In terms of the projects that you have worked on, are there any that kind of stand out to you that you’re especially proud of, or happy to have been working on?
Verity Naughton: I think the search on The Ferryman was particularly special for me. I mean, it was sort of the first big search I’d done really on my own. So that was really lovely. To have that interesting side of finding children with Irish heritage or that can sort of do the accent, the Northern Irish accent, was great. So yeah, that was particularly special. And then again, to watch them on stage was great, because quite a few of those kids hadn’t done anything before. So that was lovely.
Christina Carè: Right. I want to kind of dig into your process then, once you’ve gone out and you’ve looked at potentially lots of young people and put them on tape. How do you start to narrow down what you’re looking for? Or perhaps a better way to put it is, how do you actually create the breakdown? What does that process kind of look like for you?
Verity Naughton: Sure. Well, kind of obviously you start by having sort of read scripts and sort of creating the character breakdown that you know you’re looking for, then heading into those schools, putting it out on Spotlight, looking at all the agent suggestions there, and sort of the children that aren’t on Spotlight with agents as well. And then it’s kind of getting to know them a bit, really.
So initially, you might ask for a tape of maybe a 30-second chat, just so we can sort of hear them speaking and see a bit of their personality. And then at that point, if we feel like they’re suitable for the role, we’ll then maybe send out a side or a piece of script for them to have a read, and then give them a bit more of a character breakdown to see if they can sort of turn that around, and then maybe then come in to meet.
So it’s quite a lengthy process for quite a few of them, certainly on the TV and film side anyway. So then once they’re in the room, we get to work with them a little bit more. And then that might happen a couple of times, and then eventually, maybe a director’s meet.
Christina Carè: Yeah, so there’s a few steps there.
Verity Naughton: Quite a few steps, yeah.
Christina Carè: I want to ask you then about… Say, for instance, you’re looking at CVs… Or maybe you can kind of tell us a bit more about how Spotlight comes into that process, but I would just wonder what you look at on the CV of a young person. Is it the headshot or is it a showreel? Do those things matter as much?
Verity Naughton: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, showreels are kind of vital. It’s great if there is a showreel on there that we can look at. If there’s a chat, if we get a 30-second chat, that’s wonderful. But actually to then have a showreel to accompany that is brilliant, to be able to actually see the work on the screen.
And headshots, definitely. And for me, children change that actually keeping those headshots up to date is vital. Because if a child comes in and actually they don’t look anything like… I mean, it’s the same with the adults, isn’t it? If they don’t look anything like their headshots It’s quite tricky. But more so, the sort of data on the height and location and all of that sort of stuff is really important, particularly with the children, because it’s often there is a height limit, especially for theatre. So if your CV says you’re 4 foot 4, and you come in and you’re 4 foot 8-
Christina Carè: You’ve grown quite a bit.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, you’ve grown. Keeping that up to date is really important.
Christina Carè: Yeah, for sure. I know that that’s a particularly tricky point for a lot of parents, is keeping those things up to date. Do you mind if the photo isn’t a professional one?
Verity Naughton: No, not at all. Not at all.
Christina Carè: That’s okay?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. As long as it reflects what the child looks like at that point in time, it doesn’t really…
Christina Carè: And it’s kind of with a sort of plain background or some okay lighting.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, plain background lighting. Ideally, nobody else in the photo.
Christina Carè: No friends.
Verity Naughton: No friends, no family members, just them and very kind of reflective of what they look like. The sort of posing dramatically ones aren’t really that helpful.
Christina Carè: So just natural-
Verity Naughton: Just natural, colour photos.
Christina Carè: It’s interesting what you said about the family members. I know we see a lot of family photos. Are those ever helpful, or you prefer if it’s just the individual child?
Verity Naughton: Yeah. I mean, I guess they are helpful if it’s maybe a commercial casting or something. I mean, just for sake of the work that I do, it’s often individual children that I’m looking for. So they’re not that helpful, but you can upload so many on there, can’t you actually so as long as there’s a selection. I guess that would please everybody.
Christina Carè: Yes, as long as you can tell who is actually being talked about.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely.
Christina Carè: Yeah, for sure. I know that that can sometimes be tricky, particularly given that professional photos are quite expensive. Parents trying to get the whole family into the shot, and that kind of thing.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, sure. No, absolutely.
Christina Carè: But given what you’ve just said, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. You can just have a sort of low-key photo of the individual.
Verity Naughton: Yeah. Exactly, yeah.
Christina Carè: That helps to know that. So when you’re looking at a profile on Spotlight, for instance, do you look intensely at what the person’s actually written on there? Or is it more about the headshot and the showreel
Verity Naughton: I think it’s a mixture of both. So the headshot and the showreel, obviously that’s the first thing you see on there. And then depending on what it is that I’m looking for, what their credits are, more than sort of the writing at the sort of-
Christina Carè: So, I guess that’s the bit I’m interested in because I know that a lot of our younger performers… Perhaps it’s their parents, or they’ve worked together with their parent to write quite a lot in that section. I’m just wondering, how much does that really get looked at?
Verity Naughton: I mean, it’s sort of… You would hope that that is kind of reflected in the credits anyway, so you can just kind of look at the credits and go, “Oh yeah, that’s what they’re referring to.” Sometimes if it’s an award that they’ve won or something like that, that’s quite nice to know. But I think it’s more about the credits and more about what they’ve worked on. And then you would hope to see that in the showreel, particularly if it’s screen.
Christina Carè: So you don’t really need to know any side hobbies, or that sort of information?
Verity Naughton: Not really. I mean, you kind of… Obviously, underneath all that where they’ve got the skills, it’s nice to have that up to date and truthful. That’s very important. And then underneath all that, I think you can put in your training. So it’s just good to know the basic important information. Don’t make it too lengthy. Don’t try and pad it out. Just really kind of, “This is who I am, and this is what I can do.”
Christina Carè: Yes, makes sense.
Verity Naughton: And then you’ll get called in, and then we can talk about all the other stuff when you’re in the room.
Christina Carè: Right. Leave that for the room.
Verity Naughton: Keep it simple, yeah. Absolutely, simple and truthful.
Christina Carè: I want to ask you a bit more then about the room and the audition process because I know that this… I think that this is the bit that differs most with adult performers, what the expectations are surrounding younger performers in the room. Do you mind about performers being off-book if they’re young and doing a theatre audition for the first time?
Verity Naughton: Not for an initial audition, no. I think I would rather mistakes were made, but I got to see them in the character or a bit more of their personality than it sort of being a line test. I think as you get further down the process, then certainly yes, it needs to be off-book. And that’s mainly because it’s more helpful with the performance, particularly if you’re sort of doing it to camera. It’s difficult if you’ve got someone that’s kind of looking down, and it’s quite hard to cheat sometimes if you’re really relying on that piece of paper. But no, initially first auditions, I sort of think actually I’d rather see them, and the character come through than them getting their lines exact. Obviously, if it’s requested to be off-book, then absolutely you should be.
Christina Carè: But it’s usually not the case for the first round.
Verity Naughton: No, not at all. And often, the first round is something that you would know yourself. So it’s often something that you’re just choosing yourself, that perhaps you are slightly familiar with or-
Christina Carè: Right. So the performer’s bringing something that they know.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, exactly, rather than being given the material. So yeah, I think at that point, lines aren’t-
Christina Carè: Super important.
Verity Naughton: Not the top of the list.
Christina Carè: Yes. Is there anything you could say to parents about that, in terms of helping a younger performer prepare?
Verity Naughton: I think certainly choosing material that’s suitable for their age group.
Christina Carè: Okay, so don’t have to come in and do Hamlet.
Verity Naughton: No, exactly. If they’re coming in for a child role that’s a ten-year-old, then you sort of want to see that child as a ten-year-old. So certainly, a piece of material that reflects their age rather than playing up or even down. And sort of staying away from coaching too much, I think. So obviously when the child gets in the room, we like to sort of work with them, and knowing what the director would like to see will help them with all of that. And there certainly have been circumstances where a child perhaps has been sort of prepared too much for an audition, and then it’s quite difficult to then unpick all of that. So I think obviously being there and helping learn the lines, but perhaps just not over-coaching.
Christina Carè: Yeah, because ultimately, you don’t know what the director’s looking for.
Verity Naughton: Absolutely.
Christina Carè: As a parent, you can’t necessarily prepare them exactly perfectly.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, exactly. So it’s kind of that… Work on it, practise it, prepare it, but then kind of be ready to unpick some of that and kind of move it all around and be quite fluid with it all.
Christina Carè: Yeah, so flexibility and responsiveness is kind of important there.
Verity Naughton: Exactly. Yeah, very.
Christina Carè: That’s interesting to know. I know that that’s a question that comes up a lot with parents is, “How much do I need to make sure my child knows the lines perfectly?” So hopefully, that provides some relief to people with that question.
I have a few other practical questions that have come from parents, if you don’t mind answering those, to do with that preparation. But I think because a lot of parents haven’t necessarily been actors themselves, they’re just not sure what to expect or how to help the younger performers. One thing that comes up a lot is about what to wear. I know that seems like kind of maybe a silly question, but is there a way that a young performer should dress? Should they be trying to be in character, or what do you think?
Verity Naughton: I don’t think so, not unless it’s requested. I mean, for pretty much… Actually every audition that I’ve done, it’s just come in clothes that you are comfortable in. Because you know that they’re going to be nervous auditioning anyway, so the last thing you want them to be is nervous in what they’re wearing or uncomfortable in what they’re wearing. So clothes that are completely comfortable. You don’t need to dress as the character at that point, because we’re looking for the character through the role, not through the clothing, and how you look. So yeah, just something that you’re comfortable in. A lot of the time, children often are coming from school, and I often get asked should they change from their uniform? And I don’t know if many children are comfortable in their school uniforms, but it doesn’t really-
Christina Carè: Doesn’t worry you either way?
Verity Naughton: Not at all, no. If there’s a huge logo on the jumper or something like that, then maybe that’s taken off, but sort of just comfy clothes.
Christina Carè: Yeah. So you might want to change out of the uncomfortable uniform, but you don’t have to.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, you don’t have to. I think lots of these things are always specified if needed. So if someone is really keen for them not to arrive in a uniform, then that will be specified on the audition invites. I think unless it’s not specified, then comfy clothes.
Christina Carè: Yeah, comfy clothes. It’s a good base.
Verity Naughton: Good base to start.
Christina Carè: We’ve had another question which is to do with glasses. Again, maybe it seems like a slightly silly question, but if the child wears glasses and wants to come and audition without the glasses, do you automatically think they don’t look like the headshot? Or does that worry you?
Verity Naughton: Not at all. I think glasses… With contact lenses and things like that, you can wear them or not wear them. Often, if someone is wearing glasses, depending on the lights, I mean, I wear glasses and you can see that they reflect them and stuff. So sometimes, we’ll ask for a shot with them on then sometimes with them off. But again, they’re not fixed. It’s not a fixed thing.
Christina Carè: I want to ask you then in terms of just making a good impression… So for the young performers themselves, if they are a bit nervous or whatever, what can they do in the room to sort of give you a good first impression? Should they be responsive to small talk, or can parents help them with that in any way?
Verity Naughton: I think so. We want to see them being them. So if they are nervous, there’s no harm in saying, “I’m a little bit nervous.” When they come in the room, we want them to do the best that they can possibly do, and we will do everything to try and achieve that. So we will have the small talk, which is lovely to just get to know them a little bit. Some of that is more than… So sometimes, we’ll all have quite a big chat with them. Sometimes there’ll be a quick, “Hello, how you feeling?” and then jumping straight into it, depending on the time you’ve been given for the slot.
Verity Naughton: But I think respond to the small talk, let us see a bit of your personality as you before you go into the character. Ask questions if you want to. That’s what we’re there for. If you haven’t learned your lines, don’t panic. Don’t think you have to announce that. Just go with it, and-
Christina Carè: Yeah, go with the flow.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, and sort of know that everyone in that room is always on your side, because they want you to do well. So you should sort of feel that, and sort of be comfortable enough to ask the questions and relax.
Christina Carè: Yes, relax into it.
Verity Naughton: I know it’s much easier said than done sometimes. And know that if it goes wrong, you can always do it again. It’s not the end of the world, and you can have a couple of shots at it. And again, we want you to leave feeling like you’ve done the best that you can do.
Christina Carè: Yeah. I know we’ve done a podcast in the past about commercial casting specifically. And in that, we talked about the fact that sometimes there is pressure applied on the performer from the parents, and that can kind of come through. I mean, putting more pressure on them doesn’t help them, but do you have any sort of advice in terms of just navigating that huge desire for your child to do well and to be cast versus the child’s sort of own desire to be performing?
Verity Naughton: Sure. I think managing the expectations is really important. Often particularly in big shows or big searches, we can see hundreds and hundreds of children. And I think as a parent, it’s great to be able to manage that expectation and perhaps make sure that the child is always enjoying it. And I think when they come out of an audition, it’s a sort of, “So, well done. You did brilliant.” It’s an achievement for a child to walk into a room and do what they do in front of a bunch of adults-
Christina Carè: For sure. I can’t do it. I’m not a child, myself.
Verity Naughton: And it’s such a brave thing to be able to do, and I think that in itself is an achievement and deserves kind of, sort of rewarding, but sort of-
Christina Carè: Some praise.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. And so making sure that your child knows that just by stepping in the room they’re doing a great job, and then whether they get any further, that’s brilliant. That’s a bonus. And actually, they’ve probably learned more from that and then they can move onto the next one.
So I think sort of knowing that there’s always lots and lots of different children in the mix with things and managing that and then actually to get further is quite a special thing. And in those audition rooms, I know they can be horrible with other parents around and other children around in situations like that. And I think it’s just about letting your child be them in that situation and ignoring everybody else, and sort of getting on with it rather than listening to perhaps hearsay and things like that, because no one knows what anyone is thinking in that room. Sometimes I don’t even know what people are thinking so no one can second guess it. So it’s best that you just come into your thing and leave, and try not to second guess any-
Christina Carè: What happened, yeah.
Verity Naughton: Yeah.
Christina Carè: And then equally, obviously for anyone who wants to have a career in this business, it’s going to come with a degree of rejection as well, or nos. There’s always nos, as much as there might be yeses. Do you have any advice or thoughts around that, in terms of just a young performer getting through that or sort of building that resilience, I suppose? Can they ask for feedback, for instance?
Verity Naughton: They can. I mean, when we are seeing so many children, it’s very difficult to give specific feedback on every performer. Obviously, we’ll always send a yes or a no. And if there is something specific, then that often does get sort of filtered down. But it’s impossible to do it for every single performer. I think what they can do is kind of turn around and go, “What did I learn from that audition? What do I enjoy about it? What do I think I could do better for the next one,” and sort of have their own sort of debrief on it, I guess, a little bit, and then take all of that into the next audition and build all of that rather than the specific feedback for one thing, because it could be a number of things. It could be a look, it could be a voice. It could be anything.
Christina Carè: Yeah. So trying not to take it too personally as well.
Verity Naughton: Absolutely, yeah. And sort of try and just, again, reward yourself, praise yourself for doing it, and take the good from it and move on. Move on to the next one.
Christina Carè: Yeah, for sure. I want to kind of change track for a second. You obviously mentioned about going to schools and finding performers that way, but what’s your relationship like with agents? I know that we get this question a lot again from parents. How do you two work together? What does that relationship look like? Can you tell us a bit?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, sure. You work really closely with agents. It’s obviously through Spotlight, they’ll make their suggestions, and then they’ll call up and give you even more suggestions and email you suggestions. And sometimes, I’ll have a search where actually it’s a very quick turnaround and visiting lots of schools just isn’t possible in the timeframe. So I’ll call up trusted agents and sort of say, “This is what I’m looking for. What do you think?” They’ll put forward their great clients, and then that relationship continues throughout the audition process with the yeses and the nos and the feedback. And particularly if you’re sort of recalling someone and you want to call up the agent and give them some feedback and give them some notes, and then they can transfer that to the child. And so it kind of goes right the way through. So it’s a strong relationship.
Christina Carè: Yeah, you work together.
Verity Naughton: We work together incredibly well. And I think it’s an odd relationship, because you very rarely meet children’s agents.
Christina Carè: Yeah, your email buddy.
Verity Naughton: Email buddies and voice buddies. But it’s definitely a strong one, and I don’t think we… I certainly couldn’t do my job without agents. And there’s some fantastic children’s agents out there, and sometimes I’ll call them for advice on if it’s a licencing thing, or that kind of thing. So it sort of works both ways, and it’s great to have that support from them as well.
Christina Carè: Yeah. I think it’s good to sort of let people know a little bit more about how that connection works. Oftentimes, we’re mistaken for the agent. That’s a common misconception. We’re not the agent. We’re just the kind of intermediary between others.
So Verity, when someone’s actually looking for an agent, are there things that you could say to particularly the parents in that scenario that they should look for or shouldn’t look for?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a parent should never have to pay for an agent at all. I know that there are sometimes requests, but that should never be a thing. You shouldn’t have to pay to be on an agent’s books.
Do the research online. There’s lots of brilliant children’s agents. So kind of have a look. Some specialise in TV and film, some more musical theatre, some more straight theatre. Have a look at their websites. What kind of things do they do? What are their clients currently doing? Is that what your child wants to do, and do it that way? But certainly, never, ever pay for-
Christina Carè: Yeah, it shouldn’t be upfront.
Verity Naughton: Absolutely not, no. And sort of in terms of the headshots and things like that, that would come later if they signed the agency, again, I know there’s certain fees involved with those kinds of things, but it’s always good just to double check everything. And if you’re not sure, again, ask. Ask other people. I’m sure you guys would help out with that as well.
Christina Carè: Yeah, for sure. We do get those questions sometimes where a parent has said, “Yeah, I was asked for a certain number of… Well, I don’t know. £2-300 or something, for instance, just to get headshots and be on the books.” That shouldn’t happen, really, should it?
Verity Naughton: Absolutely not, no. I mean, there obviously is a charge for headshots, but it shouldn’t be anything like that, and it shouldn’t be as a rule of getting on the books. That’s not how that should work at all. No, you should never have to pay for anything like that. And likewise, with auditions, you should never have to pay for an audition.
Christina Carè: I wanted to actually ask you another thing about the auditions that I was just thought of, because you mentioned with The Ferryman looking for someone who could do the accent.
Verity Naughton: Yeah.
Christina Carè: Do you mind if the child comes in just putting on the accent, or would you prefer to see them switch?
Verity Naughton: Again, for those auditions, it was required from the start. So can you do a Northern Irish accent? So obviously there would be support there for them, but it was vital to hear from the start whether they could do that or not.
Christina Carè: But were you worried about whether they sort of came in and said hello in their normal accent, and then switched in the audition? Or could they just come in and say hello in the accent?
Verity Naughton: Oh, no. Their own accent to start with.
Christina Carè: Okay, okay.
Verity Naughton: Yeah.
Christina Carè: That’s a really common question.
Verity Naughton: Sorry, I misunderstood that. No, absolutely.
Christina Carè: No, no, no. It’s just a very common question that we get, even from adult performers.
Verity Naughton: Oh, really?
Christina Carè: Like, “Can I come in just doing the accent if I’m nervous?”
Verity Naughton: Yeah, no. I think unless it’s… I always say, just come in as you. We want to meet the individual as an individual to begin with, and then we’ll go into the sort of character in the script, unless it’s kind of helpful. So if it’s a case of actually to get into the accent you have to keep speaking in that accent, then that’s a different kind of version of it, I guess. But no, absolutely own accent to start with and then going into it is-
Christina Carè: Going into it, yeah.
Verity Naughton: And often, we know what the actor’s natural accent is anyway. So it might be a bit odd if they all of a sudden started speaking American.
Christina Carè: Yeah, right.
Verity Naughton: So yeah, own accent.
Christina Carè: Yeah, that makes sense. Just wanted to clarify that one.
I wanted to ask you then in terms of some of the different types of castings, in particular musicals versus plays. Do those work a little bit differently? Because I’ve definitely heard of situations where musicals, there are so many recalls, for instance, so that casting process is just so much longer. What would you say?
Verity Naughton: I think the initial auditions are slightly different, I guess, sort of. Obviously, you’re looking for slightly more in a musical. You’re often looking for the voice, the movement, and the acting. Obviously with a straight play, you’re looking for the acting. So often there’s more auditions for that exact reason. You’re looking for more discipline.
But having said that, sometimes a play can sort of have two, three recalls because you want to see someone as a chemistry test. You might have to kind of read someone with another actor. If it’s a father-daughter situation, you might need to get the other actor in. So there’s lots of different sort of-
Christina Carè: Components there, yeah.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. But sort of two, three auditions is kind of… First round to finals is sort of normal for a play, for the children anyway. And then musicals, I guess you would have quite a few more.
Christina Carè: Yeah. Do you think it’s important for young performance to really nail every single skill? I suppose this is kind of just a subjective question, but if you were auditioning a musical, for instance, would you just be more concerned about their acting ability? Or do you think they really have to nail everything?
Verity Naughton: They have to have a foundation on all three, and then obviously it kind of varies role by role. Some of the roles might be in sort of more of the movement tracks. Actually you can have stronger movers and then stronger singers. So you can mix it up often. It’s not like you’re looking for everybody to be absolutely brilliant at everything. There sort of has to be that foundation there, but often we know that that foundation is there before we call a child in. And that’s more for them as well, because you don’t want them sort of in a dance call where they’re really sort of being tested in there and pushed to their limits to see what they can do. They struggle, and that’s not nice for them either. So it’s kind of for everybody’s benefit that that’s why the levels are set where they are, sort of thing.
Christina Carè: Yeah, that makes sense.
And how does it work then in terms of rotations of casts? How do you tend to cast things like that, where you know you’re going to need…?
Verity Naughton: So obviously with the children, it’s six months because of their licences. So you would cast sort of the first cast for those six months, and then you would kind of start looking again, I guess, and keeping an eye out. I mean, you’re always looking. You’re always keeping an eye out with everything that you’re doing. So you sort of keep rotating, and then we would hold auditions sort of a couple of months then before the cast changed. So you’ve got time to audition the children, get the licences in place, and then rehearse them and then have them ready for that cast change. So it’s quite a lengthy process, and a sort of continual process, certainly.
Christina Carè: Yeah, makes sense. Makes sense.
I kind of wanted to ask you another question just about the schools, because I know that that’s a particular concern for parents. And maybe there’s not a good answer to this, but just in terms of getting permission for students to maybe miss some school or anything like that. Do you have any advice in terms of navigating that, or is it very school-by-school dependent?
Verity Naughton: I think it varies school-by-school. Obviously, a lot of children’s auditions now are running after school hours or during a weekend to try and cause minimal disruption, I guess. I mean, it’s about the child keeping up with their schoolwork, and sort of not missing school. If they want to do this as a career and the time out they want to take is for auditions, then I guess the absences have to be minimal if the school is going to allow you out to do this. If you’re sort of having days off for holidays or other things, then the school is likely to not let you out.
And it’s the school having an understanding as well. Sometimes if you say, “Oh, my child’s going for this, and they’re in it from, I don’t know, May through to December,” sometimes the school can think that they’re not going to turn up at school from May all the way through to December, and it’s actually explained to them that that’s not the case. The children will get their 15 hours. They will be at the school. They will keep up with all the schoolwork.
Christina Carè: What about sort of like weekend theatre schools, and things like that? Do you tend to look there? How beneficial do you think they are?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. I go to quite a few sort of performing schools. And some are all three disciplines, some are just one, some are a couple. I think they’re great. It’s great to sort of… Particularly on a weekend when you know that a child’s not at school and they’re just in their own environment doing their thing and having a lovely time, building their confidence, being with other actors and other young people that love what they do as well. So they sort of all relish in it together. And I think actually, you can get training from those that really will help you in an audition room, and you can sort of get advice from people that have perhaps done auditions before. Teachers are often ex-actors or current actors, so they all know what it’s like as well.
Christina Carè: Yeah, it’s kind of a little community then, isn’t it?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, it absolutely is.
Christina Carè: We kind of all go off each other, use each other’s knowledge.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, so they’re great and sort of a nice introduction to this world. Yes.
Christina Carè: Yeah. I wanted to ask you then, given you see so many people, how likely are you to think of someone you’ve already seen for another role? Is that very common?
Verity Naughton: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve sort of got notes and notes and notes and pages of notes on different people that I’ve seen. And sort of often you know that someone might not be right for a certain project, but if you know you’ve got something else coming up you can keep them in mind for that.
So I always go back to people, certainly if they’re suitable, so they kind of come back in. And it’s not just something… And I often say that to the children at the audition. If it doesn’t go right this time, there’s lots of other things that possibly could work out in the future. And it’s not just something that we say. It’s something that we definitely action as well. And you sort of already know them, which is nice. So you’ve met them once and you know they’re right. And they come back in again, and again, their confidence is a little bit stronger because they know that it’s not as terrifying as perhaps-
Christina Carè: As they thought, yeah.
Verity Naughton: Yeah.
Christina Carè: Yeah, for sure. That’s lovely for people to keep in mind, that it’s not the be-all and end-all. If you didn’t succeed the first time around, people like Verity will keep you in mind next time around.
I kind of wanted to finish by asking you in terms of people who might be just embarking, or maybe they’re a parent helping a young performer just starting on a career in this industry. It is really tough, obviously, but do you have any advice in terms of them just having a good time and enjoying it and having a positive career in it?
Verity Naughton: Positive. I think enjoying it as a massive thing. I think everything we’ve mentioned about the parental support, but that being there in a sense of praising the child whether they make it into the room, whether they get recalled to it or get the role, keeping it a positive thing and sort of managing those expectations that you’re not going to become a superstar overnight.
And it is a lot of hard work, and often it’s a lot of time. Often if you’ve got friends at school that are out playing football over the weekend or going to lots of parties, those can be things that you might have to miss out on if you’re in a show.
So it’s kind of understanding all of that and managing all of that, and going, “No, I love this, and I definitely want to do it.”
And you do make lovely friends. I’ve met some children recently, actually now teenagers, and they still keep in touch with the cast they were with sort of four or five years ago. So it’s really nice. You do make friends along the way. So it’s taking those things from it as well as the roles and the jobs, and keeping it enjoyable.
Christina Carè: Yeah, having fun still.
Last question. Verity, what would you like to work on next?
Verity Naughton: Oh, I don’t know. That’s a tricky one. I’m doing quite a big search at the moment, so I can’t really think of anything.
Christina Carè: That’s got you consumed?
Verity Naughton: That’s got me. That’s got my brain at the moment.
Christina Carè: Well, I’ll have to ask you again once you’ve finished this big search, then.
Verity Naughton: Yeah, maybe. Come back to me on that one.
Christina Carè: Thank you so much, Verity.
Verity Naughton: Thank you for having me.
Christina Carè: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Spotlight Podcast. If you’ve got questions that you’d like answered in an upcoming podcast, send us an email at email@example.com. And in the meantime, check out our website under news and advice for lots more information for young performers. That’s all for now from the home of casting.