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Young Performers
Matilda and her classmates peering over a stone fence in 'Matilda the Musical' film

Image credit: Dan Smith/Netflix / Still From Matilda the Musical

Tips from casting directors Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann on self-taping and their experience casting young performers in the ‘Matilda the Musical’ film.

In the fantastical world of film, it’s the casting director’s job to find the right actors to bring stories to life on the big screen. This task is especially important when the film is based on a beloved, multi-award-winning West End show like Matilda the Musical.

At the heart of the film adaptation of the West End hit are casting directors Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann, who have some incredible experience under their belts. Lucy has been involved in the casting for Casual Vacancy, Maleficent, The Hundred Foot Journey and more. Emily’s impressive credits include Ready Player One, Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw and Atomic Blonde.

At the CDG Awards 2024, we spoke with these powerhouse casting directors and asked them about their self-taping advice for Young Performers, tips for parents, and their experience working on Matilda the Musical. Here’s what they shared:

‘Matilda the Musical’ and its Award-Winning Casting

Since its West End debut, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical (based on the Roald Dahl novel) has won over 100 international awards, including seven Olivier Awards, five WhatsOnStage Awards and an unbelievable 24 awards for ‘Best Musical’. With all of this success, it was only a matter of time before it made a new debut, this time on the big screen.

Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann are responsible for the film’s excellent Young Performer casting – including Alisha Weir as the titular ‘Matilda Wormwood’ – and were recognised for this with the Best Child Casting (All Media) award at the CDG Awards 2024.

“It’s always particularly gratifying to be recognised by your peers,” says Emily. “The people who know how hard you work and what the job entails.”

Lucy Bevan acknowledges that the job came with unique pressure to get the casting just right. “Matilda is such a long-running [show],” she says. “Obviously, it was a film when we worked on it, but before that, a theatre event, that means so much to so many people.”

Casting Young Performers

Finding the right child to cast isn’t without its challenges and although Spotlight provides casting directors like Lucy and Emily with various ways of seeking out new talent, it can still be a lengthy process. When casting such a well-known character as ‘Matilda’, you’ve got to get it just right.

Unlike adult performers, child actors haven’t always had years and years to hone their acting skills, so casting directors need to look beyond that and identify their raw talent.

Lucy Bevan finds it rewarding, saying, “When a child comes in and probably isn’t that good, but you see something, and [say], “Let’s get them back in, there’s something there.” 

She also enjoys “the satisfaction of when you give notes to the child and they improve, so that by the time they meet the director, they are what you need them to be.”

Emily Brockmann agrees, saying she finds it “really gratifying when you find a child who’s never done [acting] before but is just brilliant and their personality shines through.”

This was actually the case when they were casting for Matilda the Musical, as two of the Young Performers who got roles in the film had never done anything like it before.

Self-taping Advice for Young Performers

It’s common practice to be asked to self-tape if you’re applying for a role. Some of them won’t give you much time to prepare, so you must use your time wisely and focus on the right things.

Emily Brockmann advises, “Make sure that we can see and hear you clearly. It is honestly the most important thing.”

While this means you should ensure your sound and video quality are good, casting directors won’t expect your self-tape to be in high definition with perfect, production-quality sound. They’re requesting the self-tape because they want to see and hear you in action as an actor, not an editor.

Lucy Bevan’s advice is to “Go for it. Put your own take on it because you don’t know what anyone’s looking for. If you are looking through an awful lot of self-tapes, which we do, if someone has got a point of view and makes a choice and it’s interesting, it might not be right, but it’s enough to make you want to see them again.”

A self-tape is a chance to make an impression on a casting director, who famously have good memories. Even if you don’t get the role you’ve applied for, a memorable self-tape means the casting director might think of you when casting other roles in the future, which is just as much a victory as getting the initial role.

Advice for Parents and Guardians of Young Performers

As the parent or guardian of a young performer, there’s much you can do to assist your child in pursuing their acting career. While the important stuff – like submitting your child for roles and negotiating contracts – will be done by their agent, it’s essential to be as knowledgeable as possible about the industry you’re sending your child into.

While our website offers excellent advice and resources for parents and young performers, covering everything from headshots to profile tips to safeguarding, Lucy Bevan also recommends that parents, “Make sure that [their child] stays close to their mates at home when they’re not on set.”

“Make sure they carry on with school and are with all their friends,” she adds. “It’s a slightly strange environment, a film set, for a child, because it’s loads of adults.”

The entertainment industry is a fantastical world, but it won’t be your child’s everyday reality. Ensuring they keep up with real things like friends, school, hobbies and other activities will mean they have something to come back to between roles.

A massive thanks to Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann for sharing their excellent advice!

Take a look at our website for more interviews with casting professionals, agents and actors, and more advice for young performers and their parents.