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Interview with Jana Beeson, Casting Director and CEO of ACT Now!

Experienced Casting Director, Actress and CEO of ACT Now, Jana Beeson shares some important insight and crucial tips on making it in the entertainment industry.

How did you become a casting professional? What’s the backstory here? 


I started learning about casting from some of my acting teachers and mentors. Some were CDs themselves (Amy Gossels, NYC) and others were associates/assistants to major CDs (Erica Arvold / DMV & Atlanta). I also started offering to help some indie filmmakers by connecting them with my network of actors and doing the casting for them. Reputation seemed to spread from there that I was someone to call to get connected with quality actors.

What are the most favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

Hands-down, my favorite part about casting is getting to message (or I call when I can!) an actor and let them know that they have the role. It’s such a joy to give actors well-deserved opportunities. And the worst part of casting for me is that there isn’t enough time in the day for me to call up every single actor and explain to them why they weren’t chosen. So many actors have marketing that can easily be adjusted or self-tape practices that need just a little tweaking to put them in the running for jobs. Without these notes, I worry that they’ll continue to come across as green to the industry and have more CDs/agents pass them over.

Which casting calls or roles were the biggest challenges for you and why?


One of my Atlanta short films was more time-consuming than I anticipated. It seemed super-straight forward with just four roles. However, the director (fantastic by the way!) was also the writer, so he would come across an actor that he liked then adjust the script to fit them and change up the list/breakdowns of the characters we were currently auditioning. Having a moving target does tend to complicate the process!

How do you spend your free time? 


I’ve been developing an app to help actors find more targeted work that they have a better chance of booking. It’s been such an amazing process partnering with casting groups and providing actors information on the roles they should be spending their time on to grow their acting careers. Here’s our site with info about the app –  www.actnow.biz

If you had to choose an actor to play you in a biopic, who would you choose?


Never thought about this! Though it makes me think of Rachel’s answer from FRIENDS, “Claire Danes.” Gotta agree! That is one talented woman, and respectfully, with all the crazy twists and turns that being in this industry has thrown at me, I’d really appreciate an actress who could embody the full joy of this life to the push-through-it-determination that was needed at times.

What’s your most exciting project right now?


I have a couple films that are in pre-production for next year. Hoping to be able to release names soon! But they include some supernatural story lines and full-out thriller opportunities for the Atlanta community.

What’s the most memorable audition that you’ve been a part of?


Years ago, I actually had to do a Zoom (probably Skype at the time) audition with several teen girls 5 states away. I was nervous as I wasn’t sure I could get my direction across to these actresses through online video chat. But we did it! It was a blast, and they were great! I remember thinking, “That was so convenient! Gosh I hope video auditioning becomes more of a thing in the future.”  Hmmm…Thank you COVID?

What are the typical mistakes actors make?

I notice a lot of actors advertising themselves in ways they think we want to see rather than advertising their natural, true self. You don’t need to play every role. You can make an awesome career from playing to your strengths, so please create marketing materials that show off what you’re best at playing.

How can they improve their chances to get cast?

This definitely goes with what I was mentioning above! Please spend your time focusing on roles that fit your natural personality, vibe, and look. You are great as you are, and there is a role out there where some CD is going to be so happy to see you! Actors deserve to cut down on feeling rejected by making sure they’re applying for roles that make them go “Oh! That’s me!” when they read the character’s personality description.

What should parents/guardians of child talent know before they apply to your casting calls? 


I know KidsCasting does a great job of educating parents in their KidsCasting Academy, and I think it’s important for parents to seek advice from qualified sites, coaches, and sources. You should be able to find recent, third-party testimonials, feedback, and more for any group you decide to work with. Also, look for a group that gives before they ask. ie if they’re putting a sales-pitch on you and your child before providing you with beneficial information, I’d recommend continuing to do research and potentially saying no to working with that group. Lastly, you will NEVER have to pay to be in a project.

What would you suggest to other people who are seeking talent? What are the typical mistakes people make when searching for talent?


For anyone looking to cast their own projects, I know I’m biased, but I would like to recommend you hire a CD. You are probably already directing or writing or producing and wearing enough hats. You deserve to have some help in getting quality talent. The importance of good casting cannot be overstated. This will help your production go smoothly (and get additional press even!) or leave you feeling stressed – possibly running behind schedule. If you are going to do your own casting, show actors you’re professional, andyou’ll attract more pro talent.

What are the differences in searching for child talent as opposed to adults? What’s more challenging and why?


When working with minors, I’m also casting the parent essentially. This is someone who will be on set too and must also have a sense of reliability and professionalism. This of course tends to complicate the process because there have been times where I LOVED the child, but the parent is not responding to emails, demanding (rudely) things from production, and creating a poor energy in the audition room. There’s no way I could recommend that person/behaviour be allowed to work on a production. So hiring minors is harder in my experience. You gotta do a two-for-one kind of casting!

How do you notice the difference between aspiring talent who can “make it” and those who can’t?

If I had to describe the “it factor” or “star quality” it would have to be an actor that enjoys what they do, is responsible/professional, and takes action to make their own opportunities. Actors that sit around and wait for their agent to do the work or expect someone to “discover them” are missing the lifeblood of this industry. We are an industry where anything can happen! You don’t have a boss, so please (be polite!) go out and make connections, take chances, get educated, and focus your energy on action steps that will positively move your career forward.

If you’re a casting professional and interested in being interviewed, drop us an email at dorothy@kidscasting.com

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