On Casting Frontier’s 25th episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind interview casting director Jeff Gerrard from On Your Mark Studios. In addition to casting countless commercials, Gerrard’s credits include over 60 films including Jarhead: Law of Return, The Scorpion King: Book of Souls, and For the Love of Jessee. He was the president of the Commercial Casting Directors Association Los Angeles (CCDA) from 1995 to 2016. And Gerrard was nominated five consecutive years (2005-2009) for Commercial Casting Director of the Year from the Talent Managers Association; he received the award in 2009. In this episode, Jeff shares his experiences and invaluable insights on auditioning and life as an actor in LA. 

Having started as an actor himself, Gerrard is an “actor’s casting director,” and he truly cares for the performer. After moving to Los Angeles, he found episodic work but sold sandwiches to make ends meet. One fateful day, he delivered lunch to a casting director’s office whereby he was invited in for an audition. That casting director took an interest in Gerrard, visiting one of the productions he was directing at a workshop. Impressed with the young, up-and-coming actors he’d been working with, the casting director invited him to join the team and be a “casting director for the day.” “I said, ‘What’s in it?’ and they said, ‘An expense account, an office on Sunset Boulevard, and a window.’” That was all he needed to hear; he was in! Over 30 years later, he’s cast many commercials as well as films.

Speaking on the personal quality that he most attributes to actors’ success in the industry, Gerrard says, “I think [actors] tap into who they are. You know, we’re not on Broadway. We’re in front of a camera that has to capture your innocence and your honesty. And that’s one thing I always tell actors: Just be as honest as you can in the piece. And if you’re not feeling it, just don’t say the lines until you are.”

Also, reading lines with a casting director who never looks up from the script can leave actors theorizing as to what went wrong in the audition room. Gerrard says, “If I’m not looking up because I’m reading opposite you, demand that I look up by what you’re doing with the reading and let me see what you’re doing.”

Gerrard recalls that back in the day before the Internet and cell phones were ubiquitous, actors needed to go to considerable lengths to catch a glimpse of a script in order to prepare for an audition. Otherwise, actors would only receive the material about 15 minutes before the audition. With this in mind, Gerrard asks actors, “Do you know how blessed you are to get [access to scripts online] nowadays?” With this amazing access, he expects actors to come into auditions well-prepared and having made creative decisions. Winging it is not acceptable. 

Often times, his clients require a number of roles to be cast in a brief amount of time. The mad dash for casting directors to find the best actor for those slots requires long days of highly repetitive work with actors who are competing ferociously for the part. Gerrard shares, “So when you do get the chance to audition for anybody, and you have a script ahead of time, read the script, make your choices. Make all the choices, It’s like Acting 101, and some people forget about that sometimes.”

Training is key, he insists. At a minimum, aspiring actors should devote six months to a year at a competitive acting workshop before seeking work as an actor. “Know your craft,” he asserts. 

Currently, Gerrard is working on a reboot of another version of the cult-favorite 1990 monster comedy Tremors for Universal.

 Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Stay ahead of the curve by joining us for more valuable insights and tips from a wide assortment of industry insiders.