Pippa Hall is the childrenâ€™s casting director of several well known films. Her films include: The Chronicals of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005), Nanny Mcphee (2005), I am David (2003), Thunderpants (2002), The Gathering (2002) and many others. Her big break happened when she found Jamie Bell to play the lead role in the film Billy Elliot (2000)
I contacted her to find out more about what her job entails, and her likes and dislikes with the process, to help her, and us, have a more fulfilling casting experience.
â€œ I have been casting for about 14 years now, on and off. I specialise in children, so most of the jobs come to me either through word of mouth, or through directors that I have worked with before. I work for several different companies, so I donâ€™t have the need to advertise myself as available for jobs. There are various times when work increases, just after Christmas it starts getting busy, then by March/ April/ May they are casting for things due to be filmed in the summer months â€“ the best time, because of the longer days, school holidays, better light and good weather.
To start with, I will get a copy of the script or an outline, and from that, I will create a character breakdown. These will be sent out to Agents, or drama groups, then maybe even onto normal schools, taking into account the background of the character. I will use the Internet from time to time finding new drama groups and festivals that might be of interest to me, but I will tend to use the same agents and drama groups for my calls. This will change if the characters have something specifically different about them, -for instance, Scottish/ Irish/ handicapped etcâ€¦In my opinion, there is more work for boys out there, than for girls at the moment.
The agents will then send me their suggestions of who they have on their books, that fit the character profile or description. I have an incredible memory for names and faces â€“ it works very well in this business! The pictures I get sent need to be recent ones. Bad pictures are always off putting, and ones out of date are no good either. I wouldnâ€™t advise spending loads having portraits done, but good quality snaps taken often, and sent out, are really important. Showreels are great, but they really have to be up to date, short and interesting! RECENT is the word you need to remember â€“ I need to see the children as they are NOW. Children with no previous experience never put me off either, so donâ€™t worry, I will want to see anyone suitable.
When I meet with the children, I am always looking for character, and for a child who isnâ€™t self conscious. Parents can be a bit off putting sometimesâ€¦I hate it when they try to have a â€˜chatâ€™ when there are clearly 30 children waiting for their turn, and also when they say things like â€˜Whatâ€™s this for then?â€™ or â€˜Whenâ€™s this filming?â€™ etc â€“ I really donâ€™t think they should be taking their children to auditions where they donâ€™t know the content, or the schedule!! I hate it too when the children say they want to be famous, or when they ramble on about wanting to be in the army or a policeman when they grow up, or about how they watch Eastenders â€“and worse of all I hate it when they donâ€™t look at you, or speak to you, and they clearly would rather eat a bowl of dog food than be auditioning!!
From here I will usually submit the tapes to the directors and/or the producers, and we will make a collective shortlist of those we want to see again. The directors input can vary with the casting process. The time scale of the whole thing can vary too, according to directors availability, changing schedules etc. So we just keep looking. My shortest casting was one week, and my longest was 18 months!
I will try and let everyone know if they havenâ€™t been successful, by waiting until the child has been cast and confirmed, and by sending out letters thanking everyone for their help. If you havenâ€™t heard, you can always check in with your agent (if you have one) who can always chase me up for an answer.
Once the child is cast, thatâ€™s it. Iâ€™m done! â€“ except that I do like to go as a guest onto the set and visit them if I can!!
I also love watching the finished product and always feel very proud of the children in it. I will remember their first auditions, or reading the scenes with them over and over â€“ sometimes I can recite whole scenes in the final cut as I did them again and again with dozens of children for days and days, - and days!
Our grateful Thanks to Pippa, for giving us this insight to her job, and wishing her many successes in future projects!