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HARRIET GREENSPAN TALKS ABOUT CASTING YOUNG PEOPLE

Known for her canny ability to find and cast terrific young actors in films and television, Harriet Greenspan is happy to share some of her casting stories and her coaching successes.

How and when did you get started in casting?

It was an accident! I actually just fell into casting. Let me explain: I wanted to be an actress growing up in NY. I never thought about casting or any other area of entertainment. I got accepted to the High School of Performing Arts, but never went. My dream was to be in show business. My parents sent me to college in Los Angeles, so that I would be closer to achieving my goal. When I graduated, I got a job working in a production company as a receptionist. My uncle, Arne Sultan, who was a successful comedy producer and writer, was working on a show at the time and set up the interview. Needless to say, I got the job. During the season the casting director quit and the assistant took over. I became the casting assistant. Thus I fell into the casting arena. I loved reading with the actors since it gave me the opportunity to act. I enjoyed the whole casting process and felt excited by it. When the show went on hiatus, I left the company and found a job with a casting company that worked on feature films and television. That was even more exciting. I worked for the biggest casting director at the time, Lynn Stalmaster. I started on the bottom, doing contracts and paperwork and gradually made my way to casting director. After four years with Lynn, I was offered a job at ABC where I became a casting executive, overseeing shows like Dynasty, Loveboat, Fantasy Island, Bosom Buddies, Three’s Company, Happy Days, Too Close for Comfort to name a few . At ABC, I had the opportunity to work with amazing people who have become some of the biggest producers, top television executives and movie moguls in entertainment.

You Seem To Specialize In Kids. How did that evolve?

After ABC, I left Los Angeles and moved back to NY for personal reasons. Upon returning to LA in the early 90’s, with a 3 year-old daughter, the business changed drastically and there were more casting directors moving into the neighborhood. More casting directors meant more competition. I freelanced when I realized I couldn’t go back to a corporate or staff job. I worked on movies of the week for Vin Di Bona and Kushner Locke. I took on a number of partners, but after a few years realized that I wanted to try it alone. I did independent features, also. One of the movies we did gave Denise Richards her SAG card. Also, Scott Wolf and Sean Whalen, to name a few.

About 8 years ago, a manager friend of mine set up a meeting for me to meet Sharon Chazin-Lieblein, who is the head of casting at the Nickelodeon network. A month later, Sharon called me and gave me the opportunity to work on a movie with her. I did and the rest is history! She hired me continuously and gave me the chance to work on wonderful kid-oriented projects. Thus began my niche of specializing in kids. I cast Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Unfabulous and the pilot of Drake and Josh. I did a few movies of the week for Nickelodeon as well. Acting schools across the country asked me to come out and audition their students and teach workshops. I have been doing that ever since. On one of my trips I found an amazing 8 year-old girl named AnnaSophia Robb. After one month in LA she booked a national commercial and after a few more months she booked the lead in the movie “Because of Winn Dixie.”

About 4 years ago, I started my relationship with the Actorsite in L. A., where I teach workshops; I just finished teaching a week-long actors camp for kids. I realized that so many of the kids auditioning for me here in LA weren’t prepared for their auditions. I found myself spending more than 5 minutes with many kids, coaching them and getting them in audition mode, while others who were prepared anxiously awaited their audition in the next room. That’s when I started teaching in LA. Agents started to call me to coach their clients as well. I cast, I coach and I teach.

What problems do you have dealing with stage parents?

I don’t have an issue with stage parents. I cast the roles and I’m rarely on the set. I have wonderful relationships with the parents of the kids I cast but remember – once they’ve been cast my job ends. I get along with almost everyone, but if I feel someone is overstepping boundaries, I handle it diplomatically.

How can stage parents be the most helpful to their kids and to the casting world?

We all love our own kids and want to see the best happen for them. This is a very competitive business and we are dealing with children. Remember they are kids and you are their leader! When your kid makes a decision to be an actor, he or she must have a tough exterior, because there is so much rejection. A good stage parent should be supportive of their child’s career. Be their biggest cheerleader and build a healthy support system for them. It’s an acting career so when they aren’t acting or it’s slow for them, keep them in acting classes so that they can continue working on their craft while they are trying to get acting work. It keeps them fresh. When you take them to auditions, be excited and positive. Don’t make a big deal about the audition. It’s just an audition and not brain surgery. If they do well, pat them on the back and move on. If they feel it didn’t go well, then reassure them that there will be other auditions and it’s not the end of the world. When your kid gets an audition, make sure you get them all the material they need. It’s up to them how long and hard they prepare for the audition. You can only remind then once, but really shouldn’t have to remind them at all. If it’s truly their passion, they will automatically work hard to prepare.

Many parents obtain information from other parents about auditions. Roles that are right for your child might not be right for another child who is the same age, same hair color, etc. One might have an edge where the other might not. If you trust your agent or manager, let them make that decision. It’s not yours to make. Hopefully you have a representative that can get your child into any audition he or she is right for. Leave the pitching to them and just be a parent.

You also manage. Is that rewarding?

It’s very rewarding. I love to find new kids and watch their growth as an actor. I love to see where they go. Between my travels and teaching, I am constantly seeing amazing talent and I try to help them all. I don’t actually manage per se. I don’t call casting directors and pitch. I don’t deal with the daily activities of the clients. I’m more of a talent scout. I work directly with one management company. I bring them clients when I find someone terrific. They make the choice as to whether or not they want to work with them. If they don’t, then I might suggest another company, but I don’t work with other companies. I want to help everyone. I just can’t. I do coach my management clients for auditions if it works with my casting schedule.

What are you casting and for whom?

I have been working at Warner Bros this year with their new division, Warner Premier. We are casting the new book series The Clique. It’s a tween book series that has set the teen world on fire. Alloy Entertainment, which does Gossip Girls, is also producing. We cast the first movie early this year and we are starting the 2nd and 3rd in the fall. We just finished casting “Scooby Doo, The Prequel” with Warner Premier and the Cartoon Network. We also recently finished a few roles on a George Lopez movie for WB. We are starting a new series for Nickelodeon next week called “True Jackson V.P.”, with KeKe Palmer, that we are so excited about.

Producing:
My goal (and passion) is to produce features. I have 3 projects that are currently in development. The first one is “Stand By Love,” a romantic comedy written by Vincent Angel and being directed by Lesli Linka Glatter. We’re also working on film versions of two books, “A Summer of Kings” with AnnaSophia Robb and Corbin Bleu, and “Bloody Jack” also with AnnaSophia Robb.

How can actors reach you for coaching, etc.?

Very easy! Go to my website – www.HarrietGreenspan.com – and you’ll find all the information you need about what I do, when and where I do it, and how to contact me.

Known for her canny ability to find and cast terrific young actors in films and television, Harriet Greenspan is happy to share some of her casting stories and her coaching successes. How and when did you get started in casting? It was an accident! I actually just fell into casting. Let me explain: I wanted …

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About Kris Malone

Kris Malone is the nom de plume of a longtime Hollywood talent agent. Kris created this website as a way for actors to improve their chances of making it in Hollywood, not as a way to reach the agency for possible representation. Kris wishes all of you actors out there the best of luck, laced with a big dose of reality and plain old common sense.

92 comments

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  2. This row of questions and answers have been helpful to me and all my own questions. I will be reaching out to Harriet!!! Thanks! Dianne

  3. I really like reading through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!

  4. I don’t know how many times we need to say this, but this is not the way to reach Harriet. Her info is at the bottom of the article about her…if you bothered to read that far.

  5. Hello Harriet:

    Please consider my son, Justice Winter for any Castings considerations. Justice is a charismatic & comical young Actor. He recently was supporting actor in the Film Short ‘Tenored’ & Print ad for Astoria Savings Bank. He is a ‘new face’ to the Professional acting world, is a confident fellow who can portray any role, and have had many lead performances and roles in his school, church and community theatrical and musical plays. He also is a Michael Jackson Dance Impersonator and performs with several local bands. Recently, Justice performed for Sony’s Michael Jackson ‘Immortal’ CD Release Party in Manhattan. Although this impersonation is part of his many talents, he is a natural and serious actor who is taking ongoing acting classes & intensive workshops to prepare for any role for Film, Broadway, Television,Commercials and Voice-overs. Justice play any role from 9-14 yrs old and Voice-over roles fras young as 4 years old. Please see his resume on backstage. All the Best!

  6. Dear Editor,

    Thank you for the great information and the luck.

  7. Editor here…

    Candy – you are wise to be careful and to continue doing your motherly “homework”.

    Getting representation for a small child is rather different than for an adult. No one expects a 4-year-old to have “experience” and you do NOT need to spend the money on professional headshots. Take some clear snapshots of your daughter and put her name, birthdate (not age, which will change) and your phone number on each one. NEVER put an address – not even on an envelope – that can be traced to your child.

    Then look up a monthly book called “The Right Agent”, by Keith Wolfe and order it online. There you’ll find the info about agencies that handle kids. Submit to the right ones and see what happens.

    Good luck!

  8. Hello Ms. Greenspan,
    I know very little to nothing about the industry and that of which I have learned has been through various websites such as this. After reading the above messages and responses, I found that before someone can get started, they should have an agent and or manager. My question is where can we begin to look for a reputable agent/manager in the Los Angeles ares for a 4 1/2 year old girl with no experience who has expressed as much interest in acting as someone her age can? Also, what important information should we know before we begin our search?
    Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Candy

  9. Hi Krissy
    You have to do what you can afford. I do want to say that every JRP has different owners. I happen to know that the Chicago JRP does have industry professionals out from L. A. and NY who see and audition your kids from time to time. That way they are exposed to Hollywood agents and managers. Many have found agents and managers that way.
    Harriet

  10. Hi Anonymous
    Would love to do a workshop in San Diego. So close to L. A. Contact me at harrietgreenspancasting@gmail.com anytime you are ready.
    Harriet

  11. Please DO NOT write to anyone whose interview you read here. Most of them have their personal contact info listed in the article.

  12. I was interesting in signing my child for jrp….but the classes were too exp. so i went with Acting studio Chicago..they were $1500 cheaper…are you familiar with these students??

  13. You should come to San Diego! Possibly do a workshop there if you would like to. I know the San Diego actors as well as I, will appreciate it!

  14. Harriet Greenspan

    Hi Leslie
    I do workshops all year round..All over the country. I am doing many in L. A. and one in Indianapolis is February.
    Harriet

  15. Harriet Greenspan

    Hi Danika
    Sorry this is coming so late..I don’t cast House of Anubis but I am the set coach..Yes we are hoping for a 3rd season with the same cast..The show is doing well.
    Cheers,
    Harriet

  16. Ms. Greenspan –
    I know you worked as the casting director for the show House of Anubis (by the way, nice choices – Ana Mulvoy Ten cracks me up as Amber) and seeing as how they’re already working on filming season two, I was curious if you knew anything about a season three. In the other countries that this show has aired in, by season three they had a new cast, and should the US version follow the same pattern, I would definitely want to audition! Hopefully you have some information for me and even further, will be casting me for House of Anubis season three!

    Danika

  17. Hello! As a parents, my husband and I have supported our (now 9yr.old) then 5 yr. old daughter as she begged us to allow her to try acting. She has remained passionate about her career ever since. She has worked hard, stayed focused, and had many high compliments from other people she has worked with on set. She has given up every other activity (even competitve gymnastics) which she also loves very much, just to be an actress. We live in Wisconsin, but have flown her to California to live for 5 months, along with traveling back and forth when the opportunity arises. How do we, as parents, know if all of the time (and $$) we are investing into our daughter’s future is valid? How do we know, “she has what it takes”. While I am well aware that this is a long road, and not an overnight thing, and she obviously is extremely dedicated and has a strong will to do this, how do we know if this is right before we put all of our eggs into one basket? We have 4 children, and own a business (which is currently up for sale to pursue her career). Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  18. Where can I find out about your summer workshops?

    Thanks,

    Leslie

  19. Harriet does not “represent” actors. She casts them and that means EVERYONE who is right for a role, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc.

  20. Hi I was wondering if you represent Hispanics adults?

  21. Just read it actually, and now I see why she can’t answer my questions! Im sorry for the trouble, just thought she could help me out.

  22. Well I’m 18 years old, and your right I will be judged about my education skills, but i was in the middle of doing something, and also I’m writing you on my phone, I was not trying to be perfect. But that’s a good tip to no about, I guess I should always take my time writing someone. I’m very sorry about that! But about why she can’t answer my questions?

  23. Editor here:

    Harriet cannot respond to this kind of question, but we can. READ all of the previous letters and responses to/from Harriet and then, perhaps, you will “get it”. You don’t say how old you are, but we strongly suggest that your New Year’s resolution be to learn how to spell and punctuate. “No” is not the same as “know”. Common use of the English language may not help you on a skateboard, but it WILL help you with the rest of your life. You seem bright and motivated, but you will be “judged” on your educational skills forever. Think about it.

  24. Hi my name is Paul Torrento and I live in Orlando Florida, and I’m a Am. skateboarder, and got accepted to go to JRP for modeling/acting and heard many scam stories about that place and is giving second thoughts about going, and I wanna be in the industry so bad, and I no I got what it takes.. I wish I could meet you and show you I got what it takes. But I can’t, so do you have any advice for me or do you have any agents I could talk to or send pictures to or meet personally?? I got lots of ideas. Thanks Paul. It would mean a lot if you could help, I no people ask you silly stuff like this all the time but I mean every word!!

  25. Dear Harriet,
    My name is Eden barker and I am 15 years old. I am a student at JRP. I will be looking forward to meeting you there December 12th (hopefully). I am an aspiring actress and I know I have the talent. I do not a have an agency nor a manager. I would just like to say I am excited to perform my talent and I hope that you take notice of me.
    Thanks,
    Eden (edie) Barker

  26. Dear Natalie,

    If you read Harriet’s article to the very end, you will find her email address. That is where you should write to her.

    Good luck with your acting career!

    – Editor

  27. dear harriet,
    my name is natalie and I am 10 and I meet you at a workshop at actorsite in the sherman oaks location. I was wondering whats your address to send you a post card.
    would you know some really good wedsites to book things like L.A. casting.
    love natalie tisano 🙂

  28. Hi Sharyon,
    Again, if your daughter auditions well on line and has a reputable agent or manager that has relationships with casting directors, her auditions should be viewed on line by a link, email or You Send It. . Having said that, sometimes it is easier to audition and redirect in person auditions..
    Harriet

  29. Hi Madeline
    Yes! you should have an agent whether in your city or in L. A. that will submit you for roles whether in NY L. A. or anywhere in the U. S. Your agent should be connected and know what is going on in the biz. Your agent should be able to pick up the phone and get any casting director on the phone if he or she isn’t responding to their submission. If you do have a reputable and savvy agent or manager then the cd should look at your audition if he trusts your rep. As far as pilot season, it still is Feb through end of March however with cable channels pilots are done all year round.

    And last but not least, Yes, I do coach by Skype!
    Hope I was able to answer your questions.
    Harriet

  30. I would love to see your response to Madeline Hubel. My daughter is in the same situation. She has auditioned on tape for a few major films and has buillt a pretty strong resume of Orlando work and lots of training both in Orlando and NYC. Would love your input.
    Thanks so much for all you do for entertainment kids!
    Sharyon

  31. Dear Harriett,

    Can someone outside of LA still get seen for roles? I am in Florida and have developed a good resume here but my desire is to act, sing, and be my quirky self. Do I need an LA agent or manager? Can I submit through online acting sites, or do they really not go anywhere? I am home schooled and can travel. My parents support my dreams of entertaining others as well. Also is it really true that the time frame for pilot season is no longer? Or is it still a good time to test the waters in LA between Jan and May? One last thing, do you give lessons through SKYPE?

    Thanks for answering my questions,
    12 year old Maddie in Florida

  32. Editor here:

    Too bad you had a negative experience with JRP. It just proves that you must be extremely careful when dealing with anyone – schools, managers, etc. – who are paid by you to further your career (or especially your child’s). Not every scenario works for every actor (see all of the previous pro-JRP comments).

    However, if you had read THIS article carefully (which is what you must do with contracts, too), you’d see that Harriet has provided her PERSONAL EMAIL address for this type of question. Please use it.

  33. we were given your name for auditions on the new cluiqe movie, i refuse to go to jpr i have been taken by them. my daughter wants to audition for the movie. we can go to la for the audition or here in san diego. at this time i am my childrens agent. please can you let me know as soon as possible so we can plan? thank you!!!

  34. Hi Ms. Greenspan,

    Thank you for being so nice about answering all the questions and for your passion in casting. I’m currently submitting for agents now and It’s cool to read articles on successful casting directors to learn what each talent agent, and CD is looking for in new or auditioning talent.

  35. Sorry, but this site is not meant to be a conduit to the casting directors. Harriet has very clearly included her personal contact info within the article, so please write to her directly. (We also deleted some of the personal info about your daughter, as well as your last name.)

  36. Dear Harriet, If you have a moment , please have a quick peak at my 11 year old daughter Jessie singing. She is both an extremely talented singer and actress and we would like to take her to the next level. Please let me know of any suggestions you may have. Her level of talent is truly rare and my wife and I feel it is our duty to do the best we can for her.

    Thanks kindly,
    Howard

  37. Editor here:

    If you notice, this is HOLLYWOOD Passport, not MISSOURI Passport. That’s not meant to be snide, even though it may sound that way. We, Harriet included, are not experts in what passes for professional in the rest of the country. You don’t say where in Missouri you live, but if you’re close to Kansas City or St. Louis, we know that there are at least a few agencies there. Try calling the local AFTRA office in Kansas City and ask them if they have a list of agencies in the area. And please do not confuse acting schools with agencies. In the meantime, get your daughter into school-type plays. That’s how most kids get started. Good luck!

  38. I am interested in finding a reputable agent for my daughter who is 7yrs old.We live in Missouri and i don’t know where to begin. She was recently in a modeling show for American Mall model Search. I have professional photos from their agency. Any information will be greatly appreciated. My daughter loves the camera and being in the spot-light. I am not a stage mom by any means, but want to support her dream of becoming Faith Starr!

  39. Dear Harriet Greenspan,
    Thank you for your wonderful acting advice.It will be coming in handy this May when I audition for you at JRP in California.I love acting and honestly can’t wait to have my chance to audition for you.Getting an agent has been quite a struggle for me,due to countless acting scams and money wasted on classes that weren’t even legitimate.So, thank you for teaching young actors like myself and supplying us with the contact information for your workshop in L.A.Before auditioning for you I would like to know what I could do to set myself apart from everyone else and leave a lasting impression.Also, are there any special acting techniques that you recommend? I look foward to meeting you in person.

    Respectfully,
    Savannah

  40. Harriet replies:

    The Clique is a tween book series and I cast the movie a few years ago for WB. I don’t know if they are going to do additional Cliques.

  41. Hi I’m here to ask about when your casting calls for the Clique number two comes out. I’ve the first movie and is just getting into the books. I really dream of becoming an actress and this movie is just Ah-mazing. Thanks!

  42. Editor here:

    Your question needs to be asked of JRP, not Harriet. If you read all of these questions and answers, you’ll see why.

    Good luck!

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