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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

  1. to:harriet greenspan
    hi, my name is stefany and i am 15 yrs. old.And i scheduled an audition for the jrp company here in long island for april 2010.and i honestly have never had any previous acting experience but my friends and some family members have been saying i should try it.I would like to know what are the requirements to audition and i would appreciate it very much if you responded me. thank you

  2. Hi Harriet,

    I have a two 16yr olds who both model and act. Their preference is definitely for acting. We received a flyer this past Friday, April 2, 2010 stating that JRP would be prescreening for you. However, this flyer negated to provide a date. I’m curious to know if this is an ongoing process or if there is a specific date and time for this screening. By the way… you’ve done a wonderful job with TJVP. I absolutely love that show. Take Care.

  3. Hi Soraliz
    Thank you..Hope to see you again!
    Harriet

  4. Hi Natasha
    That would be great. I have one at the Actorsite on Sunday, May 23rd.
    Harriet

  5. Hello,

    My agent in Portland would like me to attend some of your workshops. Do you have any coming up?

    Thanks,

    Natasha DuVall
    IMDb

  6. Hello Harriet,

    I would like to say that I attended the workshop you did at JRP Orlando on Jan 30th, 2010 and I greatly enjoyed it. I learned a lot and I hope to meet you again in the near future.

    Thank You!
    Soraliz Cardona

  7. Hey Harriet,
    Do you ever go to the east coast. Or how would I be able to submit my information to you if I need a chance to show my talent or even to get my picture out there. Or any agencies you work with!! Thanks Oh im 15 years old, and I am 6’2, and I am an African American male.

  8. Harriet Greenspan

    Hi Evelyn
    If you are in the L. A. area and have an agent, they would be aware of any casting opportunities you would be right for on TJVP.
    Harriet

  9. Harriet Greenspan

    Hi Alicia
    I’m going to be in Orlando Jan 30th..I don’t do Zack and Cody. I cast True Jackson VP for Nickelodeon and going to start a new live action Scooby Doo movie for WB and Cartoon Network.
    Harriet

  10. Harriet Greenspan

    Hi Donna
    I don’t know CTA. I might know the people running it but not sure. Can you tell me whose company it i and then I can answer this properly. I have no plans at the moment to be in London.
    Harriet

  11. Harriet Greenspan

    HI Kim
    That would be a conversation you would have with your agency team, in this case being Diverse. Managers and agents should work as a team so it’s always a plus to find a manager who has a great relationship with your agent, or vice, versa.
    Harriet

  12. This is the Editor writing.

    If you live in or near L.A., you must join one of the extras casting services, such as Central Casting in Hollywood, if you want to do that type of work. If you have an agent, let him or her know how much you’d like to be submitted to this show. But only tell them once, or they’ll become annoyed. Otherwise, study, study, study and read the rest of this website!

  13. Please could you tell me…

    Do you know of a company that started up in England called cta ( celebrity talent academy)?

    Are you coming over to London to cast for them?

    Please reply so I know it’s not a ripe off?

    His name is Steve Clinton?

  14. Dear Harriot,

    could I ask you if you will be coming to England to visit cta (celebrity talent academy) ?

    Thank you

    Donna Gyarmati

  15. This is the Editor, yet again.

    If you read all of the previous items about JRP, you can answer your own question.

  16. Harriet, I heard a casting call on the radio will be at a JRP in Orlando, and that you will be there….

    My son is interested in acting. JRP mentioned Zach & Cody which is one of his favorite shows. Will you be picking kids without an agent for this?

  17. Hi Miss Greenspan!
    Thank you so much for considering me. I really enjoyed auditioning for you a few weeks ago. I found out that i was on your list the day after my birthday and it was so great to know that you were thinking of me. It was a gift just to know you had called me back. Thank you for the gift of another audition with you! It is very much appreciated! I hope you have a fabulous rest of the day!

  18. Hello!!! My name is Evelin. I watch the serie “True Jackson vp” and I would like to ask you if there are any opportunity that I can addition for a role in the serie. I know that you have alot of people wanting a part in your productions, but I really would like to addition for a part. I really enjoy acting. I feel really comfortable on stage and I believe that this is a great opportunity to show others what I can do. I have people around that do not believe in me and do not think that can do something more. But I want to prove that I can. I want to prove that I can actually be someone. It is my dream and I hope that you can give me an opportunity in any role even if it’s extras. Thank you for reading my letter and please send me a message even if it’s to say no. Thank you. And please send me a message back. Thank you.

  19. Hey Ms. Harriet,

    I really enjoy what you do. I myself am an actor, I’m 15 years old. You give kids like me hope. I really hope someday that we can work together.

  20. Hi Harriet !

    Billy Davis is looking foward to meeting you in Orlando !

    Love,

    Billy

  21. Austin Thomas /Jett Patrick

    As young actors ourselves , We can tell you it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It a full time commitment. My dad says if you want to play baseball you need to go throw the ball…We always work on our sides and we go back and review the ones we didn’t book.

  22. Harriet’s email address is at the end of the article. That’s where (and how) you should contact her.

  23. Hi Miss Greenspan,
    I’m Shanice Scudder and I auditioned for you in John Robert Powers Nashville. I was accepted, but at the time I hadn’t recieved my pictures. You told me to send them to you as soon as I recieved them. I have now, and was wondering if there is any way that I can send them to you still. Thanks.

  24. This is the Editor:

    Harriet’s contact info is clearly stated in the article about her, so please use that in the future. This website is not meant to be used as a post office.

  25. The August 1st Audition was amazing. That was my first adition i have attened and i was astonished at the fact that as soon as i saw you my nerves went away. I know now that i can put the nerves aside and focus on my passion for acting. Thank you for the experience. I hope that i will get the chance to work with you sometime.

  26. The Editor speaks:

    This is HOLLYWOOD Passport. Harriet lives and works in L.A., as do all of the other people interviewed on this site.

    Try reading Backstage, which covers the N.Y. area. You might have to commute into Manhattan for a really great class. But she’s only 7; why not start locally? (See the answer to Melody in the column.)

  27. This is the Editor answering.

    You do not say where you live, but I assume it isn’t in a major market (L.A., NY, Chicago). Our advice is to never, ever put yourself in hock for acting or modeling classes. You also don’t say how old Ashley is, but if she’s old enough to take classes, she’s old enough to start auditioning for plays (school, regional, church, whatever), which can give her a great beginning to her resume, without costing much. Once she has a few productions on her resume, THEN you can start thinking about more expensive, professional classes.

    You also shouldn’t allow yourself to be talked into only using one headshot photographer – “theirs”, whoever “they” may be. That smacks of kickbacks and does not necessarily guarantee you the best possible shots. Ditto acting coaches.

    Good luck!

  28. Hello Harriet
    I’m looking for a good acting school for my 7 yr old and thought that perhaps you can recommend a school in New York, Long Island to be specific? Thanks for your help.

    Karen Schwartz

  29. I am always casting kids. Usually we cast slightly older than 6 to play 6. Most kids can handle it better when they are older and the set hours are longer with age. Does he have an agent? He should get an agent eventually that can send him out on auditions, etc. As far as meeting me, I am based in Los Angeles.

  30. My daughter, Ashley, and I were at the images audtion on August 1. She was the one on the crutches. Images has accepted Ashley but now there is a significant cost involved for her to continue. Both my husband and I are teachers and we another daughter currently in college. Needless to say, the cost is very intimidating for us. Is this something you would recommend us to continue with or should we look for a less expensive option? Thanks so much for your time.

  31. hi, my cousin’ s 6 year old son is very talented and must i add the cutest little boy, he just was in NY at the IMTA and received numerous awards. So my question is will you be casting any children soon and if so, how can she make an appointment to meet with you.thank you.

  32. Hi Jillian
    I look forward to seeing you August 1st. I am auditioning actors that day and will keep anyone outstanding in mind for any current and future projects.

  33. Hi Chelsea
    Right now there are no immediate plans to make additional Clique movies. The first one was great. I hope you saw it. I know a new book just came out. I love the book series and hope that they do make more movies. Keep reading!

  34. Hello i am with Images Agency out of St. Louis Missouri. My agents name is Tracey Loder.

    I will be attending your class on August 1st at JRP and was wondering if you will also be casting, or keeping in mind some talents that stood out to possibly cast for a future film. I am 20 years old and i am in it for the career not just a hobby. It would be an honor to work with you.
    Thank You for your time.

  35. Mrs. Greenspan-
    Hello. I know that you are the casting director of The Clique Movie, and I was wondering if you know if there is going to be a Best Friends for Never movie. If there is, I would love for the opportunity to audition for the part of Olivia. If you email me, I will email you back my resume. I am very easy to work with, and I love acting. I have also recently been awarded the Acting award at my school for Best Actress in Middle School ( I’m 14). Please email me back with details, if you can.

  36. Nikki Gonzalez

    Hi Harriet,

    I am Nikki Gonzalez and I am 14 years old. i have been going to JRP Orlando, FL for now a year. And going through that year I have attended ipop 2009 LA and one of your workshops, which by the way I had a blast at and helped me very much with my acting and as well as going to ipop! I am very excited to be auditioning for you on June 20 2009 and I will be attending your workshop as well. I was hoping to know if you have any tips in pro of auditioning for you. As I said before i have been at JRP for a year now and I really feel that I have the talent that you are looking for!! And something that I love doing on my spare time is making funny videos with my brother or just me.
    Nikki G. thanks!!!!

  37. Hi Paula
    I look for talent, a look and energy. I want to see who they really are, as so much of their real personality goes into the role they play. I want to see something special from them when they come into the room. I don’t care if they have a picture and resume or how much experience they have. I’m there to discover talent. A kid has to start somewhere so of course he or she should audition. What does he have to lose. Right?

  38. hello Mrs. Greenspan,
    my name is Demi muses and i am a 13 year old girl from California. I joined with Jhon Robert Powers about two months ago, and it has helped me so much. This weekend, january 24,2008, I am able to auditon with you. I am looking forward to meeting you, and i hope that i can work wth you. I know that you have worked with the nickolodean company and let me just say that being on one of there shows has been a dream of mine. I will see you soon.

  39. Harriet,

    When you are scouting for talent, and travel to do “auditions” at schools like JRP, what are you looking for? Are you only looking for more experienced kids who can do a monologue for you, or are “brand new” and “fresh into the business” kids also looked at?

    If it is a kid that just started and is still working on head shot etc, is it worth going and “auditioning” with you, maybe just saying a commercial or 2? Should these kids wait for the next opportunity?

    Thanks for your time!

  40. Harriet,

    My daughter is 4 1/2. Ever since she was an infant I have been told how pretty she is and that I should get her into modeling or “something.” At first, when it was friends and family I just figured that they were just a bias as I am, I do have the two most perfect little girls in the world. But, when I started getting stopped in the grocery store or walking down the street (now with both my daughters my second is 16 mos.) I started to think maybe I should see, every little bit I can get put in that college account is only going to help right? So to the point, and oldest has an “audition” at JRP tonight, I am not holding out much hope as I do not have money for acting classes and when they talked to me they did not say anything about being a school and I had not done my homework. My question is she is 4, how much will she really be able to get out of acting class at this stage? She is in dance classes and will be starting gymnastics soon. Are these types of performing classes enough for now or should I try and get her into “acting classes” at this young of an age?

    Jessica

  41. I would love to meet your son but mostly we see actors through their agents. Do you have an agent or a manager? If so please have them contact me.

  42. I have a son that is 6 years old and he has a great personality and a gift to act and I would like to know how we can get an audition with you.

  43. Once again…read Harriet’s previous answers re JRP.

    Re monologues: Keep them short and always have at least two “at your fingertips” – one dramatic and one comedic (or light-hearted). Choose monologues that are appropriate for you and your age range, that show off your particular acting skills as well as possible.

    Good luck!

    – The Editor

  44. Hi. I heard an ad on the radio that you were appearing in NYC for auditions at JRP. I called and they gave me the information to come and audition for you. I’ve heard of scams like this before and is wondering if you can confirm it. If so, I was also wondering what type of monolouge should I choose? Is there any spefic genre that you would like?

  45. This is the Editor writing:

    See Harriet’s answer to the previous question.

    Here is OUR answer: JRP is a school, like many, many others. They are in the business of teaching modeling and acting. Of course they will try to get you to sign up for something. How else would they survive? You should go in there with a firm idea of what you are ready, willing and able to pay – and you should tell your kids to just have fun and not expect anything much out of the “audition”.

    Caveat emptor.

  46. We just made an appointment at a JRP agency in Bloomington, MN for a casting call on December 6th. We were told that you will be there in person. Our kids are not actors nor do they have any prior acting experience, but are excited about trying it. We are concerned about being pressured into acting lessons or classes, etc. Can you confirm if this is a legitimate casting call?

  47. Harriet Greenspan replies:

    First of all, JRP is an acting school. There are many JRP’s all around the country and industry professionals visit often to scout talent. Agents and managers are always looking for new clients and casting directors are looking for talent for their projects. . Many actors that pass through my casting office have JRP on their resume. Each JRP has different owners and therefore each school is run different ly, but yes JRP is reputable. I have found some very talented kids in my travels.

  48. I just received a call from a representative from John Robert Powers… they said that “they were interested in auditioning my daughter for various agents,” one of which, was yourself. My question is, is that agency reputable?

    Thanks so much for your time.

  49. This is the Editor writing:

    It goes without saying that no casting director is going to make this type of recommendation on a website for all to see.

    Harriet is happy to answer questions of a less personal nature, but don’t expect “recommendations” from her or anyone else on this website, please.

    I, on the other hand, wonder why, if you have an across-the-board agency, and a very good one at that, you aren’t asking them for their suggestions, particularly for managers with whom they enjoy a working relationship. Your AGENTS are the ones you need to keep happy. Adding a manager of whom they may not approve is self-defeating.

    But that’s just our opinion…!

  50. Hi Ms. Greenspan,
    You met my daughter, Mackenzie Thompson, at an intensive workshop at Actorsite on Sept. 14, 2008. We are currently looking for management representation, our agent is Diverse Talent Group (across the board). Do you have any recommendations for a management group? Thank you for your time and attention.
    Sincerely,
    Kim Thompson/Users/robertthompson/Desktop/DSC_0101.jpg

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