Aaron Marcus (L) and John Strawbridge (C) are interviewed on May 2008
Interview by Brian Dragonuk, published on-line:
What Do You Do With Sixteen Years Experience? Write It Down.
Interview by Brian Dragonuk
Experience can be a tricky thing. Without enough, you can find yourself lost. But with too much – you can also find yourself lost.
For John Strawbridge, more than a decade and a half of casting for feature films and network television had left him feeling without direction. “When you’re working on studio productions, and especially on series TV,” notes Strawbridge, “there’s a real possibility that you can become frustrated in terms of artistic challenge. You can find yourself doing the same kinds of things over and over again. The same roles… different scripts.”
He knew he had to find a new way to challenge himself. “I think that if you’re in this business, it’s because you don’t like being in the same place day after day. You welcome change. You’ve got to feel like you’re always moving forward.”
But once you’ve had your work nominated for an Emmy, (as was the case on HOMICIDE: Life On The Street, which won an Emmy for it’s casting) and had some box office success (as with Wedding Crashers) – it can be difficult to find a newer and higher peak. So Strawbridge decided that instead of looking upward, it was time to look outward.
So he decided to share that experience with the community. “The best way to expand upon what I’d done,” he figures, “was to multiply it. Instead of one person having this experience, ten people could. Or twenty. Or however many wanted it.” For the last eight years, Strawbridge, along with veteran actor Gary Wheeler, has been co-instructor of “The Working Actor” series of classes. Working out of the Chesapeake Arts Center near Baltimore, the two have been conducting classes in audition practice and performance skills, as well as their signature “real world” approaching to navigating the business of acting.
“The classes have been great,” Strawbridge says. “But it’s always been in my mind to supplement them with a book. Something that actors could have with them at all times, and which could, maybe, reach people outside this market, or who haven’t been able to take the classes.”
After several years and several drafts, this Spring saw the release of “The Audition Book: What Casting Directors Are Really Looking For” – a book which Strawbridge hopes will reach many.
And Strawbridge feels that there’s still a need for a different approach. “There’s a lot of advice and resources available [out there] for actors. But what I saw time and time again in auditions, was that actors didn’t seem to know what was important to us, on the casting side. They were working awfully hard, but often on the wrong things. Not the things that were, for us, the deciding points on who to call back.”
Strawbridge hopes that his book will not only give actors the insight they need to have more success in their auditions, but also give them the benefit of what he’s learned himself, without having to spend so many years gaining experience.
“I wrote this book for Actors, but after sixteen years in casting, I really wrote this for myself and for all other Casting Directors – so that actors coming in to audition for us would know exactly what we were looking for.”
And now that he’s finally been able to put his casting experience to good use, what’s next for Strawbridge? “At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I’ve got a script I’m trying to get produced,” he offers with a laugh. “I’m hoping it won’t take another sixteen years.
(C) 2008 Brian Dragonuk
John Strawbridge on set directing a short film