Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Acting coach and former professional Casting Director, Elina de Santos, was Casting Networks’ Inside the Industry (free for members) seminar guest speaker on September 25.
Here is Ms. de Santos’ bio-
Celebrity acting coach Elina de Santos has been working closely with actors for twenty-five years. Her acting technique is called “Acting From Every Direction”. From coaching, directing, and casting actors, she has a unique eye for talent and how to shape it. Elina is interested in working with actors at every stage and skill level to enhance their instincts, auditions, performance, and overall artistic ability. Elina is the Co-Artistic Director of the Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles, recently named by the LA Weekly one of the 10 best theatres in Los Angeles in the last decade. Her most recent theater credits are a workshop of “Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht at PRT Co-op and the world premiere of “Yard Sale Signs” by Jennie Webb at the Rogue Machine.
Ms. de Santos began, “Everybody read something about what I do? I was a Casting Director, I direct theatre and I used to cast soaps. Okay I’m going to pass out a couple of scenes and we’ll do a little work. I started as an actress, then I started directing theatre back in New York and Philly (Philadelphia). One day, I literally woke up and said, ‘Casting? If you can cast theatre, you can cast anything.’ So I literally said, ‘I’m a casting director.’ It was so ballsy, but I did it.
Then I ended up casting really wonderful things. From that I did Peter Weir movies, then from there Steven Bochco. He brought me out here. Casting is like being the middle child, and I was tired of that, so I went back to my first love of directing. And also in casting, you don’t really get to cast. Somebody else is makes the decisions. Some stupid Director! [laughter]”
Ms. de Santos then gave out sides to three sets of paired actors that she chose on the spot from the audience and asked them to go outside the room and work on the scenes.
After the scenes assignment, she asked for the first attendee to respond to “tell me about yourself.” After the actor got up on stage and described himself, Ms. de Santos asked the room to come up with a positive quality or “essence word…an adjective that gives you the essential quality of this person” that would describe the actor. It was quite varied how many different impressions the actor gave off. Ms. de Santos said, “This is what a Casting Director does when you first come in the [casting] room. They assess you. It is a great exercise to do for yourself. Know who you are. If you want to stretch, go to an acting class. If you want to stretch and do A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and you’re sixty years old and want to play the lead, that’s fine. Go stretch in an acting class, but don’t go out for those kinds of roles for film and television or theatre.”
When the actors got up on the stage to read their scenes, some of Ms. de Santos’ input was-
- “No ‘acting’. Just read the scene. Look at each other. If you were in a casting office and they had a camera on you, you would be looking at the camera or looking at the reader. The audience…forget that they’re there. That’s what you’re asked of as actors all the time. Forget that we’re here.” (in the audience)
- “When there is a word or a place in a script, ask how to pronounce it. Just ask.”
- “When actors make it very specific in a scene, they make it amazingly interesting. Use ‘personalization.’
- “It’s always about changing the other character. The other question I always ask is ‘What is the condition of the character?’ How are you feeling before the scene starts? I think the things that you want to look for are the richer you can make it, the better.”
- “The reason that you want to find those essence and qualities is that you can transcend ‘types’ in television casting”. She also then cited when director Peter Weir cast female actor Linda Hunt to play the male character Billy Kwan in the film THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY.
In closing, Ms. de Santos said of acting, “If you don’t love it, don’t do it.”
Check out Ms. de Santos and she also allows a free audit of her classes on Wednesdays.