Synopsis by Tracy Weisert
Casting Director Francene Selkirk-Ackerman was our guest at the Casting Networks Industry Seminar on January 26, 2008. Francene is smart, savvy, funny, candid and feisty! I am not sucking up publicly here! That has always been my impression of her ever since the first time she called me in to audition years ago. I remember when sheherself came out into her crowded, actor filled lobby at Zydeco and “worked” the room, chatting with the actors and explaining the spot. It was more than a group explanation as she asked several folks about their kids, bookings, spouses, etc.
We had a capacity crowd at the seminar and after I introduced Francene, she said “I wrote some notes because I thought you might want to know some information. Hi! (actors saying ‘hi’ back) Welcome, thank you. I’m just so glad these tickets were free!” (audience laughter!). She said her name is most recently hyphenated in the past two years, and that she has been married for the past 25 years. She added her husband’s last name of Ackerman to her maiden name, Selkirk. “I think I did it as a gesture of gratitude to my husband. I think he was tired of being called Mr. Selkirk.”
“Who am I? I am from New York… originally Astoria, Queens (audience cheers). There are millions of us out here! Sometimes we’re bossy and sometimes we’re just lost…and fun and creative! I’ve been out here a long time. I’ve actually been out here about 30 years. But I studied acting in New York, went to the High School of Performing Arts for a short period before they threw me out (audience reaction). It’s true! It was a rough time.”
After college, Francene moved to Los Angeles. “I worked as an actress for a awhile… did some funny stuff, mostly comedy, a lot of stage and then got into producing. Actually, I was a producer for 10 years, mostly in commercials. I started as a PA, doing every job – carrying coolers, assisting in wardrobe and doing scripts … which I absolutely hated! Then I got into production which I enjoyed and had a couple of kids… they’re in college now… and I’ll have to work forever! (audience laughs). Nice girls. And I have a husband and he’s a DP. So there, you know everything! I’m not telling you my address” (laughter).
“But I work out of Zydeco Studios. I do commercials, mostly, that’s what has been my bread and butter for the last fifteen years. I am very grateful and I respect the work. Not just because it, you know, paid the bills, but because mostly its been good work, I’d have to say. Not every spot that I’ve cast has been award-winning. Definitely not, but there’s some integrity in it. And that’s some of what I wanted to talk about today. I’ve also done theatrical castings in the last five to maybe seven years.”
“This seminar is all about casting, so let’s get into that! I did casting for SIGNIFICANT OTHERS which was my absolute favorite (job) on the planet! It was a Bravo Show, improvisational comedy. And then I worked another one after that called, FREE RIDE, but SIGNIFICANT OTHERS was… you know, my dream job! I must have seen every improv comedian in town for that show. It was like 500 actors and the talent was on a wonderfully high level. Some of it was a little bureaucratic – but that’s just what you deal with in any job – but it was just dreamy!”
To learn more about the delightful Francene Selkirk-Ackerman, check out our archived December 2007 in-depth interview with Patt Tallman. Francene is an actor’s advocate and I am glad to be on her radar. She also teaches and I can personally say that I’ve learned volumes from her.