Casting for film and TV can be an intense, yet rewarding, profession. With so many actors’
headshots, resumes, and sometimes even videotaped submissions to sift through, one has to be
extremely organized and patient, while having a great eye for talent.
Mark, Craig, and Lisa Mae Fincannon have positioned themselves as one of the top casting teams
in the US. Having assisted in casting acting talent for such TV shows as ‘One Tree Hill’ and major
motion pictures like, Sandra Bullock’s ‘The Blind Side,’ and Channing Tatum’s new film ‘Dear John’
[in theaters Feb 5th] it’s no wonder the team at Fincannon & Associates is at the top of the Film/TV
I Am Entertainment had the opportunity to sit and speak with one of the members of this Emmy
Award Winning team, Mark Fincannon, to get the scoop on how to successfully cast for major TV
and Film projects.
IAE: Can you please tell us where you’re from and what inspired your interest in the entertainment
MARK: I was born in Greensboro, NC, but I grew up in Asheboro, NC. There is one high school, four
elementary schools, and a couple of junior high schools, so it’s a small town for sure. My mother inspired me to
get into the entertainment business. I have an older brother, Craig, and a younger sister, Nancy. Our mother
wanted us all to have a cultural background, even though my father was a banker. So she put my brother,
Craig, in piano lessons; and took my sister, Nancy, and I to tap, jazz, and ballet classes; I believe I was 6-years-
old then. So I was the one boy with the twelve girls in ballet class when I was 6-10, and it was a lot of fun. The
inspiration that my mother had given me to explore the creative side of my talent is something that I’m forever
indebted to her for.
IAE: What college did you attend and what was your major?
MARK: My best friend, who I was blessed to have met when I was in the second grade; his father kind of
encouraged me to attend a small college in Salisbury, NC called Catawba College, where he had attended. I
was like, “if they take me then I’ll go” [laughs]. So I headed off to Catawba, and my best friend called me 3
weeks before college and said he’d decided to go to the University of South Carolina. Here I was, being
dropped off at this small school with a student body count of about 950; but it was exactly what I needed. Here’
s an interesting fact about Catawba; it was named one of the top 5 Theatrical Musical Theatre Colleges in
America. But those four years were some of the greatest years of my life. It was a small school, but it had a
theater building that had a main stage theater with a magnificently large proscenium; the place seated 2,500
people. It boggled my mind to walk into a facility like that on such a small campus, I mean, my eyes were wide
open and I thought, “Wow this is why I’m here; I’m home.” So during my time at Catawba, I ended up being in
the plays and also getting hired as a student technical director. So I was building sets throughout the day,
rehearsing plays in the evening, and studying whenever I could. We did four main stage shows every year and
created a “black-box theater” there called the, ‘Catawba Experimental Theater,’ that still thrives today. It’s a
little black-box venue where students can put on one act plays, on the weekends, and be able to charge a
couple of dollars and experiment with acting.
IAE: What was your first professional job in the film business?
MARK: My first professional job was playing the role of an animal character at Carowinds Theme Park in
Charlotte, NC [laughs] during the summers all throughout high school and college. When I graduated college
in 1980, my brother [Craig Fincannon] had started a promotions and publicity company for movies and TV in
Charlotte, and he asked if I would like to join him in Charlotte. At the time, he was a manager at a movie
theater there [Charlotte] but he was ready to get out of that line of work. In a very short order we had heard
that Stratton Leopold [Executive Producer of ‘The Wolfman’ in theaters Feb 12, 2010], who was originally an
Extras Casting Director in Georgia, was doing a Burt Reynolds movie called, ‘Stroker Ace,’ in Charlotte. Craig
and I were extras on that movie. Within the next year we heard that, Frank Capra Jr., was scouting for locations
in Wilmington, NC to do a movie called, ‘Firestarter,’ which was Steven King’s very first book turned into a
movie. So Craig jumped in the car and drove to Wilmington and met Mr. Capra. He gave us our first job. His
Executive Producer on the film was Dino De Laurentiis, who has made movies all over the world and just ended
up in Wilmington doing that one movie. During that movie, Dino De Laurentiis, fell in love with Wilmington and
decided to set up De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. He took his company public and raised $270 Million.
Over the next three-and-a-half years, we did 23 feature films, and with some of the money out of each of those
films, he would build a new sound stage. Within 4 years, Craig and I had credits of over 23 feature films and
were sitting on a studio lot that had 9 sound stages and a complete back lot of New York City China Town. So
you don’t just set out to do something like that, the miraculous hand of God has been upon my life, and I
cannot deny it. Proverbs 3:5-6 has been my personal business card of success, and I think it can work for
everybody if they would be willing to live by it. It says “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto your
own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge Him; and He will direct your paths.”
IAE: What are the top 3 mistakes most actors make when auditioning for a film or TV role?
MARK: First, would be a lack of preparation. You have no idea how many times an actor will drive from Atlanta,
walk into my office to do 3 lines, and they don’t have those lines memorized. We don’t require our actors to
memorize all of their lines when auditioning for us, but if they can, I personally think they are 100 times better
because they don’t have a piece of paper breaking their focus. The auditions just flow so much better when
the actor can focus on the other person they are reading with, rather than the sides.
Auditioning is a barbaric process. To bring an actor in and have them create an entire moment, based on a
page and a half set of sides from a 120-page script, is tough for the actors and the casting director. When, in
many cases, they have not had the opportunity to read the whole script so they don’t necessarily know the
context, the background, or the after effects. But they do have to make a decision on how they will create that
moment, and commit to live with that decision in the audition. It takes real preparation to do that. Don’t worry
about it if it’s wrong or right because the Director or Casting Director can help you make the adjustment. In
addition, if you’re over prepared and the Director throws you a curve ball and says, “I don’t care about the
words. I just want you to walk into this moment and be. I’m going to have the Casting Director start throwing
you different lines pertaining to the same experience, but I want you to respond to what you hear them say
based on the information that you have in your head about the scene.”
Therefore, the actors approach to a scene should have a minimal amount to do with the actual words and how
they’re pronounced, said, or inflected; those words are just a guiding tool to an experience/moment. Just work
yourself to find an experience or a moment, and walk into that moment. Give yourself a bit of an emotional
preparation to how you would feel as the person experiencing that scene in real life. Then when you’re there,
you’ll be able to listen. You’re not going to be so focused on what I might say, or how I might look, or how I
might do this or that.
Second is theatrical acting. On the East Coast, and probably the same for the Mid-West, all of us come from a
background in theatre. I was trained to act for somebody a hundred rows away from the stage, and the
makeup I would do was over exaggerated so the people in the hundredth row could have the same experience
as somebody who’s more intimate on the first couple of rows. In terms of the performance for Film/TV, it’s a
totally different art form. You have to bring it down and make it as simple as you can, and instead of giving me
any acting whatsoever, just be. Just listen and if you really hear what I say, and the writing is any good at all,
you know exactly what you should say back.
Thirdly, is having a “me” attitude. What I’m saying is, it’s impossible to out give. When you give, you receive
tenfold in return. I’ll give you an example. In 2009, Robert Downey Jr. was in Atlanta filming ‘Due Date,’ and I
realized that an actor I knew from Florida who had moved to LA about 15 years ago, was cast in a “day player”
role and he was in Atlanta filming a scene with Robert Downey, Jr. I just decided I would swing by and have
lunch with the actor because I had not seen him in so long. This actor just could not say enough about, Robert
Downey Jr. He said, “Mark, this guy [Robert], from the moment I was introduced to him, he treated me as if I
was the star. He fed me, and made me feel incredible.” That is what makes Downey as brilliant as he is;
because he gives to other actors. If you go in, and your goal is to feed the other actors, I promise you cannot
lose. However, when you’re being selfish, the other actor is not going to be able to identify with you in the
scenes. For most actors it’s only about, “my line and how I’m going to act.” Actors should take a note from
Robert Downey, Jr.’s page; understand that no matter how successful you become, the scene will only be as
good as you are at giving to the other actors in that scene.
When I graduated college and went for my first commercial audition in a room as an actor, I walked into the
room and that little camera sitting there beside that Director was not for me, one of the most awkward
experiences I had ever had to date. I knew that instance I was not called to be a Film or Television actor and I
let it go that day. In a sense, it helped me find my niche, because I understood what it felt like to be an actor
standing in front of someone who is taping you. With the training that I had as an actor, I feel my biggest
responsibility is to make them comfortable in this barbaric system. .So I go out of my way to create relationship
with the person and help them find that performance.
|Casting Director, Mark Fincannon of Fincannon & Associates, Talks Film
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