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netribution > features > interview with mary selway > page one
Mary Selway is one of the UK's leading casting directors. Starting with If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium in 1969, Mary went on to cast features for Spielberg (Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Ridley Scott (Alien), James Cameron (Aliens), George Lucas (Return of the Jedi), Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist) and Roman Polanski (Tess), alongside prolific films such as Superman, Flash Gorden, Juggernaut, Notting Hill, Lost in Space, Withnail and I, Death and the Maiden, Emma, Onegin and Out of Africa.We spoke with her about the role of the casting director, actor negotiations, the pressure to get 'names and predominance of women in casting. She gave candid, fascinating responses, while we were made to feel very welcome and were thoroughly entertained to boot.

| by tony pomfret |
| photos by tom fogg|
| in london |

You’re asked, by the producer or director, if you would like to cast whatever the film is. You then read the script, meet the director, and discuss his concept of the film, and have a long discussion about the sort of actors he likes. Then, what should happen is you go away and think about it and come up with lots of lists of suggestions, and you talk to him about those, and you set up meetings. You do readings, sometimes on tape. You read with the actor, sometimes you bring in somebody else to read with them, sometimes the director wants to read. Then you – well, the director makes the decisions and you have a lot of input into that. You have to negotiate the contracts with the agents, having worked on the budget with the production people, then you get out what is called a Casting Advice Note and the contract is made up from that. Having said all that, what actually happens is that, in the beginning, there’s usually a huge tussle goes on because every film now, sadly, no matter what the budget requires a name, and that is the nightmare of casting now. Apart from names it’s a very enjoyable business and it’s very interesting and very creative. The name problem that has arisen now is deeply tedious and so you have to strike the balance between getting a name for the distributor and keeping the integrity of the film.

You get a schedule and start talking to agents. They will already have a sense of the size of the film, so if it is bigger or smaller than it appears to be you have to guide them, but when you get the schedule you work out the budget. Then you talk to the production people again and say ‘do you think we should contract in this way, or in this way?’ and you decide what would be the best way to contract. You don’t know what other production problems there are, there may be weather cover, so it may appear that an actor is only on for two weeks but they may be wanted for six weeks, and then you start negotiating with the agents. If they say, ‘no’, you then go back to the producer and say they won’t do it unless it’s this much. There is a skill to how you present all that to an agent at the beginning of negotiation. You need to save as much as you can for the production, because it is always needed elsewhere, and still be fair to the actor. That part of it is all just common sense, it’s just that people make a great fuss about it. Then you get what the Americans call a Deal Memo, we call it a Casting Advice Note, and that sets it all out on paper. If it’s a lawyers contract it takes forever and it’s fifteen pages, but one of our contracts, what is called an Equity Contract, is just a simple form, so you can go straight to contract. I fight to keep the Equity Contract. Many producers don’t want to use the it because it sets out the amount of break between calls, and how many hours of the day you work before you go into overtime. It’s the difference between cowboy companies that are ripping off the actors and making them walk to the location and the ones that are trying to treat them well but have only got a limited amount. You know the ones you can trust, usually.

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