We will be making a series of blog posts on a variety of production businesses here in Oregon – we want to know what creative options have been put in place to offset the disruption that Covid-19 has caused.
Like so many other businesses, the Oregon production community has been hit hard by the havoc that Covid-19 has wreaked. Many community partners have come together to provide up-to-date information on safety procedures and new protocol guidelines that are being improved upon on all the time. (OMPA has the latest here.) As production has slowly begun to come back we wanted to check in with some of our production support businesses to ask how they have been adapting to this new normal. This month we checked in with Cast Iron Studios – the Northwest’s leading casting company.
Oregon Film (OF): Assuming the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted your business, like so many others, what aspect would you say has been the most surprising?
Cast Iron Studios (CI): Not surprising, but reaffirming, has been the resilience of our team, and that of the actors and talent agents we work closely with. Soon after the pandemic broke out, we shifted our annual Meals for Monologues food drive for the Oregon Food Bank to a virtual format, and we were overwhelmed by the level of participation. We blew past all previous fundraising efforts—even though everyone had just lost their jobs!—and raised enough funds to provide over 6000 meals for our community. It was a humbling moment. We were very moved.
OF: What are the main modifications you have had to make to accommodate this new normal? (Which ideas have worked/been successful, which ones not so much?)
CI: We’ve shifted all of our casting sessions to self-tapes, and all of our callbacks and chemistry reads to Zoom. We had already been using these tools pre-pandemic, so it was a relatively easy transition, although it definitely puts more of a burden on the actors for now. And there are always going to be technical issues that arise when you least need them, but we’re all powering through, and our clients have been more than understanding. Meanwhile, we’ve been on a lot of videoconferences with other casting directors around the country and the world, collaborating on the best ways to still provide excellent service.
OF: Are there any surprising areas of growth in your business since the pandemic started?
CI: The volume of work has been substantially lower than in a typical year, but the kinds of projects are still similar, albeit with COVID protocols in place. Mainly, it’s given us a chance to breathe and reevaluate how we do things. I’ve also been able to focus a bit more on my work for the ICDN (International Casting Directors Network), of which I serve on the board of directors. I’m currently helping to produce a star-studded virtual award ceremony at Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain for our 2020 Best Casting Award, so it’s very exciting!
OF: Have you had to implement new training for your staff?
CI: Overall, our department has been less impacted by COVID than those that work on set. We were already working virtually at times—with directors in Vancouver BC, producers in LA, ad agents in NYC and Chicago, etc.—so we’ve just expanded this to all sessions. That being said, our staff has been on a learning curve, testing out different virtual casting platforms and processes, just to make sure we have the best tools at our disposal for each unique project.
OF: If there has been any impact on staff morale, how have you successfully been able to mitigate this?
CI: I am more grateful than ever to have a team that has a positive, can-do attitude. It has made navigating this uncertain time so much more manageable, just to know that we all have each others’ backs.
OF: What are you most proud of doing well during this challenging time?
CI: After 20 years in business, we had already made it through the devastating SAG commercial strike of 2000, the months-long standstill after 9/11, the Great Recession, and a fire in our office building in 2016—not to mention the wild fluctuations of production in general—so we’ve been through crises before. And we’re grateful that those have prepared us to overcome pretty much anything. I am just proud to still be standing, still be fully available for work, with our entire core team intact. Once things return to normal, we anticipate a massive flood of production, and we’re ready for it!