We had the good fortune of connecting with Erica Bream and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erica, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Figuring out work-life balance has taken me a lot of trial and error. (Mostly error.) In my 20s, I put work ahead of everything else, including the funeral of a loved one. By 25 yrs old, I was burned out and wracked with guilt over all of the things that I had defined as being a lower priority than work. I knew I wanted to stay in Casting but I also knew that I couldn’t keep up the pace at which I was burning that candle. I started by scheduling one non-holiday vacation a year and immediately I started feeling renewed and re-energized. Playtime clearly needed to be reincorporated into my life so I began to take baby steps toward finding more time for it.
Now that I’ve been in Casting for 20+ years, have two kids, a spouse and not nearly as much energy as I had in my 20s, I have a much clearer head for what I need to help me *feel* balanced. But “balance” is a bit of a misnomer; the work and life scales are not equal. The truth is, I like working. I love my job and I enjoy feeling busy. I even enjoy a little of the stress. (A LITTLE.) But my kids are growing quickly and my husband is really fun to be around, so my family time has become increasingly special. I’ve drawn specific boundaries around my weekends as well as bedtimes and school send-offs and for now, that feels like a manageable amount of daily balance.
As our industry becomes increasingly virtual, I find that I’m allowed even more space to mingle my work and life together. Vacations are no longer job-killers (y’all know,) and it’s a lot easier to make it to bedtime/story time when your office is in your home. A true 50-50 work-life parity doesn’t seem realistic for me anytime soon, but I have learned what I need to keep my heart full and my passion ablaze, and to me, that is just as meaningful as *actual* balance.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Every Casting Director you’ll meet has had a different journey. Many came from the arts (some were even actors!) but some matriculated over from finance or some other less creative field and discovered their passion in Casting.
My story is that I knew I wanted to be a Casting Director since I was about 17 years old. That only sounds far-fetched when you consider that I was 17 before the internet and google were widely available, before email and text were a major form of communication. I only knew I wanted to do it because I knew I couldn’t handle the anxiety of being an actor but I wanted to find a job that was as closely related as possible. I knew almost nothing about Casting, but after I graduated high school, my big-city Grandmother helped me find an internship at a talent agency, and the rest as they say, is history. Very quickly, I fell in love with the industry and the craft and have never looked back.
Nothing about the entertainment industry is “easy”. Beyond the barriers to entry (which are becoming increasingly difficult as the cost-of-living rises and wages stagnate, as internships disappear, and drama schools come with hefty student loan-leashes…) one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn is the complexity of balancing the creative and the business. As a Casting Director, it is VERY easy to fall in love with a particular actor for a particular role, and equally devastating when some exec says that that person isn’t [insert here: bankable, sexy, athletic, charming, namey, etc.] enough. It is a perennial lesson, and after 20+ years in this business, I am constantly reeducating myself to it so I don’t lose my mind.
The other major lesson I’ve learned is simply to be kind. This is a stressful, fast-paced, sometimes heart breaking industry and it’s all a little more enjoyable when we support each other. At the end of the day, none of us can succeed in this business without an entire team of filmmakers. Collaboration over competition; put empathy first and the rest will come.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve lived all over LA but my favorite spot is the South Bay, mostly because I feel like I’m on vacation the moment I come over the crest of Manhattan Beach Blvd. The drinks and food may be better elsewhere, but everything tastes a little more delicious while you’re staring at the ocean.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This shoutout goes to Mali Finn. For those of you lucky enough to have known Mali, she was a Casting Director extraordinaire. She came to the field after a long career as a teacher and she brought that sense of education and research to her craft.
I interned for Mali when I was 19 years old, sure I wanted to be in Casting but not totally sure how it all worked. She sat me down, handed me a stack of books to read (acting books, directing books, business books,) gave me advice (work on as many student films as I could while I was in college,) and let me be a fly on the wall in her office that was rich with information (so.many.amazing.audition.tapes.)
It was an incredible education led by her and a terrific team, (at the time, her team included the always-wonderful David Rapaport and Deanna Brigidi.) Without any of them, I’m not sure I would’ve easily found my way into this particular field. She provided a road map and instilled in me a deep sense of respect for actors and their process. My journey really started with them, and I am forever grateful.