We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Sherman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Tootsie, La La Land, Glow, Entourage, Master of None, The Kominsky Method, and Barry. These are just a handful of examples that depict Casting Directors as jaded gatekeepers; intimidating creatures who hope to sabotage an actor’s experience. That is by far this biggest misconception of my profession. I believe this image has been created simply because few people really understand what it is we actually do. Casting is both an art and a craft. Think of it like putting together a living puzzle, where the picture morphs as you put the pieces together. With every new piece set in place, the shape, texture and color of the next changes instantly. Our job is so much more than just sitting in an audition room, but rather having the ability to see multiple versions of the same picture. This is where being really familiar with both established and emerging talent around the world is incredibly important. I’m so passionate about having my finger on the pulse and knowing who the next generation of actors will be. While I always feel weird about the word “discover,” I think it’s so important to be open and excited about who is out there. And no, credits aren’t everything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My journey has been a bit unique, as many Casting Director’s start their journey as Actors and then discover casting in the process. As a child, while I didn’t know what casting was (let alone what a Casting Director was) I was always innately doing it…following actors from project to project and finding joy in tracking their journeys. Once I was formally introduced the art of casting, it was love at first sight! I am driven by finding new talent, both in front and behind the camera. To be able to give someone their first credit, whether the role is large or small, is a pretty fantastic feeling. And I especially love working with emerging filmmakers, with whom I often find the most dynamic and gritty stories to help bring to life. I was fortunate enough to begin my career with a wonderful Casting Director, a legend in our business, April Webster. When I started in this industry, I observed that some who were successful always didn’t have the best reputation beyond their professional wins. April is the opposite of that. Not only is she hugely successful and uniquely talented, she is also one of the warmest, welcoming and collaborative people you can step into the audition room with. In 2018 I started my own casting company and have been working independently for nearly 4 years now, and I can honestly say it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Like most actors, we are freelance creatures, we go from job to job, and lack stability…especially as a newly-minted independent Casting Director. Perseverance is so incredibly important. I have often felt stuck, like every little win that I expected to move me forward hasn’t. But I’ve realized that it’s not one thing that makes a game-changer, it’s the sum of all parts. Shifting perspective and taking inventory on the incredible work I’ve been fortunate enough to do has been vital. I’m so proud of the work I’ve done thus far and the resume I’ve built working in casting for over a decade. Beyond that, I’m so passionate about having been able to strike a balance between embracing the industry and using my contacts to do something good. About 12 years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I became incredibly passionate about the cause. For about 6 years I walked in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and then in 2015, when I had just wrapped up working on Star Wars The Force Awakens, I was inspired to use my connections to raise more money. That year I started my non-profit foundation A Cause for Entertainment, and we’ve been growing for the last 6 years. We’ve raised just shy of $300,000 to support the boots on the ground organizations like Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, WeSpark Cancer Support Center, and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. I am so proud of the work we’ve done and how rapidly the organization has grown.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m not going to lie, it took me a hot minute to think of all the things I loved to do before being stuck at home…but I think I’ve got it! I’m really big into entertainment, so I’d likely spread a few different venues over the span of the week. We’d hit up a comedy show at either The Improv, Hudson Theatre or the Comedy Story, we’d check out some improv at UCB, and definitely see what is play at The Groundlings. The Sunday Company is always a hit, and one of my favorite shows there is The Black Version, created by Jordan Black…they always have THE MOST TALENTED improvisors in their cast. I’m also a big music junky, so I love seeing shows at the Wiltern, Hotel Cafe and Greek Theatre. And if it’s during the summer, I love picnicking and seeing a show at the Hollywood Bowl! They always the best jazz series! As far as night life, I’m big on a nice dinner and an interesting bar…not so much the club scene for me. Perch is a great spot to soak in downtown LA, Clifton’s Republic is a real downtown treasure, and I love a good speakeasy so I’ll always try to hit up Varnish when I’m out there. I’d also take them to Mrs. Fish, really good food, with a fun vibe! And I also would be sure to take them to Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks, it’s one of my faves! And for a little adventure on the weekend, we’d probably do a hike along the coast…and stop at my favorite pocket of Malibu beach for a picnic, right where Corral Canyon Rd. meets PCH. While it’s not specifically Los Angeles, one of my favorite things to do with friends is jump on the Amtrak, take the Pacific Surfliner to Santa Barbara. It drops you right off in the area they call “the funk zone”, which is a pocket of Santa Barbara that has restaurants, antique shops and wineries. We’d spend the day eating and sipping wine, and take the last train and be home by 9pm. Lastly, we would absolutely take a trip to the happiest place on earth! Disneyland!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Goodness, there are whole slew of people who deserve a “Shoutout” for helping me get to this point in my life! And I am unbelievably lucky for that. I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning. I am first generation American born in my family, my parents came to this country from the former Soviet Union, like most seeking a better life for their family. They are a true representation of the American dream, they came to this country with nothing and brick by brick, built a life that we are all so proud of. I am so incredibly grateful to have been able to witness my parents build their small businesses over the years, their dedication and strong work ethic is something that built the foundation of who I am today. It fully represents my hunger and passion for what I do in my field and the philanthropic work I do. Professionally, I think the biggest shoutout goes to both Alyssa Weisberg and April Webster, they gave me my first job in casting. They introduced me to the process, the creativity behind it and how important it is to make sure you create a warm and safe environment for an actor to do their work. I was able to learn and work alongside April Webster for just over 7 years, and I am so grateful for her mentorship til this day. And lastly, personally, my sister and brother have been an incredible sources of emotional support over the years. And to top off all of that, I have the most wonderful group of friends who have been there for me through so many growing pains…I would like to list them all, but it would simply take too long. You all know who you are!
Artios Award photo – Lisa Kelley Remerowski A Cause for Entertainment Carpet – Michael Bezjian Outdoor group photo – Jasmine Buchberger