CASTING DIRECTOR BLOG

Don’t Rain On My Parade

28 Jul 2017, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

As actors you exist in a world where people judge you and make decisions (hopefully informed) about your work: right, not quite right; hired, not hired. I’m sure you have heard many creative ways of saying “No.”

Often the people making the decisions about you are people like me and I do REALLY try to be tuned-in and sympathetic as to how exposed and raw actors can feel during the audition process I promise. But, I have never known first-hand what that visceral feeling of being judged felt like after doing what you feel is some of your best and hardest work… until now.

It has been one of my greatest joys growing my business from a small casting company in Huddersfield to opening offices in Manchester and London and working on an international stage. So when I was recently approached by Gucci to cast their pre-fall campaign for 2017 I literally jumped for joy!

The approach was to create an iconic campaign around a Northern Soul theme and it was decided that an all black cast would be a unique take for their brand. We duly worked our butts off casting in the UK, USA and Europe to find not only the right look, but also people who could dance. It was incredibly hard work with long hours, but I was very proud of what we achieved – and the client loved it.

The campaign was initially released to much critical acclaim (You Tube) but then something strange happened. I entered a world of racial politics I had never experienced. An upside down, back to front world and I felt like Alice Through the Looking Glass

As a black woman I have grown sadly accustomed to racism, both explicit and implicit – but I do work really hard to promote and educate producers that you can actually use a black actors for many roles not just ones that describe a character as being black in the script. Many of these producers aren’t racist, just colour blind.

So you can imagine how gratified I was to be have worked with a brand and client who had been so receptive to using an all black cast never mind that they are one of the world’s most revered brands… until my bubble was burst and I was judged for “diversity drag” by the New York Times of all people.

In essence we were being criticised for using an all black cast, but not in the context of black culture, I don’t think the journalist realised that I was black or that it was a celebration of how black culture actually permeates so many areas of society and is never truly acknowledged – I think he thought we were going for the big “diversity tick box.” But irrespective of the criticism it hurt at a deep level and I felt powerless to reply against the behemoth that is the NYT.

After sullenly mooching around for a while I soon pulled myself together – in the context of what was happening in the world, my little problems were decidedly trivial and it is not the problems you have that define you but how you deal with them. So this was my recipe to a returned Mojo.

  1. Don’t Rain on My Parade – plug your computer into a very loud sound system go to You Tube and play Barbra Streisand (or the Glee cover) at an inordinately loud volume for at least 30 minutes. There now isn’t that starting to feel a little better already!
  2. Don’t take rejection and criticism personally. It is so easy to take things to heart, but this journalist obviously didn’t know me or my circumstances so why take it as a personal slight? Grow some cohones girl!
  3. Continue to be yourself – and be true to yourself. We won’t always get in right, but keep on being yourself and doing what you believe in whatever people think or misconstrue your motives. It is your life live it your way
  4. Meditation – I have mentioned this before, but meditation and mindfulness have certainly helped me feel more centered and less in the eye of a storm.
  5. Friends and Family – spend time with people who don’t judge you and who understand and love you for who you are irrespective of whether you have failed or being harshly judged or criticised.
  6. This Too Will Pass – In my case tomorrow’s chip paper and all that. But whatever remember that people often have short memories and it is surprising how soon we will forget too.
  7. What can I learn from this? Life is a learning process so I can I use this as a positive?

So for myself I am obviously going to continue treating you all with as much respect and empathy as before, but I think I now understand even better how you feel when it doesn’t quite go to plan.

  • Bill Blackwood (@BillBlackwood2)

    Hi Nicci,

    first what a truly beautiful advert that must have taken a huge amount of work to cast but so worth it.

    Not sure why or where the critique was coming from. Unlike a a lot of people I deliver Equality and Human Rights courses to I understand the implicit as well as the explicit racism in the world amongs other isms.

    Second what fabulous advice, I have seen fellow actors dwell for far too long on that rejection or critisism. Being grounded, being sure if who you are and what you bring are important.

    Thank you for ‘baring your soul’, as you say something we as actors are asked to do on a regular basis only to be told no or worse still told nothing at all.

    Sound advice thank you

    Bil x

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Hey Bill, thanks for your generous comments and THANK YOU for helping educate people equality and human rights – it’s an issue that affects us all black, white, man woman, able bodied or disabled!

      And just like many of the actors I work with you sometimes have to bare your soul to really get the message and truth across. x

      Reply
  • FREYA HANNAN-MILLS (@FreyaHMills)

    Nicci -really enjoyed reading this blog post great advice for dealing with negativity – I first saw the Gucci ad on instagram and thought it was absolutely beautiful, creative and had a fantastic vintage vibe.

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Thanks Freya! Glad you enjoyed the blog and yes it was a great campaign wasn’t it. x

      Reply
  • Anonymous

    Wow! Well said!!!!!

    Reply
  • Anonymous

    Insightful blog post; shame they hadn’t the insight into the vision behind the campaign. Great way of dealing with it and sound advice. Keep shining <3

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Thanks so much! I was so lucky to work with such a talented team of people on this project. xx

      Reply
  • Rick S Carr

    You could walk on water and someone would try and speak badly and say it’s because you cannot swim.
    Keep doing your thing Nicci 🙂
    rsc x

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Ha ha, I like that Rick and you’re so right. At the end of the day all you can do s be true to yourself! x

      Reply
  • Claire Jones

    Yet again another fabulous blog! Loved reading it. I’m sorry you felt the way you did and I’m grateful for your tips on ways to combat that horrible feeling.

    Reply
  • Eloise Black

    Thanks for this Nicci- it can be bloomin’ tough sometimes but I too have found meditation and mindfulness keeps me centred and more true to myself. I hope you are well x

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Thanks for commenting Eloise, I agree it’s tough out there and as that quote goes… “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” All great thanks xx

      Reply

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