When Caitlin Jones '09 was auditioning for musical theatre shows in college, she and her friends would make two lists, noting who they thought should get the roles and predicting who would actually get the roles. "I always won," Jones remembers.
During a college internship, the musical theatre and philosophy double major learned she could get paid for skillful recruiting and matchmaking for TV shows, films, commercials, and theatre productions. An internship with Liz Lewis Casting Partners "is literally how I found my career and my life's work."
"They never told me to stop coming back," laughs Jones, who now works as a full-time casting director for Liz Lewis out of both the New York City and Los Angeles offices.
It's her job to find and prepare the actors and run the auditions. "I really love collaborating with someone to pull out of them the best possible performance they can give, to book the job I'm trying to fill."
One time she scoured skate parks to find kids who could both skateboard and act. Most of the seven young people she recommended were selected for the Samsung commercial, which was satisfying. "I like being such an influential part of the creative process. I really love working with actors."
Her job requires understanding the artistic goals of the director as well as the cost and business needs of the producer —"I need to keep both happy"—and she believes her college experiences helped prepare her. A course on directing provided helpful insights, as did her extracurricular work as treasurer of the Theatre League student club, where she successfully pushed to increase its annual budget to bring in artists, better support productions by the Theatre Department (now Theatre and Dance Department), and fund excursions to see shows at Geva Theatre Center and hold talk-backs with the cast. "That work prepared me for the level of organization and business savvy you need when working in casting," says Jones.
In addition to finding actors for others, Jones continues to act herself. Part of four student productions at Nazareth and not wanting to give up the experience of performing, she now works as a voiceover actress for brands such as Google, Blue Apron, Trojan, and NBC.
Jones has also created a few seasons of her own local cable cooking show, "In the Kitchen with Caitlin," and she produced 10 episodes of a web video comedy series called "Caitlin Jones Saves the Day." The experiences were enriched, she says, by her college lab classes on pre-production work — such as stage management, prop design, and scene shop — that gave her a full picture of what goes into making a project.
Jones's broad liberal arts background and analytical thinking skills help her in other ways, too, she says: reading and interpret scripts, developing outside-the-box ideas, and being open to opportunities — such as noticing and recruiting a deaf couple while seeking average people on the street for an insurance commercial. She also does advocacy work through the Casting Society of America's Diversity Committee. She was elected as an associate board member for 2017-2018 to the national board for CSA — the professional organization open to all casting directors and casting associates.
Jones spent a week at Nazareth in 2015 teaching on-camera, commercial acting, and musical theatre performance classes, and she may return for a week in 2017 to teach as a guest artist.
Her advice to students? "Be nice to everyone if you want to make it — in any industry, but particularly the entertainment industry. It's a very interconnected pool of people, from the biggest executive producer to the newest intern. Everybody who has any drive or ambition to be in this industry starts somewhere."
Develop good working relationships, she adds: "Nothing leaves a lasting impression like someone being nice versus being a jerk. Be genuinely nice to everyone you meet and work really, really hard. Then the training that you get at Naz will pay off tenfold."