Reader Girls welcomes author Brian Rowe today. Rowe is the author of two novels, his debut adult novel, Slate, and his YA novel, Happy Birthday to Me.
Here's a summary for Slate: Hollywood casting director Vivien Slate thought she had it all, until coming home one day to find her husband cheating on her with a younger woman. With her marriage on the rocks, she decides it's the perfect time to recapture her sexual identity... by finding a younger man of her own.
Vivien realizes she has a dating service right inside her own office-she's a casting director, after all. She devises a scenario to make the town believe her newest film project is as real as any other. She populates the cast with male characters spanning the ages of twenty to forty and begins holding auditions with hundreds of Tinseltown's most eligible bachelors.
Vivien stops at nothing to find her perfect younger man, even if it means leaving her morals behind and ultimately putting her life in danger.
Welcome, Mr. Rowe, and we now let him tell us about movies and Slate.
The World of Movie Casting
By Brian Rowe
I worked as a Casting Associate in feature film casting from 2008 to 2010, and the storyteller that I am, I really wanted to write a piece with a casting director as the protagonist. For over ten years I was writing short and feature-length screenplays, as well as short stories, but I had never tackled a novel. I tried to write a novel once in high school but abandoned the project after eight or nine chapters. I always wanted to write a novel but never had a story I felt was worthy enough for an expansive 80,000-plus-word book.
It was in my second year working in casting in Los Angeles that I realized I was spending ten hours a day in a profession that deserved its day on the literary page. What is movie casting, exactly? And what does a casting director do on a day to day basis? I figured most of the world hadn’t a clue what it takes to cast a movie. And in researching books on Amazon, I couldn’t find a single novel with a Hollywood casting director as the protagonist. I knew a book revolving around this crazy, somewhat hidden LosAngeles profession was worthy of what would become my first novel.
But what was the book going to be about? I spent nearly a year tossing ideas around. And then one of the films we had been casting atwork fell through because of a lack of funding, and, voila, three months ofwork, holding a dozen casting sessions or more, went down the drain. So that led me to think… who’s to know this movie we just cast was real or not? It didn’t get made… what if it had been fake from the get-go? What if the casting director had created this film project for the sole purpose of auditioning young, attractive men, to search for a new man in her own romantic love life?
I knew I was onto something special. I’d get to write a funny, romantic tale about a middle-aged wannabe-cougar, abusing her job for sexual gain, in a city where the most corrupt oftentimes win. I’d also get to write a story set against the backdrop of a profession I’d just spent two years of my life immersed in. Write what you know, they say, right? And thus, Slate was born.
The world of movie casting is a strange beast. On one side of the coin, it’s truly one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. Even though casting directors aren’t recognized by the Academy of Arts & Sciences, casting is crucial to a film’s success. Think about all your favorite movies and TV shows, and try to imagine any other actor in that film or televisionprogram’s cast. You can’t, right? Exactly. Because the cast is perfect. It’s often been said about film directors that 90% of his or her job is finding the right cast. If the casting’s done correctly, most of his or her work is already done. If the casting’s not done right (and I can attest, having directed fifty short films), the work is just all the more difficult.
On the other side of the coin, it’s a bizarre profession, in that you spend most of your time observing and rejecting the majority of actors who read for you. You see forty people in a given day reading for the same role, and maybe five of those people will be any good, and maybe one, if you’re lucky, truly feels right for the part. That’s a lot of disappointment for all those aspiring actors, and a lot of wasted hours on your part.
But probably the most disappointing aspect to the job that I observed in my two years in film casting was the lack of final say the casting director truly had. You’d think the casting director would ultimately get to choose the perfect actor for each part, but she doesn’t. The director, and, even more so, the producer, will pick the actor at the end of the day, especially if it’s an important role in the movie. Worst of all, they usually won’t go with the right choice, but instead, the bigger name.
In 2009 I got to sit in on two or three wonderful auditions of the supremely talented Alison Brie (Community, Scream 4). She read for one of the lead roles in a comedy we were working on and simply stole the show—she was absolutely perfect. But was she a big name in 2009? Not so much. So the producers went with more of a name, an actress who was wrong for the role from the get go, ultimately bringing the movie down a notch because of her presence in it. These kinds of predicaments weren’t rare. They happened all… the… time. And it got frustrating. The casting director and I would spend days, weeks,months, pouring over headshots and spending hours in audition rooms trying to find the right actor for a role, when, after all our hard work, the producer ended up choosing some D-list actor for the part because he thought the actor had “name value.” Ugh.
Casting is, in a sense, a very frustrating job. There’s not really set hours… casting directors often work 24/7, with time off to sleep a few hours, and maybe to nibble on some food throughout the day. They spend their days seeing hundreds of actors, many of them untrained and unfocused, one after another after another. Spend a couple of decades in this job, and you’re bound to not only form a massive ego, but also go (very much) insane. Vivien Slate, the protagonist of my book, encapsulates the personality of a true Hollywood casting director. She’s got a human side, of course, particularly with her 13-year-old son Gavin, but she’s the ultimate alpha-bitch, a woman who gets what she wants when she wants it, and she always speaks her mind. Her mind games with others, and her intense focus on nabbing her own boy toy to playwith, ultimately puts Vivien in danger toward the end of the book, and that’s when things get really interesting…
Slate has it all, with some funny scenes, some romantic scenes, two (very) explicit sex scenes, and a dark, disturbing turn in the final five chapters. If you’re looking for a rollercoaster ride of a novel, with twists and turns along the way, with laughs, sex, romance, cougars, gays, crazies,betrayal, jealousy, and tragedy, then this is the book for you!
Thank you for your time, and I hope you all will consider taking a chance on my debut women's fiction novel Slate!
Learn more about Brian Rowe:
Vivien Slate's blog: http://vivienslate.blogspot.com/