Upstage Left | Intimate Conversations with New York Theater

An Interview with Casting Director: Conrad Woolfe

August 13, 2021 Conrad Woolfe | Rachel Lin Season 1 Episode 26
Upstage Left | Intimate Conversations with New York Theater
An Interview with Casting Director: Conrad Woolfe
Chapters
Upstage Left | Intimate Conversations with New York Theater
An Interview with Casting Director: Conrad Woolfe
Aug 13, 2021 Season 1 Episode 26
Conrad Woolfe | Rachel Lin

In this episode we speak with casting director: Conrad Woolfe, who has worked in casting for over a decade. He cut his teeth at Telsey and Company, one of New York's largest casting offices focused on film, theater, and television. Now, based on the West Coast, Conrad has started his own company: Conrad Woolfe Casting.

Rachel & Conrad reminisce about the early years of their friendship, and how Conrad found his way to casting. They also chat about:

  • The role of the casting director in bringing projects to life
  • The responsibility of the casting director in shaping the worlds we see on stage & screen
  • Conrad's hopes for the future, and how the industry might change

For more information about Conrad visit: https://www.conradwoolfecasting.com/
Conrad's IMDB
Follow him on Instagram: @ConradWoolfe

---
Intro music by David Hilowitz

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/upstageleft)

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we speak with casting director: Conrad Woolfe, who has worked in casting for over a decade. He cut his teeth at Telsey and Company, one of New York's largest casting offices focused on film, theater, and television. Now, based on the West Coast, Conrad has started his own company: Conrad Woolfe Casting.

Rachel & Conrad reminisce about the early years of their friendship, and how Conrad found his way to casting. They also chat about:

  • The role of the casting director in bringing projects to life
  • The responsibility of the casting director in shaping the worlds we see on stage & screen
  • Conrad's hopes for the future, and how the industry might change

For more information about Conrad visit: https://www.conradwoolfecasting.com/
Conrad's IMDB
Follow him on Instagram: @ConradWoolfe

---
Intro music by David Hilowitz

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/upstageleft)

Rachel Lin  0:06  
Hello, this is Rachel Lin and you are listening to upstage left. In this episode I speak with casting director Conrad Wolf, who got his start and one of new york city's largest casting offices, Telsey and company. He worked in their TV and film division and has since found his way to the west coast, where he now is opening his own shop. Conrad wolf casting. He's worked on shows and movies like love Victor on Hulu, hearts beat loud, flesh and bone on stars, Mary Poppins returns and a most violent year. I was so excited to talk to Conrad because he's one of my oldest friends. And his journey to casting is, in my mind quite unconventional. So it was excited to chat with him more about that. I hope you enjoy this episode. Here is Conrad.

alert alert. 

Conrad Woolfe  1:21  
Yeah, man. It's crazy. Let's go there. Let's do it. Let's dive. I've been 15 years. 

Rachel Lin  1:30  
15 years. Yeah, so I met you like in 2006. We were freshmen. You're at NYU, studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Tell me about it. Tell me about how you ended up there.   

Conrad Woolfe  1:44  
How I ended up at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Well, it was actually my second attempt at being a freshman at a university. And I had graduated from high school and went to a school in North Carolina, very briefly, briefly enough that I didn't even matriculate, just because I realized very quickly that it was not going to be a fit. And part of what I told myself at the time, I don't know if it's still true, but part of what I told myself at the time was that it wasn't a fit, because I couldn't act there or like participate in the arts there. I think it had a little bit more to do with my sexuality. And I'm also I've since gotten sober. And I think that was sort of something that was showing itself at that stage in my life. And so I left that school and then took some time to figure out okay, well, if I want to do an acting program, then like, I guess I should look at these acting programs. And NYU, obviously one of the most famous in terms of you know, of the Atkins school to Tisch and I applied got in. And I'm so grateful for it, because I met you and I met a couple other totally incredible people, but I did not love the Lee Strasberg Institute, ultimately. And I didn't stay at NYU for the full four years, either. 

Rachel Lin  3:08  
Yeah. When did you leave the next year? After junior year?  

Conrad Woolfe  3:13  
No, I left our sophomore year, I started I went back for the second year. And then like a week in was like, You know what? It's not gonna happen. I was, I was so you know, it all worked out. It all like worked out exactly the way it's supposed to am. I was at the time. And I'm still very grateful to have had parents who were like, you certainly tried. Like, I guess, let us know how much time you need to sort of figure this out. And not that they were bankrolling anything, but they were supportive of me like not doing that, like they didn't really want to pay for it like you if I wasn't, didn't want to be there. So, I mean, it's, it's not free.  Let's say that. So I left our second year, our sophomore year, I guess. 

Rachel Lin  4:02  
Oh, my God, I have I have such vivid memories of you from that freshman year that I guess I was like, Oh, yeah, Conrad was there the whole time. 

Conrad Woolfe  4:09  
But well, the other thing, if we don't have, like, so much time on anybody, but the other thing that is maybe tricking your memory, I was just talking about this with someone actually, um, was literally like a week, maybe two weeks in was when I said like, I'm not doing this anymore. The bureaucracy at NYU was so slow that my like housing, like my little keycard worked for my housing work for my meal plan through that whole semester. So I was probably like, very present in your life for at least half of that sophomore year, but I just wasn't going to class.

Rachel Lin  4:45  
Oh my god. Yeah, that's right. That those two years were like such a blur for me too. I was just like, I think I think the reason we connected as we both are like, we don't want to be here. This is horrible. 

Conrad Woolfe  4:58  
No, we definitely. It was Definitely like finding ourselves like as one of maybe or two of like maybe a couple more people in the back of the room being like, Oh, I don't think this exercise means anything.is stupid. Not to mention Tai Chi and ballet, of course. 

Rachel Lin  5:20  
 Oh, yeah. Well, I have a now I really love Tai Chi. I still do Tai Chi. Now after 

Conrad Woolfe  5:25  
Do you really? I remember the very beginning moves, but I haven't kept up the practice, unfortunately. What was that guy's name? 

Rachel Lin  5:33  
Ron Navarre. 

Conrad Woolfe  5:35  
Ron Navarre , I might actually still get spam emails from him. Now that you said his name. I don't think I would have connected that that was that guy. But now I see his name and my email. 

Rachel Lin  5:46  
 Yeah, he kind of looks like Steven Segal. 

Conrad Woolfe  5:49  
1,000%. 

Rachel Lin  5:50  
Yeah, yeah. And I feel like that's his. That's what he was going for maybe the career he hoped for. 

Conrad Woolfe  5:56  
Possibly, you know, it was a funny time because like, I had such little respect for our teachers. I had so much respect for you and Jeff, and like the friends that I made. But like, I had such little respect for like the actual authority figures because I was like, you guys are losers. I was also like, go go dancing. So I was like, I'm making money. Like, I have, like a whole life going on here. Like, you're trying to teach me ballet. Like, I'm like, No, like, I have a whole thing going on. It was so stupid. For me. Like it was they were like doing actual work and doing their best. But I just was not in a I was not humble enough to. I don't know if it was the place where I should have gotten humbled. But it was not going to happen for me there. 

Rachel Lin  6:42  
Because you mentioned it. Okay. How long did you go go dance for? That whole second year? 

Conrad Woolfe  6:48  
So I go go dance for really that whole first year. And then I did it into the second year. And then I met this guy who became my boyfriend. And I stopped for a period of time. And then I started again, and they stopped again. And ultimately, I did it for a substantial amount of time over the course of five or six years into get it I wound up getting sober when I was almost 21 like 20, almost 21 and I go go dance well into sobriety. It was like a huge part of my life. It was a I mean that even more than school I'm super grateful for the best decision I made. 

Rachel Lin  7:32  
Wow, that's amazing. 

Conrad Woolfe  7:34  
 Learn a lot about people on a bar. I'll tell you that. I mean, I guess like waitressing bartending or any of those like service industry kind of things. But it's it's pretty intense. 

Rachel Lin  7:46  
I think it's an it's a little different, I think because just because in that situation, I remember that your I also worked in nightlife. I was like a bottle hostessing, which is  maybe similar. But I think what you learn about is such a specific kind of person to like people who stay out late and spend a lot of money... 

Conrad Woolfe  8:04  
People who stay late, spend a lot of money and also feel like because they do that are owed some portion of your time or your body or like something so like negotiating that and like figuring out boundaries and like dealing with people on that level that taught me lessons that I absolutely still use today. 1,000%. 

Rachel Lin  8:32  
School of Life, the school of life, do you encourage people to to go to go go dance, rather than go to acting school?

Conrad Woolfe  8:41  
You heard it here first. Conrad Woolfe School of Acting: get on a bar. No, not necessarily. Not, I wouldn't necessarily say go dance. But in the in the vein of, you know, like I was saying like sort of as it relates to like other service industry jobs, whether they're nightlife or retail or customer service. in some capacity, though, I think I find it hard to believe that you can really do real character studies, like really fill out a role if you haven't, if you don't have some level of experience some amount of time working in that kind of industry dealing with people, whether that's because you get to observe people when they don't feel like they're being observed or because you know how to manage your own emotions in a lot of ways and like access certain things that maybe aren't readily accessible to you like in the moment, those sorts of tools. I feel like get really sharpened in jobs like that. So I wouldn't say necessarily, you have to go go down. But I do think it is worthwhile to do like some sort of stint as like hostessing or bartending or whatever it is.

Rachel Lin  9:54  
Yeah, I think it's amazing to see people I feel like people feel comfortable letting their egos show In those moments when they feel like they have power over you, they don't they don't care. And so you get to see people's egos like really full on in a crazy way.

Conrad Woolfe  10:10  
No 1,000% and you totally that that's what it boils down to, ultimately is a power dynamic. And so like just as exercises in reclaiming power, or, or being the less powerful person in conversation and interaction, exercising that I feel like comes into play. I mean, that happens throughout your life, whether it's in acting work, in relationships, or whatever it is. So I can The earlier you sort of get into that, the better.

Rachel Lin  10:40  
And so how did you end up going from gogo dancing to casting? Was that the next move?

Conrad Woolfe  10:45  
Um, it was not the next move. How did that happen? So I was doing that, like I said, for a few years, even after I got sober. And I was also simultaneous, because it was like, good money. And it was keeping me busy, certainly at night, I guess. But, you know, I had other jobs. I did super odd jobs, like administrative jobs, I worked at a kitchen design company, just like answering the phones, I worked at the front desk in the gym, you know, just random stuff, kind of. And so that's how I occupied my time, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. You know, like we've talked about, obviously, I acted when I was younger, you know, I thought I wanted to do that for some stretch of time. So it was a little bit after all my friends, like from high school, and then from like NYU, even, maybe you're younger than me technically, like, when they were starting to graduate, and figure out what they wanted to do. I was a little like, I guess I should, like, do with my life, I guess I can't, like always do this. And I did around simultaneously, I did meet the man who I'm still with and engaged to. So like that happened. And I just needed to get a little more serious with myself. Not not even because of any external pressure. Like I just sort of like it felt like, and my aunt who I'm very, very close to works in casting profession. She does model casting. So I thought about that. But I didn't want to work with her necessarily. So I wound up getting a job working for another friend who's a stylist, you know, being a stylist assistant thinking like, Oh, this makes sense. I'll be able to like do casting, but also like other stuff in within fashion. And so I did that for a little period of time, I was like, Oh my god, this is the language that I do not speak like at all, like, I don't want to learn even so then I did help my aunt for a little bit. And I was like, okay, God, it was sort of just like a process. Like, I was like, Okay, I do like this casting process. But I don't want to do it for faction at all, like I need something a little bit more substantial or a little bit more narrative, but I understood it as a process. And so that's when I started figuring out what that even meant, like I knew, again, going back to like, I knew a little bit about it in terms of the auditioning process from when I was acting. And so it was like, sort of, like, I felt like I knew a little bit about it, but not enough. And so I did a lot of research, I talked to people and I wound up getting an internship in this really roundabout way, but an internship, the telephone company where I worked for quite a long time, ultimately, but it started with just a meeting that turned into an internship before you needed college credit for internships, obviously, since I had dropped out of college several times at that point. And so that and really quickly, it sort of clicked like I did, I I was like, totally there to learn. I had the privilege to be able to like really dedicate myself to that and like dove right in and realize that I loved it and realize what I loved about it thought that I was good at it. And could sort of tell like, what I needed to learn more about. I've never done learning, particularly when it comes to casting when it comes to actors, but like, just it was a really collaborative office, big office, as far as casting offices go, definitely. And there were just a lot of people to learn from and so I say that I was really lucky that, you know, they liked having me as much as I like being there. And felt like I contributed something, you know, I have it's been an interesting year sort of reflecting on how I got that start and like, why me like stumbling in you know, not really knowing anything not really recognizing what exactly any of it even mentor, you know, what about me was attractive as like a candidate for an internship for to stay around the practice and then assistant associate and sort of come up over the course of like eight or nine or 10 years really, until recently. So I've You're reflecting a lot on that. But um, 

Rachel Lin  15:02  
Who was that first meeting with who in that office?

Conrad Woolfe  15:05  
It was with Bernie Telsey, actually, and it was supposed to be just a general and it was really, you know, it was a combination of again, this is only in hindsight and only using, you know, I borrow language from people much smarter than me now, I recognize is like, an exercise in like, white privilege. And, you know, just like a young, white gay man like walks into a office sort of like, with a level of confidence. And I was able to meet Bernie at that level immediately. But the like, luck portion of it for like Kismet portion of it was like, you know, he had someone who was assisting him and like helping manage his calendar, who probably, if so, I got the meeting, because I have very close family friends, sort of like an uncle had worked in a sort of distant capacity with Bernie on a project, however long before and he was sort of like, Hey, will you meet this kid kind of thing, under normal circumstances, especially knowing I for a period of time, I'm very bad at it. But I helped manage Bernie's schedule for caution. So I knew how that works. Like he would have normally like forwarded that email to the person helping him with scheduling and been like, make this happen or whatever. And knowing who that person was, he would have never scheduled it. Like I was like, absolutely nobody. It wasn't like a strong enough relationship that he needed to, like, make that guy happy. But for whatever reason, Bernie scheduled himself didn't bring that guy into it at all. And so I walked in that assistant was like, Who is this? Like, who are you meeting like, the front desk was like, I'm sorry, a meeting with who like, just like, and I was like, uh Bernie. 

Rachel Lin  16:48  
Ever heard of him?

Conrad Woolfe  16:51  
Uh, Hello, Conrade. Woolfe. And so I, you know, sat with him for what turned into a long conversation. And we really like connected really quick. And he sort of like turned to the woman who was helping him run the office and was in charge of internships which those internships have started at that point. But he was like, Hey, can you talk to Conrad in studio too, and like, talk to him about internships? And I was like, pretty, and she was like, sure. And I started as an intern, like, the next Monday or something.

Rachel Lin  17:28  
Wow, that's so incredible. And so walking in, you had a sense of like, what casting directors do, but has that? And I think I guess I'm also asking this for the sake of people listening who might not know, like, what is the role of a casting director? Like, what was your understanding then? And has that changed? Now? What is what is the job description? I guess...

Conrad Woolfe  17:49  
it has certainly changed. I, you know, I had an idea. But it was very limited in terms of, I didn't have ultimately that much more insight than like anyone who would like seeing a movie that had a casting director, like as a rule that like, sort of, like someone's sitting behind the table and auditioning people. You know, I didn't know what went on much outside of that. And so it has certainly evolved since then, you know, the job description is, in the greatest sense, it's collaborating with writers, directors, producers, to writing a script to life to ring these roles that any of those people, any members of a creative team, but certainly a writer, you know, has been sitting with for potentially like yours, like an imagining, and sort of, you're the person or you're the team tasked with, you know, actually helping them realize that realize those visions. And so, it's very much a service industry. service industry, I guess, it really is, in terms of, you're catering to, you're hired by people, which, you know, we can certainly talk more about but comes into play in terms of how much power casting directors or casting teams ultimately hold good, bad or indifferent. But you are hired by someone to help with something so like, you're sort of catering to them both in a creative way. And me, like, give me the audition room, like can I get you water? Do you get something to eat? You know, it's it's managing personalities, and because there are always going to be multiple cooks in the kitchen. Sometimes it's just a couple sometimes it's 15 people, you know, contributing to these decisions, and it's, it's making sure that that happens in a really copacetic way is sort of making sure everyone feels heard and you know, rallying behind maybe the majority or and sometimes that aligns with what you think is the best choice and sometimes it doesn't. So it's very much like making sure everyone is comfortable. For me. And I think for a lot of casting directors, certainly for me, that service industry aspect that stress on comfort in audition space translates to actors, making sure that actors are really comfortable making sure that actors feel taken care of, and that they feel capable of grounding themselves themselves in a quick, powerful way. Because then, you know, the interactions are not always, you know, to our long work sessions, like they're usually much, much shorter, and you have only a period of time. And so I think it's important to, I think it's really important to focus a lot of my energy, you know, yes, on the creative team, but also on the actors. So, you know, that's on that side of it. And then outside of it, outside of that stuff that is, you know, list making, organization is a huge part of it in terms of coming up with lists or releasing a breakdown, which is like a character description that gets sent out to actors and agents and managers and figuring out who might be ready for this role. And sometimes, in a perfect world, I think that is a combination of who immediately comes to mind and who is completely outside of the box. And sort of, you know, from those, those first times those names pop up, making sure they're always accounted for throughout the process, whether that means you were scheduling them for an audition, or getting a self tape from them, and then making sure that self tape is perceived or making sure they come in for that audition. Was it sent to a team? Was it a creative team session? And or were they not available? And just making sure it's so organization is a huge part of it. And then it just goes through rounds and rounds? And then hopefully, you come out with someone cast one roll, you do that for 9 million rolls, and then you give them? I feel like it just talked for a million years. 

Rachel Lin  21:43  
No, no, I mean, it's an in depth process. And I think there are a lot of aspects to it that people don't think about, you know, I think it's important to demystify it for folks, because 

Conrad Woolfe  21:52  
1,000% Yes. 

Rachel Lin  21:54  
I feel like anybody who's on, you know, whatever side, whether you're the producer, the writer or the actor, I feel like people can sometimes look at it with such tunnel vision and not really see all the pieces that go into the work that you do, you know? All the orchestrations that are necessary in order to make something happen.

Conrad Woolfe  22:12  
Yeah, yeah. And I think that it does any of those people like you were saying, like any of those people have a really narrow view of, especially when you're the conduit to it. So like act for actors. It's like any decision is sort of, even if on an intellectual level, you know, that there are other people like making decisions or other people in the room like the Catharine directors, your point and that whatever happens becomes therefore good or bad. And then like, you know, if there's a bad audition, like a producer could get mad at you or get frustrated, that like their time was wasted, or whatever. But, you know, that person could be having a migraine or, like, had a bad breakfast, or gotten horrible news about a family member, you know, it's so there's a lot else going on, but it is a, you know, there's a lot of responsibility for being like the person who sort of brings all those people together at that stage of the process. 

Rachel Lin  23:08  
Yeah. During your time, at Telsey, what was one of the hardest or maybe not hardest, but was a lesson you learned? And how did you learn it?

Conrad Woolfe  23:19  
I mean, I learned a lot of lessons. I learned, again, like going back to like, when I wasn't was not ready to be humbled. There was the amazing part about my my time there was I learned a lot really quickly. I had, I love theater, and television. For me, there's a lot of theater, but I identified really early on that I wanted to do work with on camera acting like filming TV casting, and, and they were just starting to take more and more of that work on so I was sort of getting a lot of that responsibility. And there was one project that we were doing that was really long process, but I felt like a lot of ownership over and entitle you know, received a lot of ownership over it. Like it was a it was being my work was being recognized. But I, we had a person on the creative team, you know, one of the key people in the creative team who gave incredible feedback on auditions. But I wrote back one time, this is fairly early on in the process, he was still sort of getting to know each other. And I sort of summarized that person's words in a way that they didn't appreciate. I think it came off in reading and you know, you can't a lot of things get lost in translation, a lot of tone gets lost in translation on on email or texts or any of those things, but it's over you now. And I think it came off a little bit perhaps, and I had to have a real talking to about like, knowing my place and sort of just again, like that service industry like because it's it's different people on every project. It's not like there's a one size fits all, you know. Yes, I think as you work more and more there things you learn, like there are tools that you use for a lot of different people, a lot of different personalities and, but really, it's just like, you have to feel everyone out on any given day again, like, who knows you had a bad breakfast or got bad news or got great news, you know, it's like anything can happen. And so that was one and that was a real like, okay, Think before you type cuz I fired off that email, I was just sort of like this makes these notes make no sense to me, like, do and everyone was like, Who the fuck is that? Who is Conrad? So that was interesting. And I definitely took with me and remember how I felt getting that feedback very vividly. And then like the bigger one, you know, that sort of is more like alluding to what I was talking about in terms of power dynamics was, was really, a few years ago, I wasn't sure I wasn't working in casting because I think I had a real come to Jesus sort of realization that, again, like I was saying, like, a lot of people think that we're gatekeepers in a way that we're not really we are we do hold an incredible amount of power in terms of who are we giving consideration to? And who are we getting time to, and who are we bringing into rooms, but like in terms of actual decision making, there are very few times where we're the ones who are really in the room where those decisions are being made, or in a position energetically or physically to, like, manipulate those decisions, like to what we think is more or less, right, or whatever it is. And so I was working with some, at some point. During my time there I was working with, there's a organization in New York called inclusion of the arts that I actually think is not still around. But it was an incredible advocacy group for actors with disabilities. And I had worked with them a little and just in the way of like, making sure they saw breakdowns and seeing actors who were disabled for roles that they weren't being submitted for, or whatever. And also, I was trying to do the same for transactors. And trying to learn and it was, you know, it gave me I got, I started getting really invested, which is a good thing. But it was hard for me to not take decisions where like those actors weren't getting ultimately chosen. Or maybe creative teams weren't seeing the value of working more with those people or hiring those people or whatever, like I was seeking those rejections really personally, and it didn't feel sustainable for me. And so that was a real lesson in control is what I do and don't have control over and what I am not comfortable with as part of the casting process. And so I did take a step back, I did sort of like, leave for about a year, and thought I was gonna, like, go back to school, which shocker, didn't work. Try that for a third time. Didn't work. But I'm also very grateful that I, you know, I took classes for a year and sort of took that time away. And I went back to casting with sort of, like, fresh eyes. I only have language for it. Now after seeing specifically, this other casting director named Victor Vasquez in the last year, you know, on a panel, sort of speaking about urgency as a tool of white supremacy, and how that presents itself in casting processes in the audition process. But even before I had that language for it, I knew when I went back after that year, I was like, oh, like, yes, these are people's careers, my own these actors, like, I'm gonna do the best work that I can do. But like, we're not doing brain surgery here. Everyone has to like, just like, slow down, it's all going to get done the works gonna get done. I'm going to focus my energy where I'm passionate, which is still in those communities factors, certainly. But, you know, just taking what I learned in terms of what I can do, and maybe that men taking my own time, you know, I was all worked up about like other people not taking time to sort of get to know these people, these actors, but like, maybe it meant more like, what research can I do? How what work sessions can I do? What money can I donate, you know, things that maybe I didn't know about or feel like were within my control, maybe were a little bit within my control, you know, negotiating that and figuring out how to do all of those things and do that work, and feel really good about it at the end of the day and feel like I could go to sleep and be like, yeah, I think I did pretty well like feel proud of myself. And that, you know, more and more was, it was a feeling that I wanted to capitalise on yours to the point where, you know, sort of like, okay, I feel like I'm ready to make more of those decisions for myself, which is what led me to, you know, sort of more formally, and I don't know what will happen in the future, obviously, but more formally, like, take a chance on, you know, working on my own and like, seeing what work I could get, that I could be really passionate about and have more ownership over, you know, not associated with Telsey, who is still not like I do, you know, have a great amount of respect for all those people and, and everything I learned there, but I'm just seeing what that would be like.

Rachel Lin  30:37  
Yeah, I mean, it's amazing. And congratulations on opening your own shop. That's a big deal. 

Conrad Woolfe  30:44  
I mean I guess... 

Rachel Lin  30:46  
Business owner doesn't have a college degree, but owns a business.

Conrad Woolfe  30:53  
I guess, I don't know. It's a real like, you know, I think I'm really good at what I do, certainly, but it is a real fake it till I make it like it's just sort of like one foot and for the other like, I made a decision. And then like did with that then and like sort of like, I guess like I wake up today, what do I do today? But it feels good. So far, it's been a really interesting year sort of coming to that and thinking about the stuff that inform that decision, and how I can incorporate both new and old passions into that, and just what it all means, in terms of my my own levels of integrity, and just doing good work.

Rachel Lin  31:37  
Was there an event or something that happened that made us just think, now is the time or I have to do this?

Conrad Woolfe  31:45  
Um, no, there wasn't like a singular event, it was more just like, Listen, it was a, it's been like a very trying year and a half for everyone. You know, it's been devastating. But not, you know, fortunately, I was able to, you know, when everything got shut down, the stuff that I've worked on that shutdown, I was able to get on an appointment and not have to worry about immediate, like financial stressors. And I could just sort of really isolate and take all the health stuff very seriously. And so having that sort of break from work, you know, was just a helpful reexamination time of like, do I want to work on that sort of level, still, you know, working on like, a lot, a lot of projects, like all at the same time, like in multiple stages of those processes. And it ultimately came down to, can I support myself in a, like, fairly comfortable way? And be the decision maker in terms of the work that I'm taking, again, like that, doesn't it me sort of like working for myself doesn't change? My the amount of power I hold in, you know, a room necessarily, but it does. You know, there are definitely projects that I took, and this is I don't think there's anything salacious, certainly, but there, there were definitely projects that I worked on, that I didn't feel passionately about, that I wouldn't have chosen to work on. Certainly, you know, like, just not great stuff with people who I didn't, you know, love, you know, whose work I didn't like, super respect, and I sort of was just like, I think it's possible to earn a living doing this, exclusively working with people who I want to work with, like, I think that's possible. And like, you know, no one ever twisted my arm at Chelsea like to do stuff, but like, you know, you just sort of find it when you're assigned work. Like that just sort of happens. And so I think that was part of it. And, you know, I have a really close friend, Dan Smith, who encouraged me to really think about that and think, like, could we do that together? And, and she's been my associate on the first project that we've been working on together, which has been amazing. And, you know, it's just a good start, you know, all but all of that was in terms of like, there being like, a thing that happened, like some sort of like conversation, and it was just sort of like, wanting to respond to everyone else's bravery in terms of calls to action over the past year, with my own work, instead of working for someone else who I either do or don't like, fully agree with, you know, what I mean? 

Rachel Lin  34:24  
Yeah. 

Conrad Woolfe  34:25  
Whether that's like, because I think it's interesting to just be less of an establishment sort of saying, we're, you know, not that I'm making a movie or, or anything, but I'd like to think that I'm trying to do things in a fresher way or think about things a little differently or think about different people. Yeah.

Rachel Lin  34:46  
Yeah. So thinking ahead. What are you hoping your work looks like moving forward? What is the dream job?

Conrad Woolfe  34:59  
What is the dream? This is the dream talking to you is the dream. It's an excellent question that I have, it's not that I haven't thought about it. Because I think like those sorts of plans, and, you know, thinking ahead, like all of that is really important as a business owner now. But, uh, you know, I want to, I want to make sure that I'm working with people, I mean, I definitely want to help work on and tell queer stories, full stop. Like, that's, that's definitely a huge priority for me and a place that I feel like I fit and have strong perspectives on and so there's that. But you know, I have other sort of like, not that there's like a firm like numbers game involved, but I, you know, I want to make sure that I'm working with people who are telling stories for a reason, like, there's a why behind and not telling just like, arbitrary, like not making characters of particular ethnicity, ethnicity for like, an arbitrary reason, like, Is there someone of that ethnicity in the writers room, like, feel strongly about that? Because there's some very particular story you're trying to tell or Oh, no, you're just sort of, and then because then that leads to like, well, that last name isn't really like that nationality. Right. Right. Yeah. Make sense? You know, and it's just sort of like, it just becomes a recipe for disaster. And not that, not that I want to avoid controversy. Like, that's not the the impetus for it, but I just want to make sure, like, there's a reason like, the people they work with are telling particular stories, and, and whether that's a reflection of the specific makeup of the creative team, or of the writers room, or the production staff, you know, I think it's important that I don't work with all white people, both on my own casting teams, and, and the creative teams who I work with, I have no interest in that at all, like, I don't want to work with other men, I don't want to work with white people certainly don't want to work with all white men. And I am one, so it's sort of just like, okay, like, how much weight does that even hold? At? What point Am I just sort of just like, an asshole for saying matter? Like, doesn't feel performative? And, you know, that's the, that's the stuff that I have to contend with every day. It's like, you know, that sort of inventory that I take? on a on a really regular basis of what have I done? Why have I done like, what have I done today? And, you know, in terms of like, opinions on scripts that I get sent, who else am I asking for? Like, if there's a certain role that like, maybe it's not being written as sensitively as it could be, like, Am I reaching out to someone who is of that community? And I could pay to, like, help advise me? Is this insensitive? Or am I being like, super, super like to work? with like, Oh, I agree. But um, so, you know, that's just that's just the stuff that that's like, totally my own shit who you know, and it's for nobody else to take on? It's, it's an interesting conversation. You know, I try not to get too in my head about it, and just work with people who I think are cool. And I think we're doing interesting work. You,

Rachel Lin  38:10  
right, yeah. I mean, this year has been so interesting, especially in this industry, I think it feels like this industry is going through a come to Jesus moment in some ways. But I also think there's some people are not some people, and I would be maybe included in this group, which is like, okay, like, yes, we just went through a traumatic year with lots of traumatic events, you know, for all kinds of people. And this industry is talking about change a lot and calling for change. But is that change actually going to happen? Or do you feel optimistic? Do you feel like, in some ways, I'm so excited to talk to you and as a casting director, because question is, do casting directors have a responsibility for the world that we see on screen? Right? You said, you only have so much power, and they're the storytellers but who should we be holding accountable for these decisions? And for this industry, having been the way it has been for so long?

Unknown Speaker  39:09  
Um, it's a great question. I do think casting directors should certainly be held accountable should be part of that accountability, those calls for accountability. But it depends, I think, like, we see white American Theatre, doing great work in terms of like, calling attention to... (dogs barking)

Rachel Lin  39:25  
The babies...

Conrad Woolfe  39:29  
is doing great work in terms of like being like really specific about these, like our theater owners. These are like, the people who are in charge like the artistic directors like those are, it's ultimately where the buck stops, like the studio executives on the TV side on the you know, film side. Those are the directors of big any specific project. It's not there's not always going to be like one person but like, it is Just like tracing the sort of blind like, and there are things that everyone along that line can do, again, like what power and the most interesting part of the conversation for me because of like what I do for a living has been like, with casting and the most interesting, one of the most interesting questions has been like, okay, so like, sure I've done all this work, I recognize, like, I don't have all the power in the world. But like, we have power, is that power in saying no to projects that we don't believe in? That definitely comes into play? Is that power in pushing back harder against people who are making decisions that or maybe should just be really generous, like less culturally informed? Does it fall on us to inform those people, whether give them more information to sort of absorb or just be like, that's a little bit racist, or like, that's not really like thinking things through, I think, in a way that it's sensitive, or whatever that looks like, ultimately, all falls into this under this umbrella of the power of No, I think, what does it mean, if we don't acquiesce in quite the same way that we always have? Like, what does it mean, if we don't accept that our responsibility stops with the presentation of choices, that we become more active members of that decision making process, which is never going to be just because of like, we're not the creators, like, we're not the people making this stuff. But like, whether that means being really clear about what we think about those choices, or when there's no reason a choice gets made, or choice gets not selected? You know, we hear that feedback. And it doesn't sound great. Like we call that out. Those things are really important, unfortunate enough to work on something now where like, I feel really included in those sorts of conversations. But that's new. That's the outlier, like most people are so used to the processes is great. Like, everyone relies really heavily on us for like the process and all the choices and like callback callback callbacks, and then getting to like the top five choices, type of choices or whatever. And then like, we're done, everyone's really used to that. And so like, all of its going to be uncomfortable, all of it's going to be different. If it's not uncomfortable, it just means we're doing the same thing, which is just what everyone says they don't want to do. Right. So I think there's a little bit of a tangent, but I do think, who do we answer to and on a theatre side that the artistic directors, those are the directors, certainly of certain productions, and theater owners. But, you know, on the film and TV side, which I'm more familiar with, it's definitely like, you know, those creative team members, the executive producers of movies or TV shows and who works at those studios, who are supposed to use who works at those networks. And so am I optimistic? Sometimes? Sometimes I am. Sometimes it feels just like, so much has to change. And so few people are game to do it, that it's a little bit like showing, I'm not good with sports analogies, but it's a little bit like, showing up to a game by yourself. Not that and not even just for me, like I'm the only one who wants to do this work. But it does feel like Like you said, it's been a really interesting time where there's a lot of people talking, it feels like a lot of people are like so ready for this and acknowledge what's going on what needs to happen. And then when it comes time to do something, when things are starting back up, like new decisions are being made the most important time theoretically, it's like, oh, yeah, no, like, totally. Yes. But, you know, and it's just like, you know, so many of the great advocacy groups that have popped up, you know, probably for racial justice and bribery advocacy coalition, on the theater side, like are in response to like, what's happening on Broadway and Off Broadway. To me, it's like, just fucking give those people money, just like the row. Like there's so much money thrown around in our industry in both Theatre and Film and TV, give that money to new people who are really strong perspectives and really interesting people and like, get, give them the training like, yeah, they're not always going to be like, yes, here's a bazillion dollars, build something with it. It requires time, it requires energy, it requires training, but investing in those people invest in the people who were, you know, showing up to those meetings, not that you have to have been doing that level of work to be the ones like it wasn't a competition, certainly, but it just sort of feels like there's so many people who have done really interesting things with this time and have really fresh, interesting perspectives and just refresh. It's just like, don't be racist, the least fresh idea idea in the entire world, but like, does not get traction. You know what I mean? Yeah, so I think I'm optimistic sometimes. Well, answer.

Rachel Lin  3:25  
Yes. I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic talking to you. So I feel I don't know. I'm excited. I'm excited for your company. I'm, I've learned about some of the most the things I kind of hold digger in terms of social justice and progressivism from you. And I've been introduced to some amazing artists through you. So thank you for that.

Conrad Woolfe  3:45  
No, it's that that ultimately is the best thing that I can hear. Because I, I have no to lose it, you know, I think so much of again, just in terms of like, our origin story, and like going to, you know, what I what I had myself wrapped up in, when I like, went to NYU and what I thought I wanted when I went to NYU, it's like, I don't want to where I don't think I'm the right person to revolutionize something I want to be like part of the guest shift in casting certainly, like, I think that's possible. So I think that's like valuable work to do. But like, if I can, like, the only good thing about the internet, the internet is horrible. Social media is so toxic, and so depressing and just like a nightmare. But like, I get to learn from people who are smarter than me who are like doing more interesting things than I am. And then I get to, like, share that information sometimes and learn more about stuff. And then like other people get to learn it. That's ultimately like, all I can dream of, if I can be a part of that sort of shift in that dissemination of information and lightbulb moments then like, that's really the most that I can dream of, honestly.

Rachel Lin  4:58  
Thank you. Okay, I'm gonna stop recording now you're done. Oh, wow. Okay. Unless you want to say anything. Is there anything else you want to say? Before I stop this recording? 

Conrad Woolfe  5:12  
No, I love you.

Rachel Lin  5:21  
That was Conrad. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. subscribe, follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook, all the things, wishing you a safe and happy end of the summer. Have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai