Exclusive Interview: Julie Knowlton, Owner of Top Boston Casting Company

Exclusive Interview: Julie Knowlton, Owner of Top Boston Casting Company

Featured Articles, Interviews

Written by Cassandra Ledger

​Julie Knowlton is the co-founder, owner, and casting director of one of Boston’s hottest new casting companies– Slate Casting. Knowlton brings her 25 years of experience to truly make her clients shine. The company’s talent can be seen across film, television, theater, and in so many more avenues. In this Sophia News interview, Knowlton discusses her career, what makes a casting company unique, and why she loves what she does. 

This interview was conducted via email. 

 

I am constantly amazed at how the industry has adapted, and how quickly. 

From the start, we worked with our clients to adapt how casting worked and how to make it as safe as possible. As a result, our casting sessions have gone virtual with self-tapes and zoom sessions. Actors and clients are learning how to work in this new environment and I think it’s been incredibly successful.” Julie Knowlton on how the casting industry has adapted in the times of COVID-19. Read more below.

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Sophia News: Please explain the evolution of your interest and career path.

Julie Knowlton: I was in my first play in 2nd grade and absolutely loved theater. In college I decided to major in Broadcast Journalism at Syracuse University, but continued to perform after I graduated and also served on the board of a Boston-based theater company. Professionally, I started my career after college as a producer for radio, television, and corporations. In that role I was able to cast actors for training videos and commercials. I went from producing to managing public relations for a large regional theater and realized I truly loved being around actors. Four and a half years ago I started Slate Casting in Boston with my business partner Ashley Skomurski. We haven’t looked back.

SN: What was the inspiration for your decision to become an agent and open your own agency?

JK: Slate Casting is actually a casting company, which is different from being an agency. We don’t represent specific talent. Instead, we have the freedom to bring in actors from all over and audition for projects. We are hired by ad agencies, production companies, corporations, and directors to find the right talent for their projects.  I love scouting new talent and trying to see as much theater as I can (pre-COVID, unfortunately).  I love working with actors and finding just the right person to bring a role alive.

SN: What are some of the more profound changes in the industry since your early days of casting?

JK: Casting in some ways has changed quite a bit, but in other ways it’s exactly the same. I used to have stacks of black and white 8 x 10 headshots of actors on my desk. Now headshots are color and 90% of all headshots are digital, so it’s all at my fingertips on my computer. Technology has definitely made a difference, in a very positive way, but the connection between an actor and the material is still the same.  The human connection is still really important.

SN: What makes the Boston market so different from other major markets (such as LA)?

JK: While I can’t speak for other markets, what I can say is that Boston is a large city, but it can feel like a small town. The actors here are incredibly supportive of each other and that’s so nice to see. As a casting director in Boston, I have the ability and opportunity to really get to know the actors in the area and that’s amazing. I’ve been working with some actors for over 20 years, and on the flip side, I’ve have the pleasure of finding new talent and seeing their careers really begin to take off.

SN: As someone who specializes in voice-over casting, what type of person are you looking for when booking a new client?

JK: I think being a voice-over artist is one of the most challenging types of acting. Instead of being able to use your whole body and facial expressions to bring a character to life, with voice-over work, all you have is your voice. That’s not easy. For many of the projects I work on, I’m looking for authentic voices. Not necessarily the voice you would associate with a big movie preview (I call that ‘the voice of God’), but someone who can tell a story and be relatable and believable. There are also times I’ll need someone to play animated characters or breathe life into an inanimate object (a piggy bank or a cranberry for instance).  That’s always fun, because who knows what a piggy bank actually sounds like?

SN: Where can we see some of your clients across film and television?

JK: We have been very fortunate to have worked on television programs and movies, films, and commercials.  We’ve also done quite a bit of work for the web, social media and live events. There’s nothing more fun than unexpectedly seeing a project we worked on TV for instance- it’s still a thrill!

SN: How is COVID-19 impacting the business for your clients, and your company as a whole?

JK: I am constantly amazed at how the industry has adapted, and how quickly. From the start, we worked with our clients to adapt how casting worked and how to make it as safe as possible. As a result, our casting sessions have gone virtual with self-tapes and zoom sessions. Actors and clients are learning how to work in this new environment and I think it’s been incredibly successful. We are also doing quite a bit of “real people” casting and having people submit auditions who are in the same “pod” so they are able to safely work together. It’s providing a whole new outlet for people who may not have thought about getting involved in this business. “Real people” casting is very popular and we love doing it.

SN: What role does philanthropy play in your life, as well as in the life of your agency?

JK: We are definitely proud members of the Boston theater and production community. We support our actors and production people as much as we possibly can.  Slate Casting belongs to such non-profit organizations as StageSource and the MA Production Coalition and we wholeheartedly support the local theater community with our SlateSpotlight online series that helps promote local theater productions.

SN: What do you know about the industry now that you wish you could have told yourself when you first started?

JK: I wish I knew that I could actually make a career out of my love of theater and the arts. I always dreamt of casting a movie or a theater production and being able to help actors find the right roles to showcase their talents. Now I love to see as much theater as I can (pre-Covid of course, but now virtually as well) and find actors I may not have known about, or see actors I’ve known for years continue to display their awesome talents. I really feel lucky to be part of the Boston community in this way. 

SN: What advice do you have for young people today trying to break into film and television as actors or actresses?

JK: It’s cliché, but go for it. Now is the time to try it out. Boston has so many opportunities, and as I’ve mentioned, it is a big city, but in terms of the acting and production community, it is a small town. Get to know people, do your research, get yourself out there. At Slate Casting we are always looking for new talent, and we would love to know about you!

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Written by Cassandra Ledger

Cassandra Ledger, a graduate of Florida State University's School of English, is a writer based in Wellington, Florida. She enjoys baking, art, and music when she is not writing about people and places that inspire her.

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About The Author

Cassandra Ledger

Cassandra Ledger, a graduate of Florida State University's School of English, is a writer based in Wellington, Florida. She enjoys baking, art, and music when she is not writing about people and places that inspire her.