What Do I Do?
For the start of London Fashion Week today, we had the pleasure of a sit down with London based Casting Director Megan McCluskie to talk about her daily work life. Thanks Megan for letting us feature you in the second round of our monthly "What Do I Do" series.
What do you do?
In a nutshell, I'm engaged by photographers, stylists, brands, and creative agencies to find and place models (and non models) in advertising, editorial, catwalk shows and special projects. For any client, it's always about finding the right person in both look and vibe. I'm the Bookings Director at Harper's Bazaar UK where I cast all the fashion and beauty stories and I also freelance cast for several other editorial publications and brands.
Please describe a typical day.
Every day is different, which is great. Occasionally I am at castings all day and attend photo shoots from time to time, but my average day consists of a lot of email work with clients and I try and make time for daily go sees. I'm approached about jobs by stylists, photographers, agents, PR and production companies and the work and method of casting on each job can vary. For a show or an editorial shoot, there will normally be a conversation about the inspirations of a collection, the mood, visual references, muses and personality, shapes, sets, etc. The client will sometimes have specific models in mind and hopefully there will be a story to tell within the casting, which is always the most interesting type of casting, rather than finding 'big names,' so to speak. During fashion week (usually a casting director's busiest time), I could be at casting for a few hours, in fittings with another client one hour, backstage at another show the next- frantically tracking down missing models, and then back at castings followed by multiple shows. What I do love about casting is, that the work really varies. There's always new talent. New ideas. New people and locations.
How did you get into modelling? Any tips for anyone aspiring to be a Casting Director?
Working in photography and particularly with models was something I was always keen to try. From a young age, I was fascinated by Kate Moss and her way of adapting and transforming herself in front of the camera. I was always tearing out my favourite campaigns from magazines and sticking them on the wall. I'm from a small town in Scotland so was a little naïve and unsure as to how it all worked but I was lucky to find my feet pretty quickly in London and after a few fashion internships, I started work as Bookings Assistant at ELLE. I then was fortunate enough to serve as Bookings Editor at the Mail on Sunday, Instyle and Glamour before joining Harper's Bazaar as Bookings Director and starting my own casting company.
In terms of tips, it's best to earn your stripes as an intern or assistant. For me, the experience was invaluable. Models.com and Instagram are great tools to keep on top of what is happening as things move quickly in the industry. I think anyone with the right passion, spirit and hard work ethic will get noticed quickly.
What skills do you need to bring to be successful at your job?
Few brands have time to spend their days trawling through the many model websites, Instagram accounts and blogs, and request agency updates on all of the new faces so it's important for brands to have a casting director who knows who all the models are, has a good eye and who can take that knowledge and realise the brand's message through the models they cast for the job. Organisational skills are key too - you are scheduling hundreds of models at times, relaying shoot info, reading contracts, handling budgets and travel, editing photos and video while balancing different projects simultaneously. Things often change last minute: shoot dates move, models drop out, concepts shift, weather intervenes - so being organised and prepared is essential. You must be a good listener who’s able to really grasp what is meant in what at times can be vague briefs from creatives. A genuine interest and curiosity about people is often something that most casting directors have. Most of all, for me at least, it's important to be patient, kind and respectful.
What’s the best part about your job?
The people with whom I work. I am lucky enough to work with some of the most talented artists from around the world. It's a great creative job, with an element of business involved, too which is extremely fast-paced and the needs are always changing. I’m always learning something new - something that would be important to me in any career.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
It can be pressurised and perhaps a little dramatic at times but in the wider scheme of things, there are a lot of other people in both this industry and other industries with more pressure on them. Knowing how to deal with pressure is important as a casting director - not allowing any stresses or irritations you may have to permeate through to others, especially during the shows, which are a particularly intense period – my job is to take that stress away from them, not add to it. I don't really feel there are any downsides that aren’t part of every professional's life now (always needing to be available via mobile, long work hours, etc.) but I do love to step away when work is done and reserve time for family, friends and too many box sets.
Does your job involve travelling?
Yes, which is also great. I am London based but visit the fashion capitals for work. I've also had shoots take me to places like Sri Lanka, Tokyo and Moscow.
What was your favourite moment in your career so far?
I launched a weekly portrait series for Harper's Bazaar online, profiling new faces and having them shot by up and coming photographers. It's been a real pleasure to see the series grow and recently one of our photographers put together a book of the series as a present, a very special gift! I also have been fortunate enough to have a great team, particularly during show casting and I constantly thank the stars for my assistant, Alice Hart.
What are your future ambitions?
On a personal note, happiness of course and finding the right balance. It's easy to get caught up in everything sometimes and let work take over all. Being a photographer would be an amazing job, and working in a model agency could be great if you’re working on the scouting side and developing new faces. I imagine that’s very rewarding.