Photo: Ravi Vora
Photo: Ravi Vora

How an Atlanta casting director really feels about your acting MFA

Do the in-depth lessons and learning experiences acquired from a master of fine arts acting program count in today's reality TV and film industries?

Veteran casting director Cheryl Louden-Kubin believes it doesn't really hurt — or help.

"I am a huge proponent of higher education," said Louden-Kubin of The Atlanta Casting Director, who has been in the casting business for more than 20 years. "I have studied at some very fine schools — Carnegie MellonRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art and Marymount College — but I'm sorry to say an MFA does not matter. It can't hurt, but the sooner you get out there, the better off you will be."

The award-winning casting director has studied drama from New York to England.

She has spent her career collaborating with production companies and ad agencies to find talent for movie and commercial projects.

The Atlanta Casting Director's resume includes scouting extras for TV series like "Miami Vice" and "21 Jump Street" to thousands of national, regional and local music videos and commercials.

"I make sure the agents and talent understand what they need to do in the audition," she said, "and where they fit into the puzzle since we cannot give out entire scripts. I present the talent either through pictures or video."

For those entering the industry on purely raw talent and no educational foundation, Louden-Kubin said this career move also produces toss-up results.

"Does raw acting talent count more than an acting MFA? Yes and no," she said. "Yes, because if we are looking for a specific look or skill — say rappers, tennis players, singers — the actual skill is the talent. It does not hurt to know what is expected of you at an audition or on set."

Louden-Kubin continued: "No, because that same talent may not understand that you need to do the scene many times and at many angles with the same intensity," she said. "This business is very technical. The perfect take for you as an actor may have to be redone many times because of something technical, lighting was not good or the sound was off. Maybe a neighbor decides to let out his barking dog or mow his lawn."

But for students worried about whether their acting MFA is a complete waste, it's not.

"They are ready," said Louden-Kubin. "They have experience and a temperament that has been tested. They really, really want this to be their livelihood. It's not a hobby."

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