Casting Director Adam Hindle

The View magazine hooked up with Adam Hindle, former model and assistant to Russell Marsh (became Prada’s Casting Director), now casting director on his own for magazines and shows. We talk about his career, the workflow, his vision on the industry, and more.

TV: Hi Adam, tell us a bit about you.

AH: I grew up in Sheffield, in the north of England. My main interests as a child were music and sport. I didn’t have a childhood obsession with fashion but I realised when I was a bit older that I must have had at least a subconscious appreciation of style, because I sought out magazines like Arena, ID, The Face; and my interest in music crossed over in to image and aesthetic too, as I was really drawn to the imagery, style and presentation of certain acts, like New Order, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Pet Shop Boys, acts who placed almost as much importance on their artwork and visuals as on their music.

My gateway to fashion was a combination of being in the right place at the right time and having fairly decent genes, as I was stopped in the street about 2 months after arriving in London for University, and was asked to appear in a music video for Skunk Anansie. At the shoot the stylist encouraged me to visit some model agencies, which I did. The first one (Storm) said I was “too edgy” for them and suggested Take 2, who took me on.

TV: When was the first time you got in touch with anything creative, and specifically the fashion world?

AH: I was pretty creative growing up, as I used to write stories, articles, commentaries and reviews. I wrote for a music fanzine just before I left for Uni. My first touch of creativity within fashion came when I started modeling, as on several jobs I felt like I was a part of the collaborative process with the photographer and stylist.

TV: I can imagine that casting isn’t something one simply starts with, compared to photography or styling. Take us through your career up till becoming a casting agent.

AH: Through modeling I’d met Russell Marsh, he used to book me for shows like Jigsaw and John Rocha in London, before he became Prada’s casting director. Funnily enough, I used to walk Prada show up to the season when Russell began casting it, then I never even got the casting again. I guess he more than made up for it when he employed me for 9 years as his assistant and, latterly, associate. It was a model agent of mine who made the suggestion, saying that Russell had never really had an assistant and was looking for someone. I started on 3 days per week, but on the 3rd day he asked me to work full-time. I managed to justify modeling for 5 years, and then thankfully the opportunity to work with Russell came up just when I most needed it.

TV: What were the challenges you faced and how did you solve them? Defining moments that really formed you as a person and as a professional?

AH: Modeling was tough at times. When everything was going well I didn’t have too many neuroses or anxieties about whether it was a good job for me to be doing. Once work slowed down, like when I wasn’t getting the castings for the major shows, or booking the cool editorial, and wasn’t really making much money either because I didn’t have a so called commercial look, then I started questioning things, thinking it wasn’t a manly job and hating the lack of control I seemed to have over my own destiny…until I realised that none of it was anyone’s fault, it was just the evolving landscape of the modeling world. And that change in models, my seeing the regeneration cycle of whole new swathes of fresh faces, that was both a realization of my own position and also something that I found interesting.

It made the idea of Casting – taste-making, forecasting, using casting to tell a story – all of that started to make sense and seem an appealing side of the industry to work in.

TV: Then you rolled into casting. How did that happen?

AH: I’d dropped out of university to be a model so I felt unqualified to do much else, though I was tempted to go back and do a course in English literature or creative writing (something I would do 10 years later). I felt that I’d dedicated a lot of time and some effort to making my way in fashion, and also that I’d been very fortunate to have ended up there so I should make the most of it. I knew I wouldn’t be technically smart enough for photography and styling was something that hundreds of others did much better than I ever could. I didn’t really think about being a model agent but I was interested in production and casting. I worked 9 months in production before joining Russell, and that was a good experience, but it wasn’t something I could see myself doing for years and years, as even though I am pretty organised, the relentlessness of production over a long period didn’t appeal.

Fortunately, the opportunity with Russell came at the right time and even though there are production elements to the job, he was all about pure casting.

TV: Why would a client hire someone to choose and pick the talent, for their very precious brands, collection and designs? Where and when will it be added value to the client?

AH: Clients see the value in hiring casting directors because they are dedicated specialists in that side of the industry. Very few designers and brands spend their days trawling model websites and blogs, they don’t have the time or inclination to call around the agencies requesting updates on all of the new faces. There just isn’t the time and space in the schedule of a successful brand and its creative director to keep up with the modeling world. Its important for them to have a casting director who knows who everyone is, who can take that knowledge and combine it with the brand/ designers vision for their collection and realize their message through the models they propose and cast for the job. It is a collaboration with the aim of presenting as strong and believable a message as possible.

TV: How does it exactly works? You get a call from a great fashion brand, and then what? How does the start to finish procedure look like?

AH: I am approached about jobs by stylists, photographers, agents, brands themselves, PR and production companies. For a show or an editorial shoot, there will normally be a conversation about the inspirations of a collection, references, muses, fabrics, shapes, sets and locations. All these things make up a mood board, either literally or in terms of my making notes. The client will sometimes have specific models in mind and hopefully there will be some sort of story to tell within the casting, which is always the most interesting type of casting, rather than “get me as big-name model as possible”.

I will then research and see the models at a casting, from where I will put together a PDF/ casting sheets based on who I think are the most appropriate and relevant models, which will be sent to other creatives involved in the job for their feedback.

During the Shows I usually hold a more general casting, seeing larger numbers of models, from which I edit in order to present the client with a more focused group of suggestions.

Then there are logistics, placing model options, getting the time on them for the date(s), the budget, negotiation, contracts, fittings, travel, confirmations, and making sure they get to where they need to be at the right time.

TV: Dealing with so many stake-holders, it must be one of the most pressurized jobs in the business? How do you deal with that and stay healthy at the same time? Do you do like Ari Gold in Entourage, telling you’re at the gym while actually doing some 15min workout in the office? 🙂

AH: It can be pressurized at times but in the wider scheme of things, keeping it in context, there are a lot of other people in this and other industries with more pressure on them. I think designers, especially young ones on the verge of success are the most pressurized, trying to be both uber creative and run a business. Knowing how to deal with pressure is a skill and its important as a casting director to hold it together and not allow any stresses you may have to permeate through to others, especially during the shows, which are a particularly high-pressure period.

Having good friends, an understanding partner, being close to my family and having other interests which you reserve time for are really important.

TV: The era of having only two dozen supermodels that are paid gazillions of money are over, nowadays there are so much more models, agencies, etc. How do you keep track of what is out there and how has this affected client budgets, and in direct relation, the budget you have to work with?

AH: When you’re working consistently, it really helps you in having an up to date idea of who all the models are and at which agencies. When jobs come in I’ll usually have some models in mind right away, and then go through the agency sites, as well as some of the other model source sites, and will also call in packages with the job-specific brief and info. Agents are normally pretty good at keeping me updated, making sure I see new faces and they are keen to get my feedback. Any interesting looking models that are sent to me, I save their images and put them in specific folders, normally New Faces folders and then in to job folders when proposed for certain work. It is really up to the casting director though to make sure they are informed.

The heavy use of new faces by big brands, which is something that came along with access to the internet, and the easing of restrictions on travel and work for eastern Europeans, definitely helped to lower rates and keep budgets in check. I’ve seen some of the show budgets from the late 90s and even “non-famous” girls were being paid incredible amounts for certain shows. I know from my days modeling that in some instances guys are being paid less now than in 1998. It must be one of the few industries where pay has either decreased or not increased over the past 20 years.

One of the expectations of casting directors is that they help to keep model costs down. The more influential the casting person, often the lower the model budget will be. A successful casting director who keeps costs down almost creates a rod for their own back.

TV: What kind of casting agent would you describe yourself? Why will a client choose you, over another?

AH: Maybe it’s better for other people to describe the kind of casting agent I am, but I am told that people like working with me because I do understand, or at least try to, the creative briefs and ideas that designers, brands, photographers, stylists have, and I try to find the right models for each designers wants and needs. I have a language for describing models features, or their spirit, trying to turn them in to believable characters so we are telling a story through both the collection and the casting. This is very much something I learned from and shared with Russell Marsh.

I’m also told that people like to work with me because I’m pleasant to work with, usually a nice guy who is well organised, communicates and is pretty straightforward. I don’t like dramatic situations in the workplace and people in this industry usually (believe it or not) prefer their team to be calm and in control.

TV: The fashion is always evolving, maybe now faster than ever due to the growth of digital and social media. How do you see the business in the near future, based on the developments that stand out for you?

AH: The social media element is the biggest development in recent years. For both models and agency Talent (special bookings) this is a real industry within an industry, with some agencies having set tariffs for certain social media activity… and the rates are really high. This will probably continue to grow and with it the need for models to be a bit more of an all rounder, or at least “more than a model”. In some sense, due to this, there is a case to be made for beauty almost becoming secondary to profile and personality, which along with calls and a desire for greater diversity could means in the future a bigger pool of
‘models’ at a larger number of agencies.

One area I’m keeping an eye on is in New York where there are now tighter restrictions on the issuing of Visas along with the new rules that models under 18 must be with an agency who has the correct license and can only work with clients who also have the necessary license. These two factors make me think there could be a real boom in American girls in the next few years. After we had the Belgians, the Russians, the Brasilians and the Dutch waves, next could be the turn of the Americans, as New York agents put more resource & focus in to scouting homegrown girls, to avoid the Visa situation and to have more control over, and make more money from, their New Faces.

TV: After a full week of travel and hard work, how do you spent your free time?

AH: As I mentioned, I like to spend as much time as possible with my partner, my family and friends. We watch a lot of good TV series (Game of Thrones, Broadchurch, The Returned), often having a catch up binge if we’ve missed a few episodes. Good dinners and fun times with friends. I also like to write stories, and to get out of London to other beautiful places in Britain and beyond. I do love London though.

TV: Any exciting news you can talk about?

AH: Weddings, weddings, weddings. Not mine though. Looking forward to the Men’s shows. And working on nice editorial stories this season.

TV: Thanks Adam!

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