Alumni Stephanie Kerbis ’15 walked into the room ready to audition for PR Casting’s Mickie Paskal. Kerbis’s heart was racing as sweat trickled down her face. She waited for Paskal to give her the look of pure judgment just like every other director had done before.
Instead, Paskal was understanding, comforting, and honest with Kerbis. That’s when it become clear to Kerbis that casting could be a career for her.
“I never knew a casting director could have such an impact on a person’s life. But truly, her words meant everything to me and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the advice she gave me and the confidence she instilled in me,” said Kerbis.
After graduation from Chapman in 2015, Kerbis moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. Like many other actors in Los Angeles she started to look for alternative forms of income. Kerbis then created her company, Stephanie Kerbis Casting, after being in LA for a few months.
This was not, however, Kerbis’s first experience at casting. As a sophomore in college Kerbis approached a director she knew who was the same age as her. She asked him if he had a casting director for his upcoming film, and since it was just a sophomore level project, he didn’t. She offered to do it for free.
“So, there we were. I made it all up as I went along,” said Kerbis.
When Kerbis first started casting, it was a hobby. As time passed she started to receive more scripts. She got so busy that she attached a fee in order to decrease the demand for her services.
“The best casting directors have received acting training. When she is watching someone act she actually studies their every move,” said alumni Gia Lena ’15, who was a previous classmate of Kerbis’s.
To help the actor feel comfortable Kerbis allocates the first five minutes of every audition for telling jokes and stories.
“What I’m asking for in that room is not easy, no matter the content. I’m asking them to be real, grounded, honest, present and vulnerable– essentially the most naked they’ll ever be with clothes on. So, in order to create this safe environment I have to let them know that I am not just another scary casting director judging them,” said Kerbis.
Once hired, Kerbis’s team handles all the aspects of the casting process including gathering monologues, renting the casting space, scheduling slots with talent, acquiring talent, and facilitating the casting sessions.
“My team and I take care of everything so that the production team can focus on other aspects of pre-production and know that they will have the best talent presented to them without any stress on their end,” said Kerbis.
Kerbis has acquired a small team consisting of three other Chapman University alumni. Kerbis only employs those with both casting and acting experience so her actors can experiment during an audition.
Kerbis uses the entire audition process to learn more about the actor. She converses with them to learn more about their use of language and technique and then gives that information to the director, hoping it will allow him or her to best guide the actor.
“Stephanie had strong opinions; however, I never felt like she pushed her perspective on me too hard. She gave me a constant gentle reminder of what she thought, and whenever I had an alternative idea, she always ran with it,” said senior film production major Jason Lee Segal, who has worked with Kerbis on set.
When asked about the future Kerbis said she would continue casting while also trying to get recognized as an actor in LA.
“All I know is that I am happy, passionate and wake up every day feeling accomplished and excited with where I am and what I’m doing. So, if that feeling can follow me into the rest of life, I’ve totally succeeded,” said Kerbis.