Ben Cogan: ‘It’s me and the actor versus the director’
After working as a casting director for the BBC for more than 10 years, Ben Cogan has decided to go freelance. As well as hiring out his keen eye for talent, he also runs workshops and one-on-one tuition for actors looking for audition advice.
Why did you decide to leave the BBC?
After 15 years of the BBC, it’s always been a temptation to leave and fly solo. I stepped away from the whole industry for a bit. When I came back after this time, I sat down with my agent, and she said: “During this time away, what did you really miss?” And I was so proud of Casualty and everything I achieved on that show. It is funny, when you put a regular cast together they become your second family. So in seven years I built three second families… and to walk away from Casualty was heart-wrenching. But when I said what I really missed, it really came back to being around actors.
How did you make the move into tuition?
I started working with LAMDA and with other drama schools such as Drama Centre London, and it was my happy place. The job of a casting director is to give people a platform, to make them feel at ease and to make them fly to their best ability. And I missed that. So we spoke about going freelance, and the decision was made. We came up with the idea of the tuition side. I’ve just come back from a one-to-one tuition; I also do script work tuitions, and character and improvised-based auditions.
What do your workshops involve?
My mission statement was basically: working for actors. My strong belief… is that the most incredible thing you can get is an audition. I’m trying to help people understand that if you go into an audition and you’re prepared, you’ve done the work, and you show your passion, you take the notes, you deliver the golden audition… then the best thing that can come out of that is putting yourself as a lit beacon on that casting director’s radar.
The best thing that can come out of an audition isn’t getting the job, it’s being called back for other parts down the line. Because the first time you walk into an audition, nine times out of 10 you’re going to be cast because of a look. You’re not going to be completely right for it because it’s the first time you’ve met the casting director and the director. The next time you come in, it’s going to be more suited to you. So it’s about using that platform in the best way, and treating it like an exercise of your development, not like a job interview.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about casting among actors?
When actors walk into a casting, it’s really easy to be terrified. It’s easy to perceive that the casting director and the director are versus the actor. No, no, no, no, no. It’s me and the actor versus the director. The director’s the one that’s outnumbered. The actor makes me look good, so I am absolutely all over you. We walk in the room together, and we leave together.
More information about Cogan’s tuition can be found at www.becometalent.com