The Wrap: Casting David Fincher's Mank - Q&A with STRIDE Casting's Tom Martorano
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
The STRIDE team have recently wrapped on the much anticipated David Fincher film, Mank. Across the 63 day shoot STRIDE cast 637 background actors (60% SAG-AFTRA & 40% Non-Union), working an average of 4 days each, and ~6,370 hours combined hours.
Set in 1930s Hollywood the casting briefs were very specific. Consider the hairstyles, piercings, tattoos and other modern trends currently present in the population that would not have been present in the 1930s! To find our 637 background actors we built a community in the LA area of just under 4,300. In addition to the usual background actors we cast 62 specialist roles from Uncle Sam, a stilt walker, to a troupe of Show Girls and a toothless elderly man - all within the 1930s constraints.
Our talented team didn’t tackle these tricky briefs alone. Powered by the latest in casting technology they were able to increase efficiency, improve communication with background actors and the Mank team and focus their energies on the creative aspects of casting rather than administrative. Powered by POP, they were able to spend time finding the perfect actor for every single role.
Here we quiz Tom Martorano, one of our Casting Directors on Mank, about his experience of casting background for this major feature film.
After studying in Fairfield University’s film program, Tom relocated to New York City where he has cast for various projects including Gotham, Mr. Robot, Jack Ryan, and Judd Apatow’s upcoming film The King of Staten Island. Four and a half years later it was time for a change, leading Tom to STRIDE.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on Mank for you?
The most rewarding aspect of working on Mank was working out of the fitting office/studio and being able to repeatedly see the background we were casting in person, especially in their 1930s costumes. Not only was it rewarding to witness the fruit of your labor, but establishing a connection with the background and being able to hear all they had to say about their positive experiences working with STRIDE.
And the most challenging aspect of Mank?
The most challenging aspect of Mank was casting for a film set in the 1930s. I had never previously been the lead on a period piece and quickly learned how specific the faces/types of talent we were casting had to be. From the accurate hair length to wardrobe size restrictions, we had limited flexibility with the people we were hiring.
What have been some of your career highlights so far? Why?
Working on location in Los Angeles on a film that takes place in 1930s Hollywood, directed by someone who’s work I have admired for years, is easily the highlight of my career. Being able to use an exciting new casting platform and being the lead on that project made it all the more rewarding.
What's the biggest difference in the industry today to when you were starting out?
I have noticed a big difference in security as well as paperless productions. When I first started my desk would be packed to the brim with physical scripts, one liners, schedules, and breakdowns, but as the years have gone on I’ve noticed that productions are adapting to a paperless mentality and opting to store paperwork digitally.
Where do you see the future of casting and production going? What change do you want to see?
Whether its LED stages, POP, or iPads as camera monitors, I see the future of production/casting adapting to our times and embracing the exciting, and productive, tech resources we all have at our disposal. That is definitely a change I want to see be taken even further.
What other casting experience do you have where you haven’t had access to technology like POP, and how did you manage that?
On past projects I have cast for all of our background was organized in different places whether it be email, excel, word, or third party casting sites. This made the process very time consuming in an industry that already can take up a lot of your time.
How would you describe casting with the POP platform to a fellow casting director or Production?
Imagine being able to handle all aspects of the casting world in one secure platform through one seamless process. Communication, booking, availability checks, photo submissions, you name it - POP provides it all in a quick but very efficient manner that keeps production, the casting directors, and the talent, happy.
What was the best aspect of casting with POP? Why?
Having the ability to easily customize question and answers when asking talent certain things, with their answers being directly sent to a specific place that you choose, made the process incredibly smooth. Another aspect I really admired was being able to simply press export and you have a beautiful lookbook with pictures/information, all of which you can choose and customize.
What did the production team have to say about the technology and the impact it had on their shoot?
Production and the wardrobe team in particular appreciated being able to easily get into the platform and add whatever notes/specific information with talent they needed to, for casting to see immediately.