Erica Arvold – Casting Director

Posted on November 7, 2014 by


When we see a movie, we take stock of the plot, the actors, the sets, the dialogue; maybe even the director’s techniques and the soundtrack. We think about the cast, but we don’t always think about– or even know– who put that cast together. Local casting director Erica Arvold puts film casts together, and she’s darn good at it.

Case in point: she cast Big Stone Gap, one of the 2014 Virginia Film Festival’s centerpiece films, featuring Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jenna Elfman and Jane Krakowski, just to name a few. Need we say more?

Arvold got into casting accidentally, when she felt like she needed a break from theater school. She spent a few years working for a veteran Hollywood casting director before opening her own business, arvold.. Now, Arvold says she can’t turn off her casting director brain. She confesses that everyone she meets or even sees “is at risk of me asking them if they’re interested in being on screen at some point.”

This is Arvold’s 10th Virginia Film Festival, and this year, along with being part of some of the films themselves, she’s hosting a panel discussion, “On Filmmaking: Industry Leaders” with David Baldacci, Janet Brenner, Erik Jendresen, and Kevin McNally on Saturday at 11am.

If you attend her panel, though, and you catch her eye, be prepared: she might want to put you in the movies.

Erica Arvold

Erica Arvold photo by Billy Hunt

Photo by Billy Hunt

Share your story. How did you get into casting?

By accident. During my junior year at DePaul University’s Theatre School in Chicago, I was restless. I was imagining taking a break from school. I met with the associate dean and shared my need for more fulfillment – I had no idea of how or what to do. He recommended an internship…perhaps there was a place that would appreciate my, well, skills…but all of the companies where he usually placed interns were currently full…so, I must wait.  I am not very good at waiting. After some pestering from my end, he agreed to call one more place, and the following week he asked a local casting director to please meet with me. She obliged, and I began an internship with casting director Jane Alderman a few weeks later. I had impressed her during the interview, telling her of my organized brain and stage management skills, but on my first day of work, I lost all composure and began to cry because I was so overwhelmed with joy: I had found my dream job and place in the world. She understood, and after six fun-filled years by her side, she supported my career move to Los Angeles.

What drove you to pursue a career in casting, and what keeps you passionate about your job? Do you have any advice for future generations of casting directors?

Growing up I had a bizarre habit of jotting down actor names in a notebook. I grew up without a TV at my house, but I’d go to friend’s homes or to the movies and would write notes about any actor I really liked. When I was 12 years old,  I watched Square Pegs and thought Sarah Jessica Parker was “so so good,” and had potential for being a star. I remember seeing Sixteen Candles in a theater and writing “actress w/headgear bumped water fountain – funny!!!” Then I waited for the credits to roll, and wrote down her name – Joan Cusack. I didn’t know there was a casting profession; I was just keeping track of actors for fun.

Creative exploration and collaboration keeps me passionate about what I do. Each project is unique so, on a daily basis, I am delving into the unknown, whether it be meeting a new actor or reading a new script or discussing the potential of an idea. I am a very curious person by nature and like to discover hidden gems that can serve a greater vision.

Future casting directors need to know that this business is a lifestyle, not a day job. This career sometimes has a glitzy exterior but on a daily basis requires long hours, heavy organizational skills and the ability to keep a level head while under extreme pressure. And, of course, one must have the ability to listen to hunches and gut instincts and have the communication skills to voice an opinion at the right moment. So, IF you must be in this film/television business, IF you have no choice in the matter and cannot be fulfilled by any other career, then you will find a way to do it!

Describe your relationship with the Virginia Film Festival– you’ve cast one of the more high-profile films to be shown this year (Big Stone Gap). Have you participated in the festival in the past? If so, how have you been involved?

I look forward to the Virginia Film Festival every year.  The selection of films just keeps growing and my involvement has grown over the past five years as well.  My company, arvold., has been lucky enough to have been involved with several film(s) in past festivals too.  This VFF, I cast Big Stone Gap along with another Virginia casting director, Anne Chapman; and I cast and associate produced Wish You Well.  arvold. is helping with the casting of Adrenaline films (for the second year) and we are super excited to host a panel discussion, “On Filmmaking: Industry Leaders” with David Baldacci, Janet Brenner, Erik Jendresen, and Kevin McNally on Saturday at 11am. Don’t miss it, it’s going to be incredible!

How many Virginia Film Festivals have you attended?

I moved here in 2004… so this is my 10th year!

What sets the VFF apart from other film festivals?

Hands down, the combination of soon-to-be nominated films and cinema classics with intelligent conversation about the craft and process of filmmaking. Did I mention we’re having a panel discussion with award-winning industry pros on Saturday at 11 a.m.?

Finish this sentence (feel free to be creative!):  Casting to me is…

Well, my first instinct is to say, “… is equal to bread and water. It is the sustenance to my being…the bread being gluten-free, of course.” It’s a way of life and a perspective of other people that I cannot turn off – my casting brain – so if I meet you for the first time and I’m looking at you funny, just know your image is going into my head and that there is maybe potential to use you in a future episode of some show. I stock images away. Really, everyone I’ve ever met or seen is at risk of me asking them if they’re interested in being on screen at some point.

What is your favorite film?

My favorite film is the next one we are in the process of developing right now, Chesapeake

What films are you excited to see at the Virginia Film Festival this year?

I’m really excited about 20,000 Days On Earth because as an artist, I’m very drawn to understand another’s creative process. And, a short film, Farewell Old Stringy, that was produced by the talented Lauren Lukow and stars a phenomenal actor and friend of mine, Richard Warner.

Where do you go for a quick bite in C-Ville between screenings?

Just Curry… their butter chicken is mouth watering.  And, if there’s little time to eat between screenings, I’ll grab something from Market Street Market.

Where do you go for a post-film screening drink?

Mudhouse or Java Java for a nice cup of herbal tea. You do not want to be near me if I’ve had any caffeine… at least that’s what my family tells me.

Dinner and a movie, VFF 2014 weekend: What local eatery would you recommend for dinner?

Fellini’s – I love the ambience there, especially if it’s cold enough to have a fire – the booth by the window in front of the fireplace is just the coziest.