A Few Thoughts, Future Plans and Especially, Thank You’s As I Leave Casting.

While on vacation in Maui this past week, I made the decision to end my time in casting after 31 years. So rather than just disappear, I thought I’d write something to some of the many wonderful people who have shared the journey with me on this long and somewhat winding road and also share my future plans beyond casting.

As I sit here writing this on the plane coming home, I’m thinking back to when I started in casting in 1985 in my native Los Angeles. I remember the day I walked (temporarily….or so I thought!) into the offices at Anderson, McCook & White Casting in the old Lucasfilm headquarters at the historic Egg Company Building at the base of the hill at Universal Studios in the neighborhood where I grew up. By then, I was a full-time musician for hire playing drums in various recording studios by day on jingles and demos and live performance situations by night. But after several years of doing this, I had reached the age of 26 years old and was finding the music business VERY political and complicated significantly by the influence of cocaine. Producers were becoming more and more inclined to hire based on whether or not players brought it to sessions to share. Since this definitely wasn’t my thing, I was finding the situation of my day gigs to be more and more of a toxic environment. I had grown up the son of a professional musician as my father Paul was a noted conductor. His friends and accomplices included influences like Zubin Mehta, Marilyn Horne, John Williams who’s brother was my first drum teacher and I remember actually speaking to Igor Stravinsky on the phone but didn’t know at the time who he was! Anyway, it was always assumed from the time I was small and exhibited a knack for music that I’d be a professional one day. As a boy, I had sung with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, the San Francisco Opera Company, a Tide commercial, the soundtrack of “The Godfather” and the Disney “Small World” album. The road to the drums was quick and necessary when my voice changed and I went from being a great boy-soprano soloist voice to just a decent ensemble voice in my teens. I was a working musician playing drums from the age of 16 on from there. And I’ve kept it up my whole life as the calling to be a musician is not optional when it happens. So I’ve appreciated the flexibility that I’ve enjoyed to close the office and either go on the road or into the studio and play with artists like David Benoit, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Michael Tomlinson, Doug MacLeod, Mycle Wastman and Taylor Mesple’. I’ve even gigged with Andy Williams!

But on this day, casting director Nancy McCook, a dear friend of our family whom I had known since I was born, had asked me to come in and help cast a Volkswagen for Mexico spot for the day. After showing me how to operate the 3/4” tape machines and the camera, I was soon running an audition requiring two couples per audition slot. It felt very natural to me having frequently directed  rehearsals for many of the bands in which I had found myself over the years. Growing up the son of a conductor, I also had first-hand experience watching my dad direct his own rehearsals. So it all felt pretty natural to me. A few days later, they asked me to come in again as I didn’t have a session to play that day and after a few more of these, Nancy and her partner, Catherine White offered me a job as their assistant. The seminal casting company of Anderson, McCook & White was started by casting pioneer Maxine Anderson when the studio system dissolved. Nancy had been her partner and Catherine had been a client but came on board as a partner when Max passed away. Each time they asked, I kept telling them that I was a musician. But each time, my heart was less and less in my answer. So after one particularly unpleasant recording session, I accepted the job with Nancy and Catherine provided I could still get away and still play sessions with the less political cohorts on days when we weren’t casting. It wasn’t long before I was turning away most of my drumming accounts and suggesting other players to the producers and contractors who were calling. Eventually, I was casting full-time during the days and playing in live situations at night for the love of it. (Much easier to do in your 20’s!)

Believe it or not, I found there was a LOT less politics in the casting business than in the music business! I enjoyed working with the actors and felt very protective over them given that they were walking into a situation that was vulnerable for most of them. And since I had invited them in, I felt ESPECIALLY responsible for their artistic and emotional safety while they risked the trials of the audition process. So I always tried to make it the best experience I could whether they got the job or not. Besides the stimulation of the casting work, the conversations with Nancy and Catherine were incredibly interesting and I learned so much about actors and acting, film-making, theater, story-telling, character-development, direction and the criteria for having a script that worked. Given that they were both 20 and 30 years older than I and female, they usually had a completely different take on things and viewing the world through their eyes was such a great learning experience. They told me that they wouldn’t pay me very much but they would teach me everything they could about casting. And they were true to their words! There were times, they would put me on the phone with agents for over-scale, celebrity talent in negotiating situations where they would sit opposite me and if I got into trouble and didn’t quite know what to say, they would prompt me and I learned to negotiate over time. They tutored me on the basics like union contracts and how to work with them, making sure the actors we brought in were clear for work with the union, writing clear Taft Hartley requests for waiver, quoting clients the rates and practices, disseminating breakdowns to agents in a really clear way and how to assess actors. They’d ask my opinions on things and then give me theirs. I was able to see where I had been limited in some of my impressions and include the greater perspective they brought with their experience in the business.

Nancy, Stephen, CatherineBetween them, they had some 85 years combined in the casting, talent agency and advertising agency sides of the business. Nancy started out an agent at what is now KMR Talent Agency, and then moved to casting partnering with Maxine. Catherine had been vice president in charge of talent at one of the biggest ad agencies in New York and also been on several of the American Association of Advertising Agencies negotiating teams that hammered out a number of the successful SAG contracts that governed work during the 60’s and 70s. She knew them all intimately. In addition, Catherine’s husband Larry White started his career directing television in is infancy, was head of programming for NBC in the 1970’s during one of their big heydays, Vice President of Columbia Pictures Television and was an independent producer of note. To this day, I’d put Larry White in first place as the most intelligent person I’ve ever met! He would have been my “go-to-guy” as a lifeline in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!” They all generously mentored me in every possible sense of the word. And we discussed pretty much everything but especially things related to casting like the actors that came in and those we had seen in movies or on television, what we liked or didn’t like about them, their strengths and liabilities, how to present actors to clients, how to watch what I was filming as if I was the client who would be watching it and so much more. They taught me how to anticipate problems above and below me in the food chain so that I could protect everyone as much as possible from any issues arising. They taught me about billing clients, bidding projects and marketing. They let me make mistakes that with their corrective oversight, were never felt by our clients which is crucial to the apprenticeship process. As Nancy always used to say after one of them, “listen, you only have to make that mistake once!” There isn’t space enough here to adequately tell you what they gave me over the four years of my intensive apprenticeship with them. They were my lifelong friends and occasional colleagues over the years when we got the chance to work on the same projects after I moved away and started my own firm. Nancy passed away in 2009 and Catherine, last year. I miss them a lot but always feel them around me whenever I think of them! And their influence was in absolutely every job I’ve ever done.

Eventually, I outgrew my next position as a casting associate as there wasn’t room for a partner which would normally have been the next step at AMW. In 1988, the Writer’s Strike locked up the town pretty tightly and movement to another casting job anywhere else was impossible. One day while stuck in traffic trying to go south on the San Diego Freeway in the Sepulveda pass, an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning as it literally felt like something hitting me! I could just move away from Los Angeles! The traffic and crowding were much worse than when I was growing up and I didn’t own a home yet and wasn’t married so I could literally pick up and go wherever I wanted. I figured I could find work as a musician or work in production somewhere else as they probably only had actors in towns like LA and NY and I sure wasn’t moving to New York! So I figured working in casting was probably out of the question wherever I was going! I didn’t want to freeze to death, wanted cultural diversity and a flourishing arts scene so it had to be a fairly decent-sized metropolitan area. I came up to Seattle to visit during the summer of 88 and fell in love with the place. A client of ours at AMW set up a meeting for me with the number one commercial director in Seattle at the time and he suggested I move here and start a casting company. I was surprised they had such a flourishing production market and lots of actors! While I was a bit trepidatious about starting my own firm, I had met the two leading casting directors in Seattle on my trip and was gratified that while I had nowhere near as much experience as Nancy and Catherine, the previous 4 and half years imbued me with at least twice the volume of work all the local CD’s had and mine was from a much larger market. After discussing the situation with Nancy and Catherine, they endorsed my readiness to start my own firm up in Seattle and I moved up in November of 88. I opened Complete Casting by Stephen Salamunovich exactly 27 years ago to the day on May 19th of 89 after building out my first office on Third Avenue with a guy who’s now the Dean of Bellevue Community College. Catherine thought up the name of the company as “Salamunovich” Casting would have choked people and “S” was pretty far down in the alphabet for various trade directory listings. Within the first year, I was doing the majority of work in the market and having a blast working with a very large talent pool as there was more theater in Seattle per capita than any city outside of New York. Work was plentiful as there were nationally-known production companies based in Seattle who were doing lots of industrials and bidding for and bringing home national commercials along with the movies of the week and features that used to come into the market. I was part of a family large film community of trained professionals who all together, provided an attractive infrastructure to bring productions into the area. Business was good enough to have done close to more than 4000 projects over the past 31 years my has career lasted.

Over the 27 years since I’ve been in Seattle, I’ve seen the business change drastically, going from vibrant and healthy to barely sustainable with a very few notable exceptions. Mind you there are definitely things shooting in Seattle! But with the advent of pro-sumer cameras and cheap editing software, the business has now become the domain mostly of people with day jobs who moonlight at below-market rates (or free!) on productions. Rates that have irreparably dropped the pay scale for the career professionals who are stuck trying to compete and still be profitable. They’ve completely changed the way business is done as the apprenticeship model for getting into all areas of the business, has now pretty much disappeared. And now people who mostly made it up as they went along are teaching what they DON’T know to a new crop of people and perpetuating their ignorance. And the lineage back to the professionally-trained producers and crew people, is all but invisible in the rear-view mirror. And most of these producers assume they know how it’s done because they’ve managed to make it through a few productions without anybody saying anything contrary to them about the path they took. Many of them don’t have any idea what a casting director can actually do for them since they’d rather just post directly to actors on callboards or Craigslist and pay talent by the number of hours they expect to have them on the set!! The least efficient way to cast in the world but that’s the future! And it obliterates the standards for proper payment to the actors as many people now making commercials, just offer them the hollow value of “exposure” having no idea that this is a liability for actors in commercial projects! For the past two years, I’ve turned away far more jobs than I’ve taken. That’s because the rates producers want me to offer to the actors are so scathingly low, I’d have to abandon my responsibility and gratitude to them for the fact that I’ve had a career all these years. If I took these jobs on and put out those paltry talent payment rates, they’d quickly become the new “low” on their way to a newer and lower, “low. Unfortunately, someone else who has no idea what the work really should be paying, takes it on as a “casting director” with little or virtually no training or background in the business except that they survived a few productions and got away with it not realizing what the true criterion actually was to be a trained casting director. Or, out of town producers bring in CD’s from outside the market who require the added expense of being flown in and housed to “discover” a talent pool those of us local professionals already know in detail and have logged in our databases. I know that my fellow, local casting professionals must be feeling some of the same influences and I want to express to them it’s been a privilege serving along side them all. And I wish them well as they continue the “good fight” without me.

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit like sour grapes. But my main intent here is more in the direction of a cautionary tale about the future of the industry. Having had so much respect for the honorable profession of casting the way it was taught to me, the prices I paid to learn the ropes and for what I DIDN’T yet know even after four years of apprenticeship, you can imagine how much respect I have for someone who just decides they’re a “casting director” today because someone asked them to find some actors to be in their production! I’m sure they think that anyone with a reasonably sound opinion on who’s a good actor, would make a fine casting director without any training otherwise. Now this would all be harmless if I could have operated in a vacuum where these falling rates and unprofessional casting executions by others, didn’t affect my situation. But we all get affected when people don’t charge sustainable rates and/or,  they botch jobs that could have gone to proven professionals which chases potential clients away who end up thinking this is what casting actually is! So most just decide to do it themselves next time and omit a CD from the equation as a useless expense. As such, I’m certain a professionally-sustained career as a trained casting director in secondary markets like Seattle, is soon doomed for extinction. And these same forces are exacting the results of “natural selection” in Los Angeles and New York as well. And since the practice of merely sitting behind one’s computer and asking actors to audition and film themselves is now firmly taking root, the “director” part of the title is now also a vanishing art form of casting.

While I was vacationing in Mexico this past February and in Maui the past two weeks, I had taken on a few jobs that became especially problematic because of issues created by inexperienced clients that wasted huge amounts of my time which was more aggravating because I was trying to be on vacation. And both projects had rates that I had to struggle to pull up to the current market rates as clients are now all wanting to pay less than those rates for the reasons above. I’m sure that if I hadn’t had so much experience working with so many fellow pros who knew their stuff over the years, I’d have the necessary patience that I’m finding more and more is required to deal with it. After this latest one I prepped and oversaw from Maui that I should have been able to complete before I left, I finally decided that it was time to put a period on the end of my casting career, I and move on to my next adventures.

I’ve had amazing experiences with so many people over the years. I’ve done so many creatively rewarding projects and many incredibly challenging ones that required my best possible efforts to make it look easy to my clients so they’d never feel the pain. I’ve been privileged to be the first and one of only three casting directors working outside of New York or Los Angeles to win the Casting Society of America’s highest honor, the Artios Award as a principal-position CD. I’ve worked with wonderful clients whom I consider friends and for whom it’s been an absolute pleasure to have served. There are so many great producers on whom I’ve relied over the years who really know their stuff and have regularly made my life easier with their grace under pressure, intelligence, professionalism and vast experience. And working in a secondary market where budgets are smaller, I’ve regularly worked with talented directors who are true artists and can make a five figure budget, look like six or more with their artistry and ingenuity.

And I’ve especially enjoyed working with so many great agents over the years all around the world but especially in Seattle and Los Angeles. They’ve been the people who were regularly with me in the trenches and probably number in the mid-hundreds by now. I’m very grateful to those agents who have made my life much easier and absolutely forgive those who made it more complicated from time to time as well!

 And I hope they’ll forgive me for the times when I was short on patience for the occasional mistakes EVERYONE makes. Including me! On so many occasions, I’ve asked the impossible from them when it’s been asked of me. And they’ve come through time and time again, moving mountains to get submissions in and actors to auditions on the shortest of notice. Even after hours and on weekends and holidays. I’m so very grateful to them all!

But MOSTLY and appropriately, I’ll miss the actors who have auditioned with me who now number in the hundreds of thousands. You guys are a truly special bunch who courageously step into the light to reveal the human condition against no shortage of stacked odds. Your partnership has been crucial to me professionally and personally. I’ve run into people I know from my work, all over the world! I’ve given many people, their first jobs on-camera including no shortage of people who are now household names. I’ve been so grateful that actors have come in to audition and helped make me look good with my clients over and over. And among them, I’ve found so many friends with whom I’ve had a chance to share the path over the years in that vulnerable and sacred space where actors reveal themselves in the audition. A space I’ve always tried to make as safe as possible for them. I’m truly grateful for the trust they’ve regularly placed in me there standing on the “skinny branches” of life. And it’s not inaccurate to say that I have grown to love so many of them! I’ve never taken them for granted and have tried to have their backs and support them at every turn while fighting with clients on better rates and hours, honoring every SAG strike that happened over the years, trying to help with career advice whenever asked and standing up against the “pay to audition” workshop scams that prey on actors. Without the actors, I wouldn’t have had a gig all these years and that’s never been lost on me. They will always have my eternal gratitude for their partnership with me. What I will absolutely miss most of all, is spending time with them helping provide an environment to bring out their artistry and to catch up on what’s going on in their lives.

Johnny Carson used to talk about his agent “Bombastic Bushkin” and I’m sure that many people thought this was some made up character. But there really is a Henry Bushkin and he has a law firm that specialized in representing clients who were celebrity athletes and entrepreneurs branching out into celebrity endorsement opportunities. Back in 1988, he sent in Kareem Abdul Jabbar to our office and I helped him prepare for a Campbell’s Chunky Soup commercial written for him. That day with Kareem started my work as an executive presentational live performance coaching specialist which I’ve done over the years, working with professional athletes, chefs, political candidates, authors and entrepreneurs appearing on shows like “The Today Show, CBS This Morning, The Tonight Show, Good Morning America and on IPO’s and live appearances before groups. I’ve come up with coaching techniques that are rooted in my unique experiences of what works while presiding over close to a third of a million auditions helping actors get comfortable in what can be a fairly stressful situation. And there have always been a number of pressures requiring the quickest results to satisfy SAG time requirements, taping duplication and FedEx drop-off deadlines complicating that situation. These pressures have helped me hone the most efficient techniques to help my clients in the shortest amount of time. I’m in the final editing stages of my first book illustrating those techniques which are very different from the standard ones in the field. Since the casting work is always deadline-oriented, I’ve usually made time for the coaching work AROUND my casting work but I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Leaving casting will allow me the time to prioritize something that is very fulfilling for me and work with a wider range of people around the country and also live wherever I want. And I’ve never stopped working as a musician performing and recording with great artists. I’m looking forward to getting back to that more as the last two years required more family priorities that temporarily took me away from it. And I love teaching acting workshops I’ve designed to help actors break through their barriers at auditions which are quite different challenges than after actors already have the job!!

I truly hope that I can still cross paths with many of you who have shared the casting journey with me in some way over the years. Whether you know it or not, you’ve brought so much richness to my life and I truly hope I’ve contributed something positive to yours! With Great Gratitude and Love, Steve

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About Stephen Salamunovich CSA

Stephen Salamunovich CSA is a 31-year veteran, award-winning casting director who cast somewhere around 4000 projects in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest before leaving the profession in 2016. You can find his biography in the "Stephen's Bio" tab of the "About" button of this website.

40 Comments

  1. Daniel Brockley

    Thanks for everything you’ve done for actors and the entire film and t.v. community here in Seattle. I’m sorry to see you retire, but wish you the very best in this next phase of your life. (I have the sneaking suspicion there’s a book in you waiting to come out.)

    • George J. Ladas

      Steve you are such a great guy and Casting Director. You and your wonderful work will be greatly missed by all! I still remember first meeting you at a monthly meeting of the WFVA-The Washington Film and Video Association when you first moved here and it has been a pleasure and honor to know you ever since then. Your Complete Casting Co. always had the highest standards and will be greatly missed. At least now you will have more time to spend with the fabulous Sheila! Whatever you do next you will do it with excellence and great success! Cheers to you Steve!

  2. Steve, you will be greatly missed as a casting director. I was saddened to hear from Gordon Adams that you were retiring. You, without fail, exhibited great professionalism in your dealings with me, as well as other Seattle actors. Living in LA, as an actor I came in contact with a multitude of casting directors. Many (but not all) of them were consulate professionals, but none had a leg up on you and your approach to the business. As an acting coach I try to instill a professional approach in actors (on and off the set) as well as sound on-camera techniques. Much of that professionalism I learned from people like yourself and Jodie, Gordon, Becky, and Melissa at Big Fish, and my wonderful acting coach in LA, Glenn Haines. I wish you only the best in your future endeavors, and thank you for the excellence you brought to the Seattle acting scene. Again, you will be missed.

    • Thank you for all your help with the auditions I was fortunate enough to be asked to do by you. Especially this year’s GasX commercial where you cast me with an old friend from 38 years ago. Take care- much light onward! UPWARD- forward- in generative motion….Sincerely,
      Jodee

  3. Patrick Murphy

    Thank you Stephen for all you did. You are a class act and always treated me like I was special. Hope to see you in a musical performances in Leavenworth sometime. Good luck and put me on a mailing list for your book!

  4. Michele Phillips

    Steve, you are such a treasure to this market and industry. I am so glad to have had the chance to audition with you and wish you all the best in your retirement! Hugs, Michele Phillips

  5. Lee Ryan Machalica

    Stephen,
    Although I’m sad to hear that you’re retiring, I’m so glad that I got to spend time with you in your classes. Because of your willingness to be fully vulnerable with us, you created a place that we could drop our masks and reach down deep and find the raw truth and strength within ourselves. You helped us weave vulnerability into our performances, without losing our confidence.

    I don’t think that you allowed one person to leave your class without feeling that they really knew you as a human being, first, then as a teacher. Casting aside the casting, I hope that you’ll always offer classes. If nothing else, just to bless us.

  6. Allan Batchelder

    Thanks, Steve, for all you did for me — for always believing in me and treating me with respect. You are one of the best!

  7. Lizanne Schader

    What a fantastic letter! I’ve always felt a special connection to you because of our North Hollywood upbringing, but never got a chance to get to know you beyond the professional relationship (and I always LOVED auditioning at your office!). I will share this with my daughter as she is seriously considering crafting a college major in order to work in casting. You are a class act and, though Seattle will miss you, your legacy lives on and we all look forward to whatever comes next!

  8. Farewell Stephen, and best of luck to your on your new path.

    I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you in classes and on auditions, and count it a honor and privilege to have had your guidance through the years (especially in some of the more esoteric auditions).

    I will look forward to your book, because you are a great storyteller.

    While I am sad to see you go, I am grateful to have Valerie Mamches introduce you to me.

  9. Stephen!

    I must admit…while I am excited for the new adventures that lie ahead, I am also saddened at your retirement. The casting profession needs pioneers like you, and your voice has always been a powerful and profound part of the direction in which our community must steer itself. And I will miss that voice.

    Best of luck in all you do, and please stay in touch!

    To a golden road ahead. Cheers.

    Billy DaMota CSA

  10. Thank you, Steve.

  11. Steve,
    It’s been a pleasure and honor to audition for you and get to know you. As I expand my horizons and move from acting to other endeavors, I hope your next chapter will be just as rewarding.
    Good luck, and God bless.

  12. You are a beautiful human being and will be dearly missed! Thank you for the remarkable history you shared above. I can’t believe I’m so many degrees close to Stravinsky through knowing you!) Best wishes on your new adventures and thank you, always and forever, for your grace, candor and artistry.

  13. Dearest Steve,
    I am raising a toast to you, smiling back at your infectious grin and reflecting on the many memories I have with you over 25 of your 27 years in Seattle with affection, admiration and gratitude!
    It was around 1991 when I went on my first audition at your office on 3rd Ave and enjoyed my first of many long and rich conversations about life, dreams, industry and possibilities! Throughout my 20’s you generously offered guidance and mentorship. When I wanted to explore working “behind” the camera rather than as talent, you introduced me to a couple producers with whom you believed were a good match. I worked as a PA numerous times, thanks to you, and was humbled by the often grueling behind-the-scenes reality of the commercial industry and have since NEVER taken for granted the hard work done by those who are often paid the very least to make “us talent” look good! THANK YOU
    In my later 20s, as a college student, I was exploring my deeper passion for the culinary arts and considering leaving UW for Culinary school. At the time your brother had a restaurant in Vail, I believe, so you had insight to the challenges of the restaurant world. Ever the supportive friend and generous mentor, you offered me the opportunity to experiment small by hiring me to do some light breakfast catering when you had morning client meetings. I would bring in a selection of fresh fruit and baked goods then you’d give me some money to walk over to Cafe D’Arte to bring the clients lattes. THANK YOU.
    Around 30-something I was offered an opportunity to be a Spokesperson for a company merging the medical and fitness industries. They were sponsoring athletes and various teams and needed someone to be able to speak to the press. You shared your story of helping Kareem years earlier in LA and offered to do the same with me. An actress I am NOT, you put me on camera and helped me talk through the corporate messaging and coached me to be more genuine in my delivery. THANK YOU!
    At 40-something, with a son now 18 years old, you took my phone call while you and your beautiful bride were driving on a vacation and allowed me to ask for some direction guiding Jaeger to seek out and select the right acting agency. The timing was horrible, but you and Sheila graciously gave those moments to offer some “pearls”….and with you, Steve, always candor!!!
    Some friendships do not need constant nourishment because they were fed so richly at their beginning….you hold a very dear and deep place in my heart, Steve! Thank you for who you are….we are ALL blessed to have had our paths aligned with yours in this life!
    Angela Duff (formerly Hamilton;-)

  14. Steve, I’m not exactly sure for which I appreciate you more, your work as a CD or our “friendly theological debates” on FB! Either way, I definitely consider you a friend and mentor and greatly appreciate your humanness, professionalism and guidance in casting. Godspeed – Proverbs 3

  15. Best of luck Stephen! It was a real pleasure to get to know you. I remember once, you physically putting your work aside on a busy day and taking time to explain to me how to present commercial work on my resume. You gave me your FULL, unrushed attention and treated me like a professional. This was special because I know how busy a CD’s day gets – especially when in session. I never forgot that and want to thank you again. Great bio too. Thanks form taking the time to share it!
    J.P.

  16. Brandon Whitehead

    Thank YOU Steve. I always had fun and learned quite alot coming in to read. You are a gem. I hope your future is filled with love and happiness.

  17. I am rather speechless! You are indeed a treasure Steve……Everyone “In The Biz” will certainly miss your wonderful classes, you wit and smile! HAPPY RETIREMENT STEVE!!!! You deserve it!

  18. Stephanie Hilbert

    Wishing you All the Best in this new creative career chapter!
    You are inspirational! Thank you for all you have done over the years
    to contibute to the cultural vitality of Seattle!
    Cheers & Love
    Stephanie

  19. You will always be a cherished friend, Stephen. Thank you for all you have done for this industry. Much love and all the best!

  20. We’ll miss you Steve. Thanks for all your hard work, your support and the meriad of opportunities you have provided.
    David Natale

  21. Thank You ‘Katt’ for your years of service to us ‘Talent Types’.
    I still have an Agent and I still have a Union so we’ll see.
    Miami is as good a place as any to make a major decision concerning your casting career.
    Best & Regards,
    Rex (Whip) Long
    Still a Member in Good Standing with SAG-AFTRA
    One Union
    One Set ‘O’ Dues
    Can we just let the good times ROLL!!!???!!!

  22. Typing through tears for me but happy tears for you ❤️ As a new agent in Seattle, you spent so much time with me and welcomed the agency so warmly. When WA State eliminated their staff for the film office you were the first to cast me as I returned to acting. You surprised me as I was onstage as ‘Sister’ and created a fun and memorable moment that always brings a smile.
    As usual, you are so right about our industry and your retirement is a HUGE loss. You deserve the best that life can offer. Please continue, as you always do, with love and success ❤️ You are and will always be an original and I am so blessed to call you my friend ❤️

  23. Steve,
    As I have expressed to you personally, you are a dear friend and a great Casting Director and I know that your life is just beginning. While I am sad that we will not work together in this industry, I will expect that your next endeavor will be equally as successful and enjoyable. You always cared enough to “teach me” even when I didn’t want to learn. You made me strive to work harder for my talent and for you. Every chance we get in life we should embrace learning from those who are willing to spend the time to teach us and you always had time for the Bell Agency owner and her talent. I am grateful for you! I wish you all the best and I have to say, I am just a touch jealous of your ability to retire and seek new adventures. Best of luck and you know we will always be in touch!!

  24. Steve, thank you for getting me into some of the most memorable acting jobs I’ve had! You understood what I had to offer, and every gig was a great match! You will be greatly missed.

  25. Stephen,

    What an epic story. As an LA based actor who moved to Seattle in 2013, I personally have lived in the latter times you write about. When I moved to Seattle, I was excited about the opportunity to work in a new market. My very first audition was for you for a hosting gig on a cable show. From the moment I entered the first call until I left the second callback, I was excited about the market as you were a “pro.” My first impression of Seattle was that it would be a seamless transition as my experience with you was no different than what I was accustomed to reading for the top casting directors in LA. I would soon discover that I was spoiled early…

    I was put on hold for the project. That lasted 3 weeks. I was put in “1st Position.” That lasted another two weeks. I was then asked by my agent to consider a different rate. I thought the rate was low to begin with but, hey…I’m new to Seattle so why not just get a booking under my belt and I’d be off and running.

    It wasn’t until the next time I saw you that I realized the project was in tatters and amatuer all the way. HOWEVER…what stood out to me the most was that you remembered me when I waked in and immediately went out of your way to apologize for what happened and assured me that wasn’t how it normally goes in Seattle. What a professional.

    Each and every time I have read for you I truly felt great upon leaving and validated as an actor. That is a strength only the best CDs possess.

    SS, you will be missed in the community. While I only had 3 brief years to perform for you, it has left a lasting impression.

    Now that you are “clocked out,” I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and hear more about your journey. Thank you, Steve and the best of luck with your next adventure, wherever it takes you.

    Mike Butters
    SAG/AFTRA/ACTRA

  26. Steve,
    I am happy for you !!
    You have been my teacher, my boss, my co-worker, but above all, my friend in the industry. We have been at this a long time together. I will miss our business relationship, but know that you have great things to accomplish ahead of you. I also know that our friendship will last for a lifetime. I learned so much because of you, even when I didn’t want to. You taught me how to stick up for my talent, to believe I was the best and because of that I am still at it after all these years. I know you will take this next phase in your life by the horns … best to you Steve, you deserve it. Those of us left that have been here for what seems like an eternity will hold down the fort for as long as we can. I know people know how vital to the industry, our wonderful Seattle / Portland group of Casting Directors are! With all of my sincerity
    Colleen Bell – Bell Agency

  27. Thanks for a frank, informative post, sir, and for all you’ve done to improve the situation for actors and others here in the Pacific Northwest.

  28. Steve,

    Two weeks in Maui would make anyone quit their job. You’re a straight-up guy in a f*#*@! up business. Go do something cool.

    Andy Brown

  29. Victoria Drake

    You’re the best Stephen. I remember coming in to audition for you a few times, and I did book a commercial through your office – my first one actually, but alas, they cut my piece from the commercial 😉 Oh well, that’s showbiz. You’ve always been so professional, and of course, a fabulous Casting Director. I wish you the best as you move on to new horizons. Thank you for all you’ve done for us actors along the way. Take care and best wishes!!

  30. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you Steve! To share an audition room with you is to feel safe and encouraged in the work. Thank you for your multitude of gifts shared. Here’s to your next chapter…and when you finish it can I read it?! 😉

  31. Steve… thank you for accommodating this teacher’s wonky schedule, making me feel like a professional, and taking genuine interest in who I am. Whenever I was called for an audition with Complete Casting I got a warm feeling because I knew I’d get to see you and catch up a little. Thank you for investing in so many folks, so many careers. Every good wish as you pursue your new/renewed path.

  32. Hi Stephen,

    I remember coming into that office on 3rd Ave back in the early 90s with Juan Sanchez and Eric Ollenburg, goof-off models attempting to turn actors we were… You always put up with us and got good results on camera.
    I looked forward to a casting with you and enjoyed talking about our mutual passion, sailing.
    My wife, Kirsten Turk, has fond memories of working with you as well. Thank you for all you have done.

    See you around,

    David X.

  33. “If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello” – Paulo Coehlo

    Steve,
    I have been auditioning for you for over 25 years. You’ve always greeted us with a glorious smile. I think you knew how unnatural the auditioning process could be and you wanted to put us at ease. Thank you for your many years of hard work, expertise, and kindness. You will be missed!

    Julie Stevens

  34. Steve,
    I’ve always admired your ability to communicate. Written or oral , your words are purposeful and clear.
    I’m looking forward to reading your first book and follow what’s next in your life.

  35. You are one of the really solid folks in the Seattle scene bona fortuna

  36. Steve,
    I can’t thank you enough for all your guidance, support and patience over the years. It’s crazy to think how long ago it was when mum first brought me into your office. I remember thinking, what in the hell am I doing, I’m not an actor! 🙂 Thank you for thinking otherwise and encouraging me through it all. Thanks for being such a good friend and ally to mum as well, she still does and always will hold a very special place in her heart for you! You are a kind generous man who deserves all the best. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us all these years…here’s to sharing the other gifts that have been silenced for a little while and all the years they now have to shine 🙂 Enjoy the hell out of it!

  37. Seems like only yesterday when mum first brought me to your office. I remember thinking what am I doing, I’m not an actor! If it wasn’t for you I would never have pursued it or kept on trying…I can’t thank you enough for believing in me when I didn’t! You are such a genuine, honest, caring person Stephen…something this world needs more of. Mum always held you in high regard and still has great respect for you. You will always hold a special place in her heart as in mine. The close of one heck of a chapter and the beginning of one new exciting adventure. Congratulations, enjoy the heck out it! You deserve the best!!

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