News Column

Inside a Philadelphia Casting Firm

August 19, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 19--DIANE HEERY, 58, and Jason Loftus, 38, of West Deptford, N.J., are partners in Heery Casting, a full-service casting firm on Cumberland Street near Almond in Kensington. It provides the entertainment industry with talent for film, TV and commercials. The firm received an Emmy nomination for outstanding casting for its work on the 2012 miniseries "Political Animals" on the USA Network. The awards will be presented Sept. 22. I spoke with Heery.

Q: How'd you get into the biz?

A: I started out as an actor and have a degree in theater from Temple. Then I fell into casting and realized it was a good fit.

Q: How's the biz model work?

A: We're unique because most casting directors are specialized. They only do films or television or commercials. In a market like Philadelphia, we do everything because business ebbs and flows.

Q: How much do services cost?

A: For a feature film, it depends on the size of the budget, the amount of casting involved and how wide a search we have to do.

Q: What distinguishes you from other casting firms?

A: We really know talent; we understand what [producers] need and can get the right people.

Q: Can you give me an example?

A: On M. Night Shyamalan's movie "The Last Airbender," we only casted the principals, but producers ran into a challenge with extras. The [fantasy adventure] film centered around tribal villages of different ethnicities, and one village was supposed to be Japanese. They couldn't find older Japanese actors, and three days later we found 50.

Q: Where did you find them?

A: During World War II there was a Japanese internment camp in South Jersey. And many never left after the war, so there's a huge Japanese culture center in Seabrook [Cumberland County].

Q: How many employees?

A: Right now, we have four. When we did the movie "Invincible," we hired eight additional [freelance] people. So it varies.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the business?

A: The film-tax credit makes Pennsylvania competitive with the rest of the country. The almighty dollar dictates where a project shoots. This past year the film-tax-credit program was way too successful.

Q: What do you mean?

A: It's a fiscal-year program from July 1 to June 30. We had so many movies filmed here from [July 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2012] and Pittsburgh probably had six or seven. So we burned through the tax credits in six months.

Q: The film industry here wants the credit expanded, right?

A: A bill was on the table to uncap the program, but it didn't move. This isn't about Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Films are shot all over the state. Studies show this program creates net revenue for the state. It's about being competitive with Louisiana, Connecticut and Georgia, some of our main competitors.

" @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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