Interview with Casting Director Sylvia Hutson

Actress Sylvia Hutson

Actress Sylvia Hutson

TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is thrilled to introduce actress and Talent Agent Sylvia Hutson to all of our readers. Sylvia, we understand that you were born in Ireland before coming to America. Please tell us about your early days there and the training that you undertook for your career.

SH- I grew up in Northern Ireland in a small town called Tandragee in Co-Armagh.  I began singing with numerous  Dance Bands, Choirs and performing solo at Cabarets and Concerts  at  age 6 until I left Ireland to move overseas as an adult.  I did some acting in the local community, but  acting work became limited due to the “troubles’ in Northern Ireland. I studied music at the Trinity College of Music Dublin.

TAEM- Your first step into Hollywood was as a set costumer for the well known TV series ‘The F.B.I. Files’. What did your work involve and what were your responsibilities for this production.

SH-I interviewed with New Dominion Pictures in 1999 and became the Set Costumer after my training for all the shows produced  until 2005. My responsibilities included picking wardrobe for each actor, dressing the actors, wardrobe continuity, purchasing wardrobe for shows, and making sure the show ran as smooth as possible.

TAEM- For the next four years you specialized in costume design and your work was seen in such television series as ‘Diagnosis-Unknown’, ‘The Prosecutors: In Pursuit of Justice’, Critical Rescue’, and ‘The New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science’. How did your work help in the success in these well known productions?

SH- We would average 15-25 scenes per day on these shows and it was my job to ensure that things went smoothly, i.e.: actors being dressed correctly for the scene, making sure they were on set in a timely manner, luckily I can multi task (maybe its ADD),  being able to dress an actor in the trailer/or on location, run to set to make sure the costumes were in place and being worn correctly in the scene for continuity, also making sure they were of the correct era being shot. All of that contributed to smoothness of the production.

TAEM- The acting bug finally bit you and for the next few years we first saw you perform in ‘The Road Virus Heads North’, ‘Summer Dreams’, and ‘Judges’. How exciting was this for you and what were the themes behind these projects?

SH- I grew up acting but it was always on stage. Then when I came to the states the TV/Film bug hit me. “The Road Virus Heads North” was probably the most exciting process; I had submitted my headshot and resume after seeing the audition notice, I remember it like it was yesterday. I received a call from the producer on  Tuesday asking me to come and audition in NYC that Friday  and of course I said yes, then immediately became terrified for two reasons: This was a Stephen King Film (of whom I am a huge fan), and I had never been to NYC. So I called my friend Sharon and said can we do a road trip to NYC and she jumped on it, we rented a car and we took off to NYC. The audition was so much fun, I spent a long time with the Director and Producer and then later that evening they called me to ask if I could come back to read again and I said of course. I came back to Virginia and for about a month did not hear a thing so thought I did not book it. I received the call that I booked the gig while I was in an ALLTEL store and squealed so loud I scared the lady helping me. I was flown to a really neat town in Ohio called Athens to shoot the film.

“Summer Dreams” was a beautiful film shot locally by a writer in Norfolk and I had the opportunity to act with one of my favorite actors and friend Mike Lemelle, the story was so powerful.

“Judges” was one of my first films and I enjoyed it immensely especially watching everything that was going on around me on the set.

TAEM- You then played in ‘Terminal Short’, ‘Life’s Other Side’, ‘In the Pines’, and ‘Cold Feet’. Tell our readers about these productions and the roles that you played in them.

SH-“Terminal Short” was shot by one of our extremely talented directors in our area Hunter Thomas, she asked me to be a Detective and I also ended up doing wardrobe and makeup. “Life’s Other Side” I was chosen by another one of my favorite directors Tommy Brandon to play the Housekeeper Millie, it was a summer endowment film and we had a wonderful time shooting it, In regards to “Cold Feet” the director Jeff Dear and writer Julianne Carson called me and said we have a screen play and are writing a role in it that we want you to play so again I said of course.

“In the Pines” written and directed by the very talented Chip Johnson was again one of those wonderful moments when an actor gets a call saying we wrote a role with you in mind.  All of these productions were a lot of fun to be a part of. When it’s a good character I cannot say no.

TAEM- During this period you also were the set costumer for three episodes of the television series, ‘Psychic Witness’. How were you able to handle this work and your acting too?

SH- I was very lucky that I had a boss at New Dominion Lance Culpepper who was extremely understanding when I had an acting gig to do. When I commit to a show I do not take any other jobs that would conflict with the production of that show. The shows were too complicated to pass along to someone else during  shoot days, so I did have to turn down some jobs.

TAEM- You also hit upon another high note in your career and worked as a Casting Director. What were your responsibilities in this field of work?

SH- That was such a high note in my career. I had been casting and directing stage shows for years and helping out local film writers with casting their independent films, so I had gained valuable experience. When I was asked to be the main casting agent it was an honor to be part of the film. I had to match actors to characters, send out casting notices, drive to Richmond several times a week to run auditions,  do callbacks, and finally cast everyone. I also did the extras casting for the films which involved securing a large amount of actors for the productions.

TAEM- This new direction began in 2009 with ‘A Gift Devine’ and ‘Border Town’. How different was this for you as opposed to the other work that you did behind, and before, the camera?

SH- “Border Town” was my first big professional casting gig, so at the time I was asked to cast it,  I admit I was frightened  to be in charge of casting such a big film, but I always love challenges and they had faith in me, so I gave it my all and we produced a really fantastic finished product. Chris Williams the director and Lukas Krost one of the producers were easy going and very supportive. The hardest part of that film was its  setting in Mexico, so the work we needed to put in finding the talent was challenging.

When I was asked to do “A Gift Devine”, it was a period piece about one of my favorite artists and was fun to cast, it was challenging in some areas as it was set in Italy.

In both films we had to find actors who were fluent in the language of the countries they were set in, even though both were shot in Virginia.

TAEM- In this past year you pursued your new found career with relish and your work in ‘Henry’, ‘Lost Without Ashton’, and ‘The Bill Collector’ bore fruit. Tell us about these productions and your involvement with them.

SH- With these three productions, I was asked by the directors and writers to send my talent for auditions and put those that could not make the auditions in person on tape and was delighted that so many of them got cast in the productions. For “The Bill Collector” I also helped in securing extras (as many as 50-100 on some days) to fill in background. I have found it is harder to get extras in this business more so than main characters. But again I am extremely lucky in the fact that my actors always go out of the way to help out when I have a project going on, they come through every time.

TAEM- Your niche assured you continued in this new light and worked with eleven episodes of the popular television series, ‘FBI: Criminal Pursuit’. You seemed to have reached your zenith with this series. Tell us how accomplished you felt with it.

SH- M2 Pictures approached me when they first started up 4 years ago with their new Television show “Wicked Attraction” and secured my agency as their primary agency for hiring the actors. They had the premiere of the first episode in 2008 and had a huge opening night party. Seeing my actors up on the screen was the best feeling an agent could have. With the success of “Wicked Attraction”, then followed “FBI Criminal Pursuit”, we just wrapped the second season of that show a couple of weeks ago and are getting ready to wrap the fourth season of Wicked Attraction and again to see my actors on television makes me feel extremely proud and accomplished.

TAEM- You also have another project in the works, ‘To Hell and Back’. Can you tell us something about it?

SH- Victor Dowell, who is one of my personal friends as well as one of my actors, approached me and had me read the script and asked if I would help him out with it. When I read the script I fell in love with it and told him to count me in with whatever he needed me to do. So we held auditions and then shot the trailer, I actually did wardrobe on it to help them out, as with most independent productions there is little to no money for trailers. During the process I found out it was actually a true story about Victor’s family so it became even more near and dear to my heart. Chip Johnson (In the Pines) also directed and edited the trailer and I called in favors with other crew members and actors I have worked with over the years, it was such a successful shoot. We did secure Omar Gooding as one of the characters when we go to shoot the main film. We are still raising money for the film and I really hope we get the money raised and shoot the film; it is such a wonderful heart lifting story.

TAEM- We also understand that you teach TV Camera Acting and founded your own talent agency based in Virginia called the Hutson Talent Agency. Pleas tell us all about these other aspects of your life.

SH- I taught TV/Film acting at a family theatre in Norfolk called The Hurrah Players from 1996 to 2009 every Monday evening. But as my business grew, it became harder to get away early to teach at the theatre school.

As a teacher I used to bring in area agents to meet my students and would sometimes help the agents when they called and needed certain child roles hired for acting gigs. So with the encouragement of my fellow actors, casting directors and friends I decided to open my own agency.  During the filming of Terminal Short is when the idea was first put in my head by my fellow actors and crew members. I was growing a little weary of traveling and the long hours that goes along with doing wardrobe so when NDP was going on hiatus, I decided there was no time like the present. I did not want to be 10 years down the road and wonder “what if”.  It has been an unbelievable ride, the growth of my business; the love and generosity of my actors are a blessing to me each and every day. I love, love, love what I do and there is no bigger high in the world than calling an actor to tell them they have booked the role, I think sometimes I get more excited than they do. My philosophy is to treat people how I want to be treated and I try to do that with all my actors as well as clients. Life is entirely too short to be mean and ugly to people, it’s so much easier to be nice.

TAEM- Sylvia, your proven talent and drive truly amazes us at The Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and we want to thank you for your time with our interview. Our readers will certainly be thrilled to learn all about you, and I hope that you will keep in contact with us for all your future endeavors.