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Photo courtesy of Natalie Jane Harvie.

Casting Director Natalie Jane Harvie Discusses How Street Casting Led to Her CGA-Winning Telstra Ad ‘This is Footy Country’

It could be said that 2023 was the year of Natalie Jane Harvie, as she led the charge of Casting Guild of Australia (CGA) Award nominations.

Nominated for four of the prestigious industry awards (twice in both the Best Casting in a TVC and Best Casting in a TVC – Community categories), it was no surprise Harvie walked away with at least one trophy from the night.

Harvie’s agency, Citizen Jane Casting, was founded in 2010 and is based in the Eora Nation (Sydney, New South Wales). Despite being just over a decade old, Citizen Jane Casting has quickly established itself as a leading player in Australian TVC [television commercial] casting.

We recently sat down with Harvie to discuss street casting, audition advice and much more!

You started in the entertainment industry as a singer before turning to casting. Can you offer us a little insight into your journey to where you are today?

I was a professional singer until I was in my 30s. I was touring as a backing vocalist with some big names as well as trying to forge my own solo career. But, like acting, it’s a tough industry. After a while, I decided to start dabbling in some other career options as I wasn’t getting any younger.

I started working in event production and from time to time, that involved casting fashion shows, so that was my first taste of casting. Then a good friend of mine who was starting out as a commercial director at the time, Fiona McGee, suggested I do some street casting, so I started street casting for some of her early jobs and apparently, I had an eye.

From there it just snowballed until I realized I had become a casting director! I’m only just starting to lose the imposter syndrome, but it does still creep in from time to time. Fiona is now a hugely successful director—and we are still friends and still work together.

Citizen Jane Casting has gained a reputation for pulling together incredibly compelling, diverse casts. How do you go about finding talent?

As I started out in street casting, I always tend to apply that “real people” eye to every job. I love a great character and advertising loves fresh and new faces, especially for larger casts. In an ensemble, everyone is usually on screen for only a few seconds, so they need to make a visual impact quickly. We usually start with traditional talent and then bring in some street cast to round out the overall look and feel of the spot. But it is really script-dependent.

How—if at all—are you and the Citizen Jane team approaching casting differently in light of recent conversations surrounding equality, inclusion and representation?

Since I started in casting, this has always been important. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t being inclusive. Being a visual medium, advertising tends to highlight these issues early on and is instrumental in encouraging change. It is great to be a part of that shift.

Last year, you won the CGA Award for Best Casting in a TVC for your work on the Telstra ad, This is Footy Country. What unique challenges or delights did this brief present?

As this was shooting in Goulburn [New South Wales, Australia] and surrounds, we did a lot of community casting in those areas. We found some great characters including the lead, Jackie—she just epitomized a salt of the earth, Aussie country woman. When the director decided she would likely be driving a bus, that was a potential issue as the talent would probably actually need a bus license, [but it] turned out Jackie is a bus driver!

All the talent in that spot were unique and exciting to watch on screen—a mix of actors and street cast. We are really proud of that ad.

What did the CGA recognition and win mean to you and the team?

It’s always great to be recognized by your peers, but we also know every casting agency works just as hard and faces as many challenges on a daily basis—we work to strict deadlines and the pressure is real. We were lucky to have Telstra in our mix for this round of nominations as it was a great script, great director and very character-driven. But it was nice to be able to share the win and several drinks with my amazing team and our fellow casting community!

Given TVCs are your specialty, what advice do you typically offer actors who might be new to the medium?

Use any audition as pure experience. At the end of the day, especially with advertising, it will come down to a mix of good performances, looks and how the ad flows from one role to the next. So, lose the nerves and don’t place too much pressure on yourself. Just see it as an opportunity.

What’s a performance (or three!) you’ve been blown away by recently?

I watched The Holdovers the other night and Paul Giamatti was brilliant, as usual. Also, Sarah Snook in Succession—I’m gutted that it’s over, but can’t wait to binge the whole thing again. And let’s go with Jackie playing “Mick” in our Telstra ad!

Special thanks to Harvie for her time. Keep an eye on Citizen Jane Casting’s Facebook and Instagram pages for regular notices of upcoming open calls.

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