Casting Networks® is thrilled to spotlight female trailblazers in the casting industry who educate and improve the entertainment landscape as a whole. Casting is a pivotal process in storytelling, putting together the worlds we see onscreen, and consequently influencing how we see people offscreen. There are countless women in casting who go above and beyond to ensure proper representation in television, film and theater projects. Please join us as we continue to honor powerhouse professionals every month going forward. Next up: Casting Director Heidi K. Eklund.
Eklund began her career on the other side of the table. She performed in countless off-Broadway theaters in New York City, primarily as an ensemble member of the Irondale Ensemble Project, and earned her Equity card. After a transition and dabbling as a skydiver in upstate New York, she found herself as the casting coordinator at Vassar College. Flash forward—Eklund is now the owner of the beloved Hudson Valley Casting. Through her company, she has served as the casting director for numerous independent films and other commercial projects, recently including work on Netflix’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and the upcoming film, “The Hating Game.”
Calling upon her own experience as an auditioner, Eklund treats every actor that comes in with a knowing kindness. The Hudson Valley talent continues to be a beacon of light in the entertainment industry, championing artists and uplighting everyone around her along the way. Eklund was kind enough to speak to us about getting started in the business, her best advice and more.
On her early start in casting:
“I broke into casting while working at Vassar College. As an actor, I was bothered by the casting in the student projects. The students didn’t have access to appropriate talent. I asked if it would be welcomed for me to organize a casting call. The late Ken Robinson, who was on faculty for filmmaking and screenwriting classes, saw this as an excellent opportunity for the department. After a year, we started working with SAG-AFTRA talent and really saw an improvement in the quality of the projects. At this time, Vassar began entering projects into festivals and had great success. I cast student films at Vassar from 2005 until 2019 (even after I had moved on from my assistant position). I became known as a casting expert in the Hudson Valley region, and branded Hudson Valley Casting/Heidi Eklund Casting. Amy Hutchings and I work together and have since 2013, but we are each our own casting company.”
Her best advice for breaking into casting:
“For anyone trying to break into casting, I suggest knowing who everyone is in all aspects of the industry, especially actors — get your industry publication subscriptions and read. Watch all the shows that are trending, get on IMDb and look up people — find out what they are doing, look at an actor’s social media and find out what they are up to and where they are based.”
“To get that first job, try starting in background casting on a SAG-AFTRA feature so you can learn all the legal aspects of casting from labor law to SAG-AFTRA rules. There is much to learn, and I recommend learning under someone who knows the ropes. I take on interns who desire to learn casting and have about 1-4 interns per semester for college credit.”
How Heidi kept us inspired during the pandemic:
The kind-hearted casting professional united women and leapt into action at the top of the pandemic. “When the shutdown happened and our country was struggling to cover the faces of the healthcare workers, I was on fire inside!” she told us. “I wanted to help, and I knew I could sew, so I started to reach out to friends on Facebook and a group of truly amazing women assembled to create Sew Masks Hudson Valley. I must mention them all: Laura Dowling Shea, Sunny Edelman, Kristen Anne Ferraro, Kim Elizabeth Kiernan and Maureen Constable.”
“We had such an outpouring of people who just wanted to help, and the six of us organized getting fabric and supplies to the sewists and then finished masks to send to hospitals and groups who needed them,” she continued. “We were able to create and administer over 1,000 masks during the crisis, and further donated our supplies to Croton Face Masks Makers when the PPE finally came for healthcare workers and the public and the urgency had subsided.”
Eklund is also a founding board member of Upstate NY Women in Film & Television (UPWIFT) and continues to assist the women-based nonprofit. “I was inspired to have the opportunity to create a place in our growing film community that focused on the amazing women who work tirelessly to move forward in this still very male-oriented industry.”
Above all, Eklund reminds us that “Humans are good,” saying, “This is always something to keep in your mind and in your heart.” She loves helping others, which is why the creative process of casting appeals to her. The creative has also studied yoga and shatsu, and is now training to be a well-being coach through Anthropedia.
Robert Peterpaul is a writer and actor who can be seen in James Franco’s film “King Cobra,” T-Mobile ad campaigns, and Amazon Prime’s “New Dogs, Old Tricks.” Other career highlights include working on NBC’s “Access Hollywood” and “America’s Got Talent,” BUILD Series, writing for HuffPost, and his family’s nonprofit, the Thomas Peterpaul Foundation, which aims to end pediatric cancer. Robert currently serves as the weekend editor for HOLA! USA. He’s studied at the Barrow Group, Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, UCB and earned a B.A. from Marist College (go, Red Foxes!). Robert thanks you for reading and hopes you’ll follow your bliss! www.robertpeterpaul.com