Philadelphia

Philadelphia is more than its cheesesteaks. Recently it has been home to many major studio films, such as "Limitless," "The Lovely Bones," "The Last Airbender," and "Law Abiding Citizen." Though this is partly due to a great production tax credit, the diverse city draws projects for other reasons as well, say local casting directors.

"We have an amazing variety of locations," says Diane Heery of Heery Casting. "Our surrounding suburbs are amazing, and you can have Iowa farmland 15 minutes outside of Philadelphia." Adds Heery's partner Jason Loftus, "Philly is great because we can look like New York. We're also unique because we're such an old city that our architecture is very diverse. We can look like a lot of different places." Loftus notes that recently "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" used Bethlehem, Pa., to double as Shanghai.

Many actors who live in the Philadelphia area work in three different markets: Philadelphia, New York, and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area, where series such as "Homicide" and "The Wire" were shot. "We're only an hour and a half outside of New York and about an hour and a half to Baltimore going the other way," says Heery. "So we have a nice-sized talent pool for projects when productions come here."

Casting director Susan Gish of Philadelphia Casting says that because of its location, Philadelphia is also a great theater town: "A lot of actors can't afford to live in New York, so they come down to Philly, which is only an hour and a half away, and start their own theater company. Therefore, we have some incredible ones."

Gish is often impressed by how fast Philadelphia actors can switch mediums. "Here an actor does it all," she says. "One morning they might have an audition in New York for Shakespeare, a noon film audition in Philly, and in the same afternoon they could have an audition for a hoagie commercial in D.C. I appreciate that our actors can go from one medium to the next in a second as far as acting and understand the difference in the technical aspects of the audition process. We have a lot of people who work all three markets, and they're very smart."

Commercials and corporate training videos are also a big part of Philadelphia's acting market. Casting director Kathy Wickline of Wickline Casting finds that most commercial clients seek out actors with a more "real" look rather than model types. "Most of the commercial work is for actors 30 and up," she says. "They want real people, character types, so make sure you don't Photoshop your headshot too much."

In Philadelphia, the casting directors emphasize the importance of having a good agent, as they find talent mostly through agents rather than by publicly releasing a breakdown. They also suggest that actors don't rush to get their SAG cards, as there is plenty of nonunion work in the city. "If you want to be a professional actor, Philly is a great place to start and get experience," says Loftus. "Then after you've gotten some experience, get your SAG card, because it's easier here then in L.A.," adds Heery. "But then," says Loftus, "go to either L.A. or New York—the bigger markets—and hit that if you want to act full time."

Diane Heery, Jason Loftus, Heery Casting, www.heerycasting.com
Susan Gish, Philadelphia Casting, www.philacast.com
Kathy Wickline, Wickline Casting, www.wicklinecasting.com