As Arizona-based casting director Faith Hibbs-Clark tells it, it's sometimes better to be a big fish in a small pond than the other way around. "When you're working in a regional market, most regional casting directors cast sometimes up to 50 percent of the roles in a film—between the extras and the day players and maybe supporting roles," she tells Back Stage. "That's a lot of opportunity that you don't get in the big cities [where] it's so intense, whereas in a regional market it's very laid-back. You have more access to casting directors. You have an easier time finding a talent agent to represent you. There's not quite the intensity that you have in big cities where you can't reach people. I think in a regional market, industry professionals are more accessible."
For 11 years, Hibbs-Clark has owned and operated Good Faith Casting in Phoenix, the hub of the state's production industry, and she became a member of the Casting Society of America in 2006. She explains that it's easier to get cast in a SAG project in a smaller market like Arizona or New Mexico—where she also has an office, in Albuquerque—than in L.A. or New York. "It's easier to qualify into SAG because, most often, regional markets are right-to-work states," she says. "So it's easier to get on a union job and therefore become SAG-eligible. The other thing is, in regional markets with film and television projects, they tend to upgrade extras more. So it's really a great way for an actor to get their legs, to get experience."
Arizona's film-production tax incentives expired at the end of last year, leaving the state's film community in "legislative limbo," as The Hollywood Reporter recently reported. Recent features shot in Arizona include "Queens of Country," starring Ron Livingston; Will Ferrell's "Everything Must Go" (opening next month); and an upcoming adaptation of Jack Kerouac's novel "On the Road," which Hibbs-Clark helped cast. Her other film credits include local casting for the features "Take Me Home Tonight," "Piranha," "The Savages," and "Jarhead." In addition to Phoenix, where most Arizona actors base themselves, shoots are frequently held in Tucson and Monument Valley.
Though film and TV production in Arizona has slowed considerably this year due to the tax incentives expiring, there are still many opportunities for Arizona actors to work in commercials, in voiceover, and in neighboring New Mexico. New Mexico's Legislature recently approved a measure that will cap film and TV production tax incentives; still, the production industry continues to thrive there. Notable projects shot in New Mexico include "True Grit," the AMC series "Breaking Bad," USA Network's "In Plain Sight," and the upcoming movies "Thor" and "Cowboys & Aliens." In addition to the picturesque and historic capital city, Santa Fe, where a lot of productions are shot and the state's film commission is based, Albuquerque is an equally popular shooting location, thanks to a state-of-the-art production facility that Hibbs-Clark says rivals Hollywood studios.
As for getting on Hibbs-Clark's radar, she says she frequents the comedy and improv clubs in Phoenix. She also attends theater. She will, when it's warranted, bring in actors from Los Angeles. Her company is especially interested in adding to its actor database those who have special skills as well as ethnic and multicultural talent.
Good Faith Casting, www.goodfaithcasting.com
New Mexico Film Commission, www.nmfilm.com
Albuquerque production facility, www.abqstudios.com