News & Events
Meet the Adelaide Studios tenant: Heesom Casting
26 February 2021
The SAFC’s Adelaide Studios isn’t just a screen production facility, it’s a creative hub that’s home to more than 25 South Australian screen businesses and screen practitioners. In this ongoing series of SAFC interview profiles we invite you to meet the tenants and get to know their work.
Many people might balk at the idea of working with a close relative, but for mother and daughter casting team Angela and Louise Heesom, keeping it all in the family is their secret weapon.
As the duo behind Heesom Casting, South Australia’s only accredited independent casting agency, Angela and Louise are the local screen sector’s “go-to girls” for sourcing actors and extras for major films and TV series, commercials, short films and more.
And it’s their family dynamic, they say, that gives them an edge.
“Being able to work with mum every single day and being able to learn from her is just incredible,” Louise says.
“I learn from Louise too. We challenge each other,” Angela adds.
Louise continues: “When you’re in the trenches on a project – when you’re against budget and against time, and you’ve just got to somehow make it work – we’ve developed this really beautiful…”
“Shorthand,” finishes Angela, before the two collapse into laughter.
It’s a neat demonstration of the pair’s synchronicity, developed not just through their familial bond but over years of working together on an impressive list of credits including series like The Hunting, Wolf Creek, Deadline Gallipoli, Anzac Girls and Pine Gap, and more than 50 feature films such as Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2, Look Both Ways and, most recently, the soon to be released Warner Bros. blockbuster Mortal Kombat.
Celebrating 21 years in business this year, Heesom Casting is the South Australian Film Corporation’s longest running tenant, started by Angela at the SAFC’s former facilities in Hendon in 2000 before relocating to Adelaide Studios in Glenside in 2011.
They’re also South Australia’s only Casting Guild of Australia accredited independent casting directors, providing an essential service for the state’s screen industry.
“What used to happen was that films were cast by interstate casting directors coming here, and by the time they came most of the juicy roles had gone,” says Angela.
“Then for the first time ever, with us, South Australia had an independent casting agency. Now – whether we’re used or not – it’s important that producers have got that option to have a local head of department.”
Unlike actors’ agents, who work on behalf of the actor in negotiating roles and deals, independent casting directors like the Heesoms work on behalf of the producer, to get the best actors for the roles while also looking after a production’s purse strings.
And they know how to find them – not only through their deep connections with agents and actors right across Australia, but also in places you might not expect.
“We know where to go,” says Angela.
“We have on-ground knowledge and established links in so many different communities – we just know where to find people and adopt that ‘no stone unturned’ quality.”
While an intensive casting process for teenage drama The Hunting (for which they won the Casting Guild of Australia’s coveted Best Casting for a TV Series Award) took them to almost every school in South Australia, casting for the title role in Storm Boy saw Angela go to every Anzac Day parade, scanning the crowds for 11-year-old boys with just the right look.
“All the parents were a bit wary of me, I think,” she laughs.
Another project where she needed to cast a woman with “droopy skin” and no teeth was a challenge – even calls to dentures companies came up with no leads.
“It was this one key role that I couldn’t get. And then one day I went into my local supermarket and there across the tomatoes was this woman – she had rough skin, long hair, scratchy looking. I smiled at her and she smiled back this great gummy smile and I just went ‘ah!’ and dropped my tomatoes,” Angela says.
“My whole childhood has been marked by these moments,” laughs Louise.
“I’ll never forget mum driving me to school one day, and all of a sudden she sees this driver in the next lane. The lights go red, she puts on the park brake, runs out of the car and she’s knocking on the guy’s window going ‘You’ve got a great face!’.”
Their willingness to go the extra mile – to “work beyond, beyond”, as Angela puts it – stood them in good stead when it came to the mammoth international casting call for Mortal Kombat, the duo’s biggest and most challenging project yet.
Heesoms auditioned across every role in the epic action thriller, drawing on their networks across South Australia, Australia and globally, and working in partnership with US casting director Rich Delia (Dallas Buyers Club) – one of their “heroes”, says Louise.
Adelaide is PUMPED for Mortal Kombat! With one minute to go until the extras open casting call officially starts, check out the queue! 😯 The line is moving quickly though, so don’t be put off. Come on down! pic.twitter.com/xhTZNOweOh— SA Film Corporation (@SA_Film) August 16, 2019
“You can feel like you’re in a small pool here in South Australia, and that maybe your skills aren’t as great as your counterparts over in the US, but as soon as you start working on something like that you realise you all speak the same language. It really demystified that sense of ‘we can’t do that type of filmmaking here’, because we actually can,” says Louise.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought that something like Mortal Kombat could be made locally, I always thought I’d need to go to LA or Sydney or Brisbane to be part of those really large-scale productions. To be able to be gifted that was just the most phenomenal experience, and we are so grateful to the State Government and the SAFC for that opportunity.”
The pair got to see the fruits of their labour in the film’s official trailer released this month, including new young acting talent Matilda Kimber, the 12-year-old schoolgirl they uncovered here in South Australia after an exhaustive worldwide search.
“The trailer is incredible – I keep looking at it and thinking ‘how was that made in SA?’,” says Louise.
“The State Government and SAFC have done an incredible job in bringing really, really high profile productions into SA consistently, and building up on that year on year, but this really raises the stakes again and puts us on that global stage even further and to a much broader audience, and says ‘we’re open, we’re ready, come down and make more things here’. It’s really exciting.”
With screen production booming in South Australia thanks to our COVID-safe status, strength of the local sector and growing international reputation, the Heesoms are always working hard on multiple projects. Not that they see it as work.
“Quite frankly I would do this for nothing because I love it – don’t tell anyone,” Angela laughs.
Find out more about Heesom Casting at heesomcasting.com
Find out more about the talented tenants of Adelaide Studios at safilm.com.au/adelaide-studios-screen-creatives
By Petra Starke