Casting the Spotlight on...Classical Vision

Here’s where we shine the spotlight on the brilliant casting agents and agencies who are powered by POP.

We spoke with Kathleen Ross, founder of Classical Vision — a specialist casting agency for musicians.

Introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do? We’d love to know your story!

I’m Kathleen Ross and I’m the founder of Classical Vision; I provide background musicians for productions, plus offer a consultancy service to help bring to life the vision for the production. I’m a freelance cellist and a firm believer that ‘miming’ should be another revenue stream for professional musicians of every genre.

How did you get started setting up a casting agency for musicians?

In 2016, I was a background artist playing the cello on a shoot for a major fashion label. I was surprised at how ad-hoc the process of sourcing the musicians was, and that there didn’t seem to be musical advisors in place for this aspect of the shoot. I then researched to see if this was a niche area, and it turned out that it was…

I couldn’t understand why I kept seeing such attention to detail in other aspects of production, such as props/sets, and choreography, and then have someone completely incongruous trying to mime. I was unable to find a company in the UK that had set a precedence specialising in background work for musicians, so I saw a gap in the market and took it from there.

From your experience in the industry, what are the qualities of a successful extras casting agent/agency?

Being flexible, and available at odd hours. I was fortunate in that coming from a musician’s background, this was already second nature for me.

What are some of the hurdles you have to overcome in your role?

One of the challenges has been setting up a business within an unfamiliar part of the entertainment industry but I love research and making new connections, so this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of founding an agency.

What do you think the future will hold?

My prediction would be that tech, such as the software that POP offers, is going to transform working practices. There are definitely areas of the music industry (especially Classical), and the production industry, where this would be beneficial.

This is why I’m so excited about my new way of working; I have in-depth information about artists availability instantly, which is essential to the casting process — this is really unique for musicians!

What’s key to enjoying and making the most of our crazy and brilliant industry?

I think you have to have a good sense of humour to offset the long working hours and tight deadlines. Nothing can be left to chance. You have to laugh when you get a phone call on the day of the shoot, saying that production haven’t provided the sheet music. And then you have to arrange it, by ear, within the hour.

Photo: Rehearsal for a recent shoot with Saxophonist Jess Gillam (Decca signed artist) — string quartet supplied by Classical Vision.

Were you given any advice at the beginning of your career that has stayed with you?

I’ve had some wonderful teachers and mentors over the years. I’ve learned a lot from working in all sorts of different roles over the years, whether it’s in an orchestral section or a call centre. I had a really valuable experience of running a business when I worked at a string instrument shop and have tried to emulate this with Classical Vision. Great service, and being kind to your colleagues, is the same in every profession.

If you’re starting out, I would say that you need to try and find the value in everything that you do, even if it’s not your dream job.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I‘m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to keep my various projects ticking over, whilst having my second child earlier this year. I am a master at one-handed typing. Do you have any advice/pearls of wisdom for aspiring background artists out there? It’s all common sense really. Make everything as easy as possible for the agent and the 2nd AD. Don’t ask unnecessary questions. Have huge amounts of patience on set, and definitely don’t skip the queue for lunch!

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