Marlo started her journey in casting right out of college as an intern on TNT’s The Closer. Afterward, she took a leap of faith to become a Casting Assistant and moved up to Associate and Casting Director. Marlo lived in Los Angeles for the majority of her career. After working as an Independent Casting Director for a few years, she joined Disney as a Television Executive working as Manager of Casting for the studio and network Freeform, previously ABC Family. Once the pandemic hit, Marlo and her husband decided to move cross country to Atlanta. In January 2021, Marlo began working at Stilwell Casting to start a new department as the Head of Film and Television.
Marlo shares takes us on her journey, from where she started, to where she is now.
Marlo Tiede: "I was a Performance major at CalState, Long Beach, and I HATED auditioning for things! It was my worst fear. Everything about it was stressful and was the cause of a lot of anxiety. I talked to the head of the department, and I said, 'I don’t want to audition again!' She told me I had to fulfill so many things, being a performance major. I wasn’t going to do stagecraft, and I didn’t want to do costumes or stage management. So, I stayed in performance, and the compromise was I helped cast with the director and the heads of the department for the different theater productions throughout the year. This was the first time casting was brought to my attention as a thing that existed. It’s not that I didn’t put two and two together and thought somebody has to facilitate actors getting on screen. When you go to school, casting is rarely talked about, let alone if there is any education that teaches you the art of casting."
"Once casting was brought to my attention, I loved it! Casting gives me the freedom in the audition to act and support the talent but with no fear of rejection! It is the best of everything, and it’s opinion-driven, where half my job is convincing others that these actors are good choices. It is also 50/50 business because I have to negotiate deals and know all the contracts, so it is not strictly where I am playing with actors all day."
- Marlo Tiede
"I lived in Los Angeles until 2020, and worked eleven years primarily for one Casting Director who heavily mentored me in my journey,Donna Rosentein, head of casting at Amazon Studios. She gave me a lot of proxy to learn this craft, and a lot of leeway to figure out my taste and to know all the different contracts and deal points. Donna wanted me to negotiate things, probably before I should have, but felt it was important I learn the skill sets. I tip my hat to Donna because I am sure it wasn’t easy for her to give up that much power, but she did. With that experience, I grew as a Casting Director, and I am better because of that."
Atlanta Film and TV: Did your parents recognize your gift of the arts early on and if so, how did they nourish your gift to facilitate growth?
Marlo Tiede:I wanted to be a Marine Biologist until I was a senior in high school. I took an acting class as an elective during my senior year, and I thought, 'this is great! I love being in the arts!' My parents never questioned my decision once I shifted my path. My dad was a banker, and my mother was a flight attendant. My parents not questioning my decision, was their form of support. Most parents of artists ask, ‘do you really want to do that?’ Or, there are a lot of questions and parents not supporting their choices. My parents had no idea what I was doing, but they were excited for me. I think they were happy I found something I enjoyed. That path led to meeting my husband in college, and in hindsight, they were always supportive and never questioned why I wanted to change my major. If you were to ask my mom what network I worked for, she could not tell you! But my parents always support me and say, ‘yeah! She’s a Casting Director!' "
Atlanta Film and TV: Why Casting, and what gets you excited about it?
Marlo Tiede: "Casting is middle management, where I am moving information from one person to the next and negotiating. Casting is a fascinating process in a cog, which is movie and television making. I found my niche in Episodic casting. I love getting a script and having my own ideas. Casting Directors put it out there for Agents and Managers to pitch their ideas. I love the idea of somebody saying, ‘I know this is totally out of the box. But, would you be willing to see this person? I know this is a crazy idea, but I think they would be great.' And, of course, I would say, ‘yes!' I enjoy taking a leap of faith. One of the things I missed when I was at Freeform was one-on-one with actors. I think actors are interesting people, and I respect anyone willing to put themselves out there physically and emotionally to be a vessel of these characters.
One of the things I liked to do when I was an executive was sit down with actors and learn about them. A big thing I am a supporter of is performers with disabilities. When I was at Freeform, diversity and inclusion was something I pushed on the shows I covered. It was a way to say, ‘we need to start giving these people opportunities,’ which is the only thing that would make this feel organic and allow performers with disabilities to audition for anything. If there is an open role, and casting is willing to see anyone, then those with disabilities should be invited to the table! I pushed the idea at Freeform that if we speak about diversity and inclusion and have everybody invited to the table, then we cannot ignore a whole community. It is a circle of giving opportunities, that's what it should be."
Atlanta Film and TV: If I could ask 18 year old Marlo about where you are now in life, what would you least likely believe to be true?
Marlo Tiede: "I would least likely believe I would be in Atlanta. At eighteen, I did not know casting was a career path. Once I learned about casting, it was clear that you should be in LA or New York. If you were to ask me five years ago if I thought I would still be in Los Angeles, I would say, ‘yes!’ "
Marlo shares with us her favorite project from the past.
"My favorite show I cast and enjoyed was Necessary Roughness, which was on the USA Network and shot in Atlanta. I am a huge sports fan. I enjoyed casting for this not only because of the sports cameos. But it was awesome to cast people that had to portray certain athletic types and it was fun being able to say “oh yeah he looks like a Linebacker, or they are too short to be a Power Forward.”
- Marlo Tiede
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you share the history behind Stilwell Casting?
Marlo Tiede: "Annette Stilwell is the owner and founder of Stilwell Casting, and it’s been in business for over forty years. Annette is a hyphen. She did casting and producing. Annette is an OG mover and shaker and has been in the entertainment business for a long time here in Atlanta! Eventually, Annette shifted from casting films to strictly casting commercials.
There have been a handful of casting directors that have worked with Stilwell through the years. Currently, we have Brandon Sauve, Jeremiah Stephenson, and Sara Watkins, who all currently work on the commercial side of things. I am a bit of a ringer when they need someone to run a session. Whatever they need me to do, I’m here to help. One of the things with casting in Los Angeles is you have a path, and rarely do you stray from it. For instance, I did film and television and never did commercials. There were commercial Casting Directors that did that. But, if that was your path, you stayed on it. However, coming to Atlanta and working closely with commercial casting and learning a new skill set, like when I transitioned from independent casting to executive work.
In addition to Stilwell Casting, we have Smith & Stilwell, an in-house Entertainment Payroll Service. We also have our studio, which we use for live readings and photography. We have a full-service kitchen adjacent to the studio that we use for food photography.
When I met with Annette, Annie, and Erin, I asked, ‘can you explain how this casting office works?’ Because (again) in Los Angeles, you stay in your lane. But, what I’m learning here is that you have to be multifaceted. People do multiple things, and everyone wears different hats. In that way, Stilwell is a one-stop-shop casting office."
Atlanta Film and TV: As the Head of Film and TV at Stilwell Casting, can you share what some of your day-to-day jobs consist of?
Marlo Tiede: "When I get projects (which is the fun stuff!) I get to release breakdowns, go through submissions, and watch auditions. I am very passionate about actor business education. I feel the big puzzle piece missing here is actors not always understanding the business side of industry, like contracts for instance. As an actor, you are your own CEO, you need to be responsible for knowing what contract you are working under and how it is structured, how to read it, what the deal points that have been negotiated on your behalf. One of the ideas I brought to Stilwell Casting to create a series to help with Actor Business Education, called Sit Down with Stilwell. Stilwell has brought guests from all different areas within the industry. We focus on letting the actor ask questions and build the actor's vocabulary of what things are, so there is no difference between an actor from Atlanta or an actor from Los Angeles. Our goal is we don't want to feel like we are the step cousin of New York and Los Angeles. Instead, we ARE the players in the game! Productions know they can produce quality shows with strong talent in front and behind the camera in our market. Academy Award-winning movies and Emmy nominated and winning television shows are filmed here. We are here to play! But, what comes with these opportunities is putting the onus on the actor to start learning the business of acting to continuously elevate our market. If you’re looking at your contract and don’t know what you’re signing, that’s a place to start your education! Business education gives the actor confidence and helps support the working relationship between actor and agent/manager in building their career.
Actors, first and foremost, have to watch out for themselves. If you are an actor who is lucky to have representation, please understand you are not their only client. Actors have many responsibilities. Acting is a two-fold type of career - the creative side, the element of auditioning and doing the creative work. When it comes to contracts, It is also the responsibility of the actor to know what they are signing. Some things come with time. Early on in your career, you go on set, you hit the ground running, and you fake it til you make it. One of the things we want to do at Stilwell is give the actor the ability to take these Sit Down with Stilwell events and learn from people who we bring in as panelists. For instance, we had a second AD as a guest. We said, 'if you are an actor and do not know what a second AD does or who a second AD is on set, then you should be taking this course because that person is your lifeline! If you have questions about on-set etiquette, or ‘what do I do when I drive onto a lot?' These are opportunities we want to provide the actors in our community, the chance to ask questions and learn from the source, without judgment because everyone has to learn it at some point. Sit Down with Stilwell is one of the ways we want to be a part of our entertainment community in the Southeast."
Atlanta Film and TV: COVID has brought about a paradigm shift, over the past few years, and technology is being used in ways we hadn’t imagined. Due to how content is being created, produced, and distributed, how is this advantageous to those in the film and tv industry?
Marlo Tiede: "I can only speak in regards to casting. Even before the pandemic, the southeast market has always been heavily self-taped. Based on being in Los Angeles and having a few shows that shot here in Atlanta, there were some live callbacks, but most of them were self-taped auditions, which really gave our market a leg up. On the other hand, LA actors had a harder time adjusting. I had to adjust to watching tapes and getting a sense of somebody. It falls on casting to be able to vouch for somebody. If someone walked into my office being disrespectful or difficult, I wouldn’t vouch for that person. I also wouldn’t even put them up as an option to my producers because I wouldn’t want that person to be a reflection of me. So, I struggled with the idea of not having the ability to talk to the actors and getting a real sense of the person. However, ZOOM and ECO Cast cut the difference because we can still have you live on ZOOM and get a better sense of the actor. We can host “live” callbacks with the producers and director. But to be fair, some projects I worked on don’t want to do anything live.
They want to do everything via self-tape, have the actors send it over, and pick strictly from that. There was a difference and a learning curve at the start of the pandemic because we were still learning minute by minute how to continue casting. I did a Facebook series, and we were looking for a deaf or a Hearing Impaired actress. If we were doing it live, it would’ve been simple. But, with the added technology and figuring out the logistics of being able to audition people with a hearing disability or being deaf, providing an interpreter, being respectful to the actors' challenges etc, there was a learning curve. We’re trying to move with the speed of technology without losing the nuances of casting. "
Atlanta Film and TV: What would be a piece of advice for someone looking to cast smaller projects here in Atlanta?
Marlo Tiede: "When starting a project, know what your parameters are. Such as knowing if the project is union or non-union. It is always not trying to over-promise and under-deliver. Figure out where it is in the pre-production life. People often put the cart before the horse with casting, especially with independent films and small projects. Most think casting is the first thing that needs to happen. One would think it is. But there is so much work the producer needs to have in place before hiring a casting director. When the casting director knows all that information, they can give an honest assessment of what they can provide. It also helps to know if the project is union or non-union, how long is the shooting schedule, the amount of roles, knowing if there are minors involved and how many hours they can work, having a CLC on set, getting permits etc."
Atlanta Film and TV: How important is networking, and can you share with us the resources you have used?
Marlo Tiede: "Networking is twofold, as I still have a foot in Los Angeles. I am trying to establish myself here in Atlanta and making people aware of Stilwell Casting. The majority of my networking is going back and using my connections with people that I have worked with in Los Angeles and using those connections to generate new ones. I have been doing a lot of ZOOM meetings and constantly writing emails. I am always afraid of being out of sight, out of mind. People won’t remember you if you’re not networking in person and making those connections. For me, thankfully, Stilwell has been around for forty-plus years, so I came into the game with artillery behind me. As Casting Directors, it’s our responsibility to network with actors and give them the opportunity to network with us. But, it’s also networking with line producers, producers, writers / content creators, and studio and network executives. I don’t think actors realize how similar our paths are in casting, we’re doing the same hustle they are."
Atlanta Film and TV: What would be a tip you would give a parent looking to get their child to break into the business of entertainment?
Marlo Tiede: "The first thing you need to have a come to Jesus meeting about whether or not that child wants to do it. It is important to set firm boundaries of when and if that child chooses to want to pursue acting. I have auditioned and cast many children in my career and you get the sense pretty quickly if acting is something that the child genuinely wants to do or if it feels like they are being pushed into by someone else . It should be an ever evolving conversation with your child, constantly checking in to see how they are feeling."
It might be establishing that we are going to try this for an amount of time, and if at any time the child decides they do not want to do it anymore, be supportive of their choice and take a break. Understanding that a child working in entertainment is a full-time job. You are not just a regular parent. You are getting headshots taken, going to acting classes and workshops, taking your child to auditions, being on-set, going through COVID tests and wardrobe fittings. The idea is always bright and shiny. But, in reality, it is a lot of hard work for the parents! If your child has figured this is something they want to do, you have now put a lot of time and money into their career and now your child decides they do not want to do it anymore because they want to do the next thing. As their parents, you have to be willing to respect their decision.
Finally, be open and understanding with your children about feelings because nobody likes to see their kid rejected, but unfortunately it happens.There is an emotional component of working in the entertainment business, and there will be a lot of upset feelings, and it is not for the faint at heart."
Atlanta Film and TV: You relocated here from LA. Do you have any relocation tips for those looking to relocate to become an actor?
Marlo Tiede: "If you’re an actor and you’re moving here from another market to try and reestablish yourself, then you already know you’re going to have to try to get local representation. Find your actor community. Have someone you can talk to who understands what you’re going through, find those people who have done this, because they have already paved their way and might help you with the basic stuff like suggesting a photographer they used for their headshots. What I love about living in Atlanta is the southern grace where everybody is willing to help you out, which isn’t always the case in Los Angeles. Everyone is forced to figure it out for themselves, because everyone is clawing for the same goal. Here, everyone has been so helpful telling me ‘anytime you need anything, call me, here to help!’ Networking in Atlanta has a level of kindness."
Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have any G.E.M.S. to share for future casting directors, or people looking to break into the entertainment industry?
Marlo Tiede: "It is not as much a gem, but something that annoys me is when people use the term 'CASTED'. It is 'CAST.' For instance, 'This actor was CAST in the role'. Also, terms like 'CASTING AGENT' or 'CASTING AGENCY', these terms are both incorrect and not accurate. Casting Directors try to educate people to not use these terms because it gives the connotation of receiving a commission, like an agent who procures work for an actor. Casting Directors do not represent actors or receive any fees from actors they are hiring. We get calls all the time about actors wanting to be repped. We use the terms 'CASTING DIRECTOR' and 'CASTING OFFICE.' "
To connect with Marlo, follow her on Instagram @marlotiedecasting