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Mindy Cohn 00:01
Hey gang Welcome back to another episode of Mondays with Mindy. Hi, Christian.
Christian Brescia 00:05
I'm Mindy! Hi everybody. Welcome back.
Mindy Cohn 00:08
Today we are going to be having a conversation with one of the most respected and sought after casting directors. Alison Estrin raised in Los Angeles. Alison went to the prestigious private high school crossroads in Santa Monica, and then Webster University acting conservatory in St. Louis for college, which she didn't finish because before completing her degree, Allison moved to New York City and landed her first casting job with binder casting doing Broadway shows Wow, right up to the big rigs, starting out as a reader and a monitor Allison scene became Jay benders full time assistant. She then moved on to work with the legendary Harry Russell bergstein and together they have cast amazing films and television mostly based out of New York City. The most notable films include z for Zachariah starring Margot Robbie. Still Alice starring Julianne Moore and television shows inside Amy Schumer Ramey and showtime's billions one of my favorite shows of all times and the mini series the loudest voice starring Russell Crowe. Allison has been nominated for numerous awards and continues to work on some of the most eagerly anticipated projects. She is a dear friend, I adore her and I can't wait for everyone to listen into our conversation today.
Christian Brescia 01:25
Well, let's get it started. Ladies and gentlemen. Allison Estrin. How are you? Welcome.
Mindy Cohn 01:34
How are you? Good. Thank you. Happy to be here. I'm so happy to have you. Um,Eyes, I'm very excited for the Mondays with Mindy audience to like, get a real feeling for you, one of my dearest people that I adore,
Allison Estrin 01:48
so we're just gonna do it. I'm just happy to spend some time with Mindy. So it's fine.
Mindy Cohn 01:52
Oh my gosh, yes. It's been too long. Yeah, it's ridiculous. I'm just gonna go into our little secrets canister and Christian and I created kind of these 20 questions, I randomly pull out five. And that's how we do a deep dive into our conversation. So no wrong answers. Everybody gets to play nice. Good. Great. Okay. So, Allison, what's the best advice you've been given? And who gave it?
Allison Estrin 02:19
Oh, um, you know, I've actually been given a lot of really, really good advice. But the first thing that popped into my head was advice that my father always said, which was never take no for an answer. Unless no is the answer you want? Oh,
Christian Brescia 02:36
I've never heard the latter part of that. I really like that.
Allison Estrin 02:42
So yeah, I would say that he was a very, very amazing advice giver. But that's one that was kind of one of his mantras.
Mindy Cohn 02:50
Oh, that's a good a really? Um, oh, can we remember when this question had a little more relevance? What's your favorite place to travel to? Right?
Allison Estrin 03:00
Yeah. Well, it's because I yeah, I find myself dreaming all the time. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 03:06
I do love going to New Orleans. It just always brings me joy. I have never not had the time of my life there. There's something just about the air, the people the food, everything, that the culture of it, the history, everything about New Orleans, I am always happy there.
Mindy Cohn 03:28
When was the first time you went down there? Can you remember? Yeah,
I went down there when I was 16. Actually, I got my dad took me he was working. And because he was working, I just kind of got to explore for like a week. And just like go on, like, do whatever I wanted throughout the whole day. And then like we'd meet up and have amazing dinners. And you know, it was amazing. And so I think it was also just like, a special place to me at that point of like, being able to be that age and explore city. Like that was kind of defining in a certain way that I could like, be like a grown up. I would think so.
Mindy Cohn 04:13
Yeah. It's definitely one of those cities that feels like you're in another country. Absolutely.
Totally. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 04:20
Um, Alison, do you have a hidden talent?
Christian Brescia 04:27
it always elicits a reaction like
Mindy Cohn 04:30
I know, do I
I mean, like, I really wish I did. I don't think I do. I still hidden. I think it's still hidden. I don't really Yeah, yeah, I okay. I find
Christian Brescia 04:47
people really have to think about it or they know instantly. Oh, yes. I have this stupid human trick that I do. Yeah,
I don't have like stupid human tricks like I do. Like, I am a really great cook. I love to cook Big, but I don't think that's a secret at this point. It's not right. I mean, because if you follow me on Instagram, you've seen every Oh, yeah, like, I think that my talents aren't actually hidden. I think I put it all out there. Okay. which I love. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 05:16
And did Oh, by the way, everything I've got, it's out there. Yeah,
it's there good on everyone.
Mindy Cohn 05:24
Um, what assumption do people make about you that it's not true?
Um, I would say, I think maybe upon meeting me not knowing what I do for a living or anything of that sort. I think that people don't usually think that I'm not strong, or that. I don't know if they always like, know that. That I can be the boss. Sort of.
Mindy Cohn 05:56
Yeah, I like that. Yeah. Well, and decisive and all the skill set that it takes to Yeah, not only do what you do, but do it at your level. Yeah.
It takes a little while people are often surprised when they find out what I do.
Mindy Cohn 06:10
Yeah, interesting. Well, you don't lead with that. Which is lovely. Like so many people on this coast? You know? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, one of the things Christian that Allison and I share when we have conversations is, it's so wonderful to be able to be proud and talk about what we're working on. Yeah. Without it eliciting any weirdness. Right, that it's the friendzone. Yeah. And not the business zone. Right. That's one of the things that I'm most proud of. But you also have that you have a lot of friends that are actors, and working actors, you know, that you are truly very dear friends with Yes, outside of whether you can work together at some point or not.
Yeah. And, again, quite unusual. And we can just be supportive of each other and really excited when someone is working. And can you talk someone through if you're not working then? It can, you know, so? Yeah. I love that. Because it's just more than anything. It's just being friends with creative people. And then exactly that
Mindy Cohn 07:18
sort of thing. Exactly. Yes. Um, what scares you?
Christian Brescia 07:23
Oh, this could be big brother. Yeah, I
know. At first I was like, well, snakes aren't great. Same,
like ticks. I don't want any of that thing. Um, COVID not great. Yes. Um, there are a lot of things that scare me. How was it down?
Mindy Cohn 07:43
You? You spent some time this summer down South Korea? Yeah. How was that situation?
I was a little nervous about.
Mindy Cohn 07:52
I was nervous for you. Yeah.
Yeah. That's why tics came into my head. Yeah, I mean, there's like all the really big extra big bugs
Christian Brescia 08:03
Mindy Cohn 08:04
Yeah. Where she was they were there. Yeah,
yeah. I feel like I've gotten used to like mice and stuff. Because I live in our work. I mean, I don't like it. I'll still write screen. But like, I get used to it. It's newer. I expect these type of crazy thing, but like the huge like dinosaur bugs.
You're talking about? You're like, what was that? creature? Yeah.
Like, how does that still exist in this world? I don't.
Mindy Cohn 08:30
Yeah. They will be the last. fossils.
Christian Brescia 08:35
Yeah. Oh, yeah. chasing me around.
Exactly. Yeah, my cat just somehow ignores it. He's like, well, you can deal with that one. Oh, wow.
Mindy Cohn 08:47
Yeah, so that wasn't too painful, right? Oh, no, that was fun. Yeah, exactly. So um, let's get back to really why we get together and gab and that is just to talk about creative and people's creative process, whatever that means to them. And I feel you are our first guest that is in such a unique position. Because a lot of people that listen, don't really realize how creative your position and what you do is and that, yes, it's a business and you are asked to deliver goods, people, um, but that there is such a level of creativity that is not it used to be honored and respected much more than it is now. But I think the quality of your projects, and what you choose to work on, still elicits that. And so, like, talk to me about your creative process, and what do you do when you get a new job? And you do a deep dive into it? What do you go through? How do you ramp up? Or do you?
Well, it's funny. I think what I like so much about my job is that it really does get to be different for every project I do, because it will always depend on The director or show runners that I'm working with, and kind of what their processes to. So sometimes there are people I work with that, like, know, every single thing how every single character should be. And then there are some that I'm like, let's talk about this. I don't know, let's, what do you think? And, you know, so more often than not the creative process ends up being like a lot of soup spitballing of just different ideas that can range from like, Oh, this would have been like, you know, Matt Damon, when he was 20 sort of thing? Or like, actually, this would be Matt Damon now, I can I don't know why Matt Damon just came into my head. But he did.
Mindy Cohn 10:48
I'm sure he'd love that.
Christian Brescia 10:49
So I think like, and that's always what's kind of fun is figuring that out. And, you know, I love to work, obviously, with directors and showrunners that I've worked with before, so that we already have that sort of shorthand, but it's also really exciting when there's someone new, and figuring that out for the first time of like, Oh, you like this sort of thing. And I like that sort of thing. So sometimes we'll just like talk about the kind of movies that we're really into. Or like, the type of TV shows that we're all watching, or how I kind of can see that in a certain way. And sometimes it's also fun to just say, like, you know, what, okay, I have some ideas, I'm gonna show you a couple of people will go right.
If I'm wrong, I'm wrong.
Mindy Cohn 11:39
But it's one of the things I would assume your people who you work with love about you. And as a watcher of a lot of what you do, I appreciate that you seem to find actors. And yet these actors aren't lost. I mean, they're just haven't been seen. And I so appreciate that. Because, obviously, being in the tribe, of actors, I know who they are. But you don't get to see them working at the level and quality of the shows that you do. And so, you know, layman's kind of go, Oh, you've never seen this person, we're discovering them? Well, really, if you if you creating this opportunity for them, right, who you've either seen on stage or that you've just, you know, put in your bathtub, like, Oh, I'm waiting. Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah.
Christian Brescia 12:26
So that's Yeah, till is used to be a lot of like, showcases, from what I remember when I was in New York that like you would try to do a showcase. And we've tried to request casting directors is to go see those kinds of things. So that, you know, we were kind of planting that seed in your mind, do you still find me? Even though we're still in kind of COVID time Do you still find like, that's a recruiting method for you to discover?
It is a little bit, I find that to be a pretty hard way honestly, to like, truly see what someone's about. I am much better. And maybe it's also just like, as an audience member that like, I'd rather go see a full play theater. Yeah. And I feel like I can get a better idea of, even if someone's only in one scene of that play, I can still have a good idea of what you know, they can what they're bringing to it, especially if there's someone that I really remember from it.
Mindy Cohn 13:20
It's one of the things I find that so hard about living in Los Angeles, is I just feel it's an it's such an oxymoron to me, because I just feel if there was more theater, so many more wonderful actors would be quote, unquote, discovered and not discovered, but just seeing and seeing what they're doing and what they did well, because it really just it's such an intrinsic New York experience to go on stage and fall madly in love with them.
It's just a different culture about you know, even I think it's, you know, at the end of a work day in New York, it makes perfect sense to then meet someone for a drink and go to the theater. Like Yes, it's all right there. It's very easy in LA it actually is just harder.
Christian Brescia 14:08
It is a you know, an hour Yeah. Physically, it's just like, an hour and traffic one way and you want me to go where? Yeah, like I gotta, like, okay, yeah, I have to park and then and then At what time? Am I gonna get out of there? And then then it's another hour. Like it's a whole, it can be such a whole thing that takes away from any part of the enjoyment of like, the two hours of sitting and watching the show.
Mindy Cohn 14:35
Yes, Agreed. Agreed.
Christian Brescia 14:37
Yes. It's interesting.
And you know, part of you and also is seen like, after you go see a show you are I like can talk to the actors afterwards. Yeah, for a drink and go for dinner. And there might be someone like from the cast. There's almost always someone from the cast, I know and then they bring someone else and then it's like, okay, I didn't really know this person, but now I've gotten to know them. Have a completely different level and so it's always just like more about knowing the community.
Mindy Cohn 15:04
Yeah. 100% What have you binged during this time? When have you guys been obsessed with a lot? I know everyone's doing so much but what? What Really? You know, took a breath away?
Okay, well, because I have the across between bingeing things that like I should have watched years ago and didn't Good on you though. I just finished the leftovers.
Christian Brescia 15:29
Oh, okay. Yeah.
I watched it like a week. I mean, that was like I was about cults. It was a lot, but like, oh, my god, that was so phenomenal. And search party. I got through pretty fast. I haven't started the new season yet. So
Mindy Cohn 15:51
don't tell me I have. I'm obsessed. So I just say,
and he's been trying to get me on board too. Yeah.
Christian Brescia 16:00
I have to try to check it out. I haven't checked yet.
Mindy Cohn 16:01
I'll do incredible.
Christian Brescia 16:03
I need to make time for him. And he keeps asking me that. And Ted last Oh, she keeps saying like, you need to watch these.
haven't started to lasso yet.
Mindy Cohn 16:11
Okay, sort of seriously would give a in consequential body part. To go across the pond and be on that show. It's it's sublime. Okay. Okay, good. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah, for sure. Cuz now since I finished the leftovers, I'm like, okay, gotta go.
Mindy Cohn 16:31
search party season four. Get into it. Yes. And Ted lasso is a must.
Good. Good. Yeah. And I also like I the reality shows also do it for me. You know, I watch them every season of love Island at this point.
Mindy Cohn 16:49
Is that is that okay? So having not watched it? Is that a dating one? Is it a dating?
I don't even know if I would call those dates. Oh, it's like instead in love thing.
A couple episodes to what I was sort of like, what this is
very easy to get hooked.
Christian Brescia 17:05
Yeah, totally. Yeah.
Especially the UK one where like, you don't quite know what they're saying all the time.
Mindy Cohn 17:12
Yeah, and they have really salacious or just Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah, for chocolate cake.
Christian Brescia 17:19
You can't eat too much of it, you'll get sick. But like you enjoy each but
it's so yeah, it's just so great. And like you couldn't have that type of drama and an actual show, it would just be too much. But like they have it. And sometimes like it's actually some like great character studies with some of these people. I'm like, I like I couldn't cast any of this better than what some of these people are.
Mindy Cohn 17:44
There is a special skill. I know to cat reality casting directors, and it is a skill. I
think it's a very special skill
app. Yeah. Those
kind of people.
People have asked me about that before. I'm like, Oh, I don't know how to do that. No, no.
Mindy Cohn 17:59
Yeah. Who, if anyone Are you currently obsessed with? Like, who do you want to put in something that you've seen the last few months that you're like, Okay, I need I need to work with this person. This actor?
Oh, well, I mean, Carrie Kuhn. I mean, I was already obsessed with her theme. And now Yeah, like, we just went to a whole other place. Yeah. Now we're just well over the moon.
Mindy Cohn 18:27
Yeah, I would say, Yeah, I have to say, you know, who she's with is also very impressive. And my friend Todd allmand. You know, who, you know, we were going to see a play, and we ran into them. And I basically gave Tracy no mind because I was just Kufa. I mean, I literally I think I had saliva coming out of my mouth. Yeah, and she was pregnant. So I like I don't want to put too much energy on her. But I literally said like, I think I want to squeeze you in, clench my teeth, so I don't hurt you. And yeah, and thank God, she got it. When I walked away, I looked at him like, that was a little aggressive. He goes No, no, a lot. And I'm not really a fan girl. Like I keep my I keep my cola. I know a lot of people, right, but
I mean, I lost you amaze me with the people. You know,
Mindy Cohn 19:13
I lost my proverbial on her because she's, you know, remarkable. I can honestly say like, everything she's done. Yeah, yeah. Okay, yes. Not that you needed a cosign of your choice, but I cosign it. Good. I appreciate it. So there, yeah, whatever. Um, okay, good obsession. And I know that you are making your way to Los Angeles. For a while back home. Do you consider Los Angeles back home? Or you've been such a diehard New Yorker for so long? Um, how do you view Los Angeles?
It's funny, I do so call it home.
Yeah, yeah, but I don't even have a family home anymore. Right. But, I mean, I've now been in New York, I think as long as I lived in LA, but yeah, I do I do still I call it it's my hometown. Yeah, I call it home. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 20:11
Are you going to work a little when you come out here?
I'm working, you know, wherever you are. Yeah. It's it's just the, I mean, the one thing about COVID is awful as it is to be working from home. It has afforded me the ability to go anywhere right now, which is helpful. Yeah.
Mindy Cohn 20:36
Amazing. Cars. No, I
I could not just sit in. This is a very little apartment.
Mindy Cohn 20:44
Yes, well, I have to say as an after going through the first this year, you know, panic because you know that I'm technically Amish. So to get comfortable with that. I have to say it has been now I'm really good in a room. So I missed getting in a room. Yeah, I do think I'm much better in a room. Having said that. It's been so lovely. Not to drive to the audition. Get into a lot. drive all the way home. No traffic. It's been phenomenal.
See, again, that's the New York and LA difference is in New York. I think that the convenient to the auditions. You know, people in the waiting room.
Mindy Cohn 21:25
It also takes 10 minutes. Yeah, yeah, get to get to Yeah,
it depends on which, you know, sometimes we all have offices in weird places. But you know, you usually know someone you talk for a little while you're not dealing with parking. You know, it's it's a different experience. I think. I mean, when for the auditions that I've done out of La when I've had to like give people what the whole like map is in the studio. Oh, my God, this would drive me insane. If I had to do this all the time. Well, also was an actor, you know, it's like,
Mindy Cohn 21:57
what are you doing today? I have an audition. That's the whole day versus in New York. It's like one little section of a day. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Oh, I'm so glad. But you will have time to socialize. Yes, yes.
That's socially distance the whole new way. You know, well take our tests, and I won't be part of the problem. And Li I know that.
Mindy Cohn 22:19
Yes. Scary. Oh, yeah. We're turning a corner. The blinkers on. I'd like to say we're not actually turning yet. But I turned my blinker on. Okay. A couple days ago, the blinker light finally went on. Okay. A little about your trajectory in your career, because it's so impressive, Allison, I mean, it's one of the things that I love about you, is unabashedly your ambition in the best way possible, and you've earned this reputation. And so now you're at a level that so many people want to get to that I don't know if they will anymore. I mean, it's sort of like your business is changed so much. And I think it's really it's much harder to get into casting. It's not as desirable, I think, because of how hard people have to work for no glory, which is not your case. But what was your turning point when you put on the coat, and it was extremely comfortable. And you got what you needed from it. And I know, you have aspirations, and you should be directing. So I'm just talking about this, you know, this specific part of your career? Um,
I would say, Actually, I liked that. I like the term of putting on the coat. Like, when I knew that this was my, that you
Mindy Cohn 23:39
got what you you got some respect you were getting, you know, you paid a bill. And, you know, you started to get the projects you wanted to get. Yeah,
that was almost immediately when I went out on my own. Actually, I Wow, I felt pretty blessed that way, um, that there were a few directors right off the bat, that were excited to either start working with me or continue working with me. And it was about like, six months or so of, of kind of, like, smaller indie films, and then billions came my way. And that I just felt blessed. I mean, I had heard about billions. I knew about the project. As soon as I heard about it, I was like, that's, and that just seems so perfect. For me. There was just something about like the two worlds of it that I was like, I know that I would really, really like this and I reached out to Amy Britt at Showtime and she was like, Ava Kaufman's during it not gonna happen. It's like Okay, fine. And he did, she did the pilot, and then I just got a random call one day from one of the producers Asking if I wanted to meet on it. And I found out when I met with Brian Koppelman and David Levine that Tom McCarthy had recommended me to them. Oh, which meant the world to me. And then they had called Amy Schumer and asked,
Mindy Cohn 25:20
yeah, are you happy your opinion?
I had worked on the first season of insight, Amy Schumer. And I've known Amy for a long time, and I was, you know, very nice of her to also give me a good review.
And I remember when, when Brian and David called me and I know that they interviewed a lot of people, and they called me and said, Okay, so you're our casting director now.
Mindy Cohn 25:47
Amazing. Like that.
Yeah. Like, we're, we're gonna go with you. And he was like, Okay, Okay, here we go. Yeah. Wow, this is what's happening now. So I feel like that ended up being a pretty big turning point.
Mindy Cohn 26:02
Have more doors open for you since that? Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah, sure. Okay, cuz I just haven't done. I mean, it really hadn't done that much TV. Right. Mostly films.
Yeah. And then the TV I had done was like, inside Amy Schumer, which was so drastically different. Yeah. And I certainly hadn't done anything, done a TV show like that huge. And on my own. So yeah, that was, it was definitely, I would say, Yes, I definitely started to get more calls after billions. premiere. Yes.
Mindy Cohn 26:42
So yeah, you and I have talked about? Well, we've talked to each other about our aspirations, for sure. And so I know, I'm not talking, you know, gossiping too hard when I say that, you know, we've talked about you directing, and I not only support you that, but I mean, it seems like a natural. Next move. Yeah. And I'm wondering where you are with that?
I mean, I think it's with COVID. It's harder and harder to, you know, think about those types of aspirations, to be honest. But it's been a little bit easier to think about producing at this particular moment.
Mindy Cohn 27:22
which you've done. I mean,
yeah, and I and I find, but I think that there's a way to be a little bit more hands on than I have been before. Certainly in, in casting with films, it's, you know, for independent film, it's a very easy connection, because we're the first call usually, so if we're helping put something together, it makes sense then as to come on as producers. But it's also been exciting to start to think about, like, well, what, what kind of projects do I really like, you know, what am I reading that I can't stop thinking about? Or, you know, what am I watching that? I want to keep watching? What's the sort of stuff that I really, really like? And that's actually kind of been what's like, getting me going a little bit more drawn more to
Christian Brescia 28:13
film or to television, since you've kind of dipped your toes and successfully both areas? Because they are so different, you know?
Yeah, though. Yeah. I think I love what I'm what I'm doing on on TV, but it's much harder to do, you know, many, many seasons of something. Yeah. And I love the idea of being able to tell to tell a story beginning, middle and end.
Mindy Cohn 28:43
Yeah. Well, and I mean, there's so many platforms now and ways to go very excited. It's exciting time, even during the time of COVID. Right, let's Yeah. And so interesting is how many things are still getting bought and sold here? Yeah, here meaning everywhere. But you know, the studio's I mean, they're clamoring, right, because that whole idea of everybody has seen everything. Yeah, during Kobe. And so we need to new contents. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, that's exciting. Okay. I already have like, a couple of very interesting things to talk to you privately about. Yeah, so that's, that's good. That's very good. Um, I'm so excited for you to come to Los Angeles that I might be able to, you know, negative COVID test my way into your backyard. I adore you. I'm so glad Christian and everyone who knows me and all the listeners get to finally hear you because I've talked about you to
people. I Tom all the time.
Mindy Cohn 29:46
Thank you. And thank you so much for coming on an episode of Monday. Yes, this was so fun.
Christian Brescia 29:51
Yeah, thank you. Once again, once again, ladies and gentlemen, let's give a big round of applause for our very special guest, Alison astron.
Thank you. Thank you.
Christian Brescia 30:04
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