A Model Agent
Casting Guru Douglas Perrett Oversees Pre-Fashion Week Madness, Lets PAPERMAG Take a Peek.
By Alex Gartenfeld
"Are you nervous?" casting director Douglas Perrett asks, looking up at me. He is wearing a zip-up fleece with bears on it. "Well, you're making me nervous."
"Should I sit down?" I ask him.
The couch sits in the office next to Douglas Perrett's desk. The space is more of a renovated apartment than anything. Next to the door lies an empty pizza box and three bottles of Red Stripe. Boards with hundreds of the Polaroids he's taken line the walls, a pastiche of pretty, pouting faces. The 25 or so feet that stretch from the front door to the window make up the makeshift runway. In front of Perrett is a Mac and a Blackberry, both of which light up frequently and are briskly attended to. He floats from screen to screen before settling in to explain his Fashion Week schedule.
It's pre-casting for New York Fashion Week and Perrett is responsible for big shows and big personalities: Benjamin Cho, Patrik ErvelI, Erin Fetherston, Patrik Rzepski and Abaete. It is a Saturday and he has been working since 9 a.m. He won't be finished until maybe midnight. Pre-casting is the first round, Perrett explains, during which he sorts through the plethora of new young aspirants. "It's a time to meet everyone, to get the new faces in before the big girls come back from Paris couture," he says. Next, Perrett will introduce the smaller pool of models to the designers, who will hand pick the ones they fancy for their collections.
Douglas is probably best known for his blog, Confessions of a Casting Director . I remember seeing it for the first time two years ago as a serious of close-up Polaroids of models, followed by snappy effusions -- "Major at Major!" or just "Hot New Face!" There was an element of self-satire to it, witnessed in the profusion of exclamation points. But like any responsible blog, self-consciousness yielded to a formula for simple, emphatic entertainment.
Unlike most other blogs, COACD proved remarkably functional. Clients began to look for it. Editors checked it compulsively. In the two years since its inception, the formula has remained nearly the same. There is perhaps more professional photography, and now almost every marquee model has graced his white background, but there is one pronounced difference: "The blog has toned down a bit now," Perrett says. With editors at Vogue and Nylon checking his blog daily, Perrett has had to sacrifice the crotch shots.
Perrett grew up in Venezuela, and Oakland, C.A., before moving to New York to attend Parsons, where he majored in business. At the time, photographer Ryan McGinley and Proenza Schouler's Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough were there, and had begun to produce significant bodies of work. Perrett witnessed an intense concentration of creativity. While at Parsons, he cast small shows and found that he had the knack for it. He still casts McGinley's scopophilic jaunts.
Upon graduation, Perrett styled for The Blow Up, which was then exclusively online. But casting was his calling. He worked within a set of contacts -- at V, for instance -- and his profile grew. He also opened a street casting division, Development NYC, which began by scouting skateboarders in Washington Square Park.
Suddenly, the door opens, and before I can turn around, Douglas has
thrown up his arms. "Oh my God, is that Georgia Frost?" In walks a
graceful, doe-eyed young woman, and a veritable deer in headlights. Her
eyebrows are dark and broad, but her hair is bleached baby soft. I
recall a December 11th entry in Perrett's blog -- a close-up Polaroid,
under which is written "GENIUS!"
"You are a celebrity to me!" Perrett exclaims.
Frost is flattered, but the experience seems familiar. She struts down the runway then sits for her Polaroid. She spreads her legs slightly, pushes her chin forward and purses her lips.
"I put you on my T-shirt," Perrett enthuses, handing her one (expertly designed by Andrea Marshall). Indeed, Frost is there, in black and pink scratchings, along with Ieklene Stange and Coco Rocha, among other fresh faces. Frost poses for more photographs, wearing her effigy. "I can't believe I'm on a T-shirt," she blushes.
After Frost leaves (with three T-shirts packed into her bag), the office is abuzz. Throughout the casting, two interns, Tess Brokaw and Elle Perez, have shuffled through the office, handling photos and taking coats. Perrett's assistant, Adrian Karvinen, waits more peacefully on the sidelines.
"I love having high school interns," explains Perrett. He remembers the excitement when he first became interested in fashion. Besides which, "They're slightly afraid of you, but eager to please."
Taking cues from Douglas, Brokaw professes her admiration for Frost. "Oh my God, I love her," she blurts, explaining, "She's in the new Burberry ad."
"I know that. I knew that before you were even" Perrett responds.
Talk turns to the third intern, Sam, a Spence girl. "Will she come in today?" muses Perez. "She has a Sidekick and a cell phone, but call the cell phone. The Sidekick doesn't have service," explains Brokaw. Perrett gives her a rather deadpan stare.
It's not long before more models arrive. They all come with prestigious books (mostly Ford). The majority seem busy, but warm, and have obviously been to one too many casting already -- or one too few. One model explains that this is her first time in the office, and shakes everyone's hand. It's a warm, memorable move; this suggests "presence." Another thanks Perrett while walking; this looks silly. Another has a bad attitude; this is of little consequence.
Not all of the models get that Frost-y reception. Sometimes Perrett watches; sometimes he doesn't. Everyone gets a "beautiful" following their walk, at least one Polaroid, and some digital snaps. "I will never turn a girl away at the door," says Perrett.
When the girls are gone, the staff sits down. Perrett divides the girls by his graded enthusiasm. Quite a few are No's. Georgia Frost is Everything. One model is "there's something about her..."; another, "this one's a yes, but only because Adrian wants to bang her box."
Looking at one Polaroid, Perrett says ruefully, "I love this one, but she's so six months ago."