Andrew Weir Shows Us the Crazy, Amazing World of Casting, Talks Underage Models

For the third season in a row, ACW Worldwide, the casting agency founded by legendary casting director Andrew Weir, invited us to attend their huge day-long spring/summer 2012 casting this Sunday. As I'm about a foot too short to be a model, we were not there hoping to get a spot in one of the four major shows Weir was casting (Thakoon, Rebecca Taylor, Jen Kao and Rachel Zoe) and we will probably never know what it feels like to be one of the hundreds of gorgeous amazons filing through the Hudson Hotel library all day, walking for an audience of Weir and his staff. However, we now know what it's like to be on the other side of the table--we got to sit right next to Weir and shadow him for about an hour of non-stop models. It was really fun. And informative. Click through to get all the dirt on what goes on at a casting table, including why we think it might be a while before underage models are completely filtered out of runway shows, plus tons of photos!

For the third season in a row,

I realize it must be challenging to cast four shows at once and see all these girls. Andrew tells me they have creative meetings with each designer a week in advance, except for Rachel Zoe, who obviously lives in L.A. and just had a child. "We had a conference call with Rachel Zoe and she wants very specific type...Basically, we sit down look at the collection or what pieces of the collection have arrived because everything ships at the last minute and we go over the mood board and have a really in depth conversation about what they’re looking for so when we sit down here we can just circle which one."

They do have to limit the amount of shows they cast each season--to avoid insanity. "To keep it straight, we also have a rule that we only take four shows per season. I think we turned down eight shows this season for mental health because it starts to go away after five shows."

Despite possible mental health dissipation, Weir would sometimes strike up conversations with girls he remembered. He and his staff were particularly obsessed with one: Suzie Bird. "She's the one girl that collectively all of my team is smitten with. We just heart her." He remembered another girl because of a tattoo she had on her forearm from the book The Little Prince. Tattoos can either help or harm a model's chances of getting booked--in this case, it helped a casting director remember her.

Clothes are also an interesting component to a model casting. "It would be a great idea for a trend forecaster to come into one of these events because what you see these girls wearing at these castings shows up two years later," Weir observes while one of the many girls wearing leather short shorts strutted down the "runway." However, the general public would probably opt for a more covered up version. Granted, it was pretty humid out, but these models were, for the most part, showing a lot of skin. "They're told to show their legs--that's why they all come in half naked. If you can't see [their legs] there's a reason why..."

Of course, beauty and walking seem to be the most important factors. The most common remarks he would give either quiet enough so that only those of us at the table could hear--or jotted down on a score card--were "gorgeous," "pretty," "so pretty," "cute," and, occasionally, "complexion needs work," "too green," and once, to a Sudanese beauty, "I dont even know what to do she’s so beautiful."

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Overall, though, the biggest deal-breaker for Weir is a wobble. "You’re not gonna do a show with us unless you can walk. You have to be the complete package. There are some amazing girls that are so beautiful but if they can’t walk, maybe next season. In my 10 years of experience, I find that if you do use a girl that's a little wobbly, it just breaks the continuity and effects people in the audience."

Of course, what we really wanted to know was his thoughts on an issue that has become a deal-breaker for some: underage models.

An increasingly strict 16-year age limit has been placed on runway shows and it's even gotten to the point that designers and casting directors are being told to card models to verify their age.

Interestingly, Weir would almost always refer to the models as "kids" or "babies." Out of all the models I witnessed over the course of an hour only one said she was under 16. When the extremely young-looking girl told us she was only 15, Weir quickly asked, "Where's your mom?" "She's back there!" the model replied. Weir quickly wrote "She's 15" on her scorecard and that was that. However, things were not always this way.

One model, now 19, approached the table, whom Weir had worked with six years prior. He told me, "Back before age was such a scandalous issue, she and I worked together when she was 13, but she was never without her father ever, so if I wanted to book her, we had to fly dad and book two hotel rooms...I’ve always felt okay to do it if a parent was coming and the parent's cool with it and I’m paying for the parent to be there with the kid, then I’m fine with it, but now..."

Another model approaches. "Allison was 15, which is so politically incorrect now," he says sarcastically. "True," she responds, "But, I think they all just lie about their age now. I think they’re all still 14!" Hmm...

Click through for more pictures from the casting!

**All photos by TK Stuart-Deely