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In conversation with Samantha Dodd

"The work that we did and the friends that I made have literally been the concrete foundation of everything that's happened since" - Samantha Dodd, Agent at Carey Dodd Associates

Floated Image Pictured: Two Redroofs alumni, Samantha Dodd and Chris Carey, founders of Carey Dodd Associates

'It was such a wonderful creative environment', Samantha Dodd (AKA Sam) of Carey Dodd Associates, states, reminiscing on her time at Redroofs. 'My business partner Chris Carey was in that class as well. He was the same year as me, we met there. I'm completely indebted to June, and the work that we did and the friends that I made have literally been the concrete foundation of everything that's happened since'.

Carey Dodd Associates is a leading London-based agency, founded and managed by two Redroofs alumni, Chris Carey and Sam Dodd, who between them host an impressive number of credits in diverse areas of the industry. The agency provides performers and creatives (often with specialist skills) for film, television, and theatre, and offers a variety of consultancy services to producers and casting directors.

"I realised very quickly that I had an affinity with storytelling that went into physical theatre, and the love of the theatrics around that"

Sam thinks back to her first job which shaped the course of her career in entertainment. 'I spent two years at Redroofs, basically learning to be a musical theatre performer, then I ran away with the circus and I became a mime!', she exclaims, chuckling. 'I realised very quickly that I had an affinity with storytelling that went into physical theatre, and the love of the theatrics around that'.

'I was working with people that could use their bodies in the most incredible ways. They were showing me things and teaching me things, and I was learning about comedy and physical comedy. Everybody was sharing their skills. It was very collaborative'.

'After three years I came back completely changed in my perspective of the world, of people within it, and also of what I loved. It was such a big show in Germany. There was a poster of me in Berlin that was like, 150 feet high, but I came back to the UK and nobody knew me. It took me a while to find my feet and I thought "how am I going to work and do what I want to do?".

Floated Image Samantha in a circus performance

Realising that physical performance was where she thrived, Sam landed the lead in a touring production of Paddington and was subsequently contacted to audition for what was to become one of the biggest selling shows the BBC ever had: The Tweenies.

'I got cast in the TV show for CBeebies, and I played one of the lead characters, Jake. They were looking for people that were used to working with physical theatre and also had physical endurance because in those days, because it was purely animatronics, the weight of the costumes and the weight bearing in itself was very tough'.

'I was working with lots of different teams, because all of the different people that create these creatures move around the different FX houses, and I built those relationships that way. The team that did that, that's Neal Scanlan who has the Oscar for creating all of the creatures on Star Wars. And I met Millennium FX, who I work with very closely. Then I went on and did another show called the Fimbles'.

With some impressive credits under her belt, Sam didn't expect to struggle when returning to conventional auditions. 'Casting directors weren't interested', she says. I literally had a line put through my name, and I could only work in creature FX, which at the end of the day has actually served me incredibly well'.

Sam continues working on jobs with animatronics and creature work for film and TV and physical theatre, and as technologies developed she expanded to work with motion capture and performance capture. 'It was very niche in the late 90s, early 2000s. It's not so much now. Everyone wants it', she notes.

Floated Image Samantha as 'Jake' in CBBCs 'The Tweenies'

"We just thought, well, there's never going to be a perfect time. We've just got to do it, bite the bullet and do it. And it was the best decision I ever made"

Sam's transition from actor to agent was not an expected one. One day, her agent's assistant was unavailable. 'I went to step in to help her out and I never left. I found out that I really, really loved it', she recalls. Sam continued performing for many years, but eventually an injury sustained in her 30s caused to her to reevaluate her future. 'Because it was all predominantly physical work I thought, "I can't do this much longer". I was really enjoying working as an agent and realised I really enjoyed working with performers and creatives. So in 2012, Chris and I - we'd been talking about it for a while - decided to set up Carey Dodd Associates'.

'We finally came to a point where I wasn't quite happy where I was at that point in time and Chris... Chris was working with stunts on Warhorse and he rang me from one of the trenches on a break from filming. He stood there and said, "I'm literally up to my waist in mud. It's cold. Steven Spielberg is literally 10 feet from me, and I'm telling you now, I don't want to do this anymore. I'd rather look after the people and make them do it instead". The following week we registered the company. We just thought, well, there's never going to be a perfect time. We've just got to do it, bite the bullet and do it. And it was the best decision I ever made'.

Having built a network of connections and concrete reputations in the industry, Sam and Chris had a lot of support in their new venture, which ensured that they could set their sights high from the get-go. 'We went out to LA quite early on and contacted quite large managers and agents and met with them and told them what we were doing. They still support us now, which has been invaluable, actually, and has helped us continue to establish ourselves as mainstream agents that just have this extra nuance to them'.

They focused on mainstream film, TV, and advertising jobs with little to no connection to special effects at all in their first 18 months of business, but as their agency grew they used their specialist industry knowledge from their distinctive pasts to provide niche services others could not.

'I was never a conventional person, I have to say', Sam laughs, and it is undeniable that Sam's journey through the entertainment industry is anything but a conventional one.

Exploring what lessons Sam and Chris took from Redroofs into their careers, Sam explains, 'I think it's given us great grounding and realism. We always understood that if you want to achieve anything, nothing came easy. It also gave us an appreciation of the team and teamwork, and how important that is. Everybody has a role to play, and nobody is more important than anybody else in the process. I think that stayed with us throughout'.

"I want to be passionate about the people I work with"

Floated Image Samantha during a performance

It is plain to see that Sam cares deeply about her profession. She states her favourite aspect of the job without hesitation - 'The people. I get a real joy out of helping people grow, and helping them develop and seeing the careers grow and blossom. For me, it is that. For me, it's personal management. And that's what gets me out of bed in the morning.

'I have to have a good connection with my clients because then I can get to know them better and make sure that when I'm talking to a casting director or a producer or a team about them that I'm passionate. I want to be passionate about the people I work with. So that that for me is the whole reason behind it. It's that joy of working with creative people'.

Having felt restricted by casting directors in her own acting career, Sam became passionate about ensuring performers with specialist skills are recognised for their acting first and foremost. 'I was determined when we started the agency what happened to me wouldn't happen to other people. That's why we are incredibly focussed on the acting capabilities of the clients we represent before anything else. It doesn't matter whether they originally came from dancing or whether they came from the circus - everything else is just a wonderful, fabulous addition'.

'Now everything's changing', she states. In recent years, Sam has noted a shift of perspective in casting due to the introduction of performance capture, a technique which is increasingly used in computer games, film, and TV. 'Because it's photorealistic they've suddenly realised what we've been telling them all this time - that the acting has to come first and foremost - because it translates directly into the data that's being used. It's that connection between body and mind', she explains further. 'That is an essential part of being a performer. For so many years, those two things were kind of stripped apart. But most instinctive, actors are connected'.

'Shows like Game of Thrones completely broke out of the idea that if you're under prosthetics you're a secondary character. You've got incredible named actors that are willing to put themselves under prosthetics. Originally these used to be voiceover and motion capture artists, and what we're seeing now is they want people to do both. Producers will come to me direct when they're looking for something specific, but more and more they're actually handing what was initially called the 'creature casting' to casting directors because they want actual actors with the whole package. Now it's being seen as just another element of casting, which is great'.

"June taught me to be how to be a team player, and to be prepared to just work and work and work as hard as I can. I think that is one of the most important things that I took from my time at Redroofs"

Floated Image Samantha during a performance

From agent to performer, Sam's advice to young Redroofians is as follows: 'Remember, when you're going into an audition, they want you there. They've asked you to go. So they're already on your side when you walk in that room. So never forget that they want you to get the job when you're there'.

'Be kind!', she continues. 'Be kind to yourself, be kind to the people around you. Everybody's trying to get somewhere and do something. Just be kind to everyone around you as much as you can. But obviously, don't take too much rubbish. Stand your ground too'. Sam thinks back on her journey though the entertainment industry, from the setbacks to the support she met along the way. 'Don't let the knock backs dishearten you. Everybody gets knocked back'.

'June taught me to be how to be a team player, and to be prepared to just work and work and work as hard as I can, and to be amenable and flexible', she recalls. 'I think that is one of the most important things that I took from my time at Redroofs'.