Bernie Telsey has a tough job: Getting inside the minds of entertainment industry creatives and finding just the right performers to bring each role to life. Telsey, a prominent casting director who works across theater, film and TV, is also the co-founder of MCC Theater, a nonprofit off-Broadway theater company.
Over a long career, he's worked on Broadway productions such as “Rent," “Wicked," “In the Heights," “Hairspray," "Hamilton" and “South Pacific," to name just a few.
He recently sat down with Rita Marie Pelosi from City National Bank's Entertainment Banking team, a leading provider of financial services to Broadway. As two New Yorkers who live and breathe the city's entertainment scene, they discussed casting, diversity and what it takes to have lasting success in entertainment.
Finding the right cast for a show is made easier with a space like the MCC Theater, where creators can experiment with theatrical conventions. Productions at the off-Broadway theater allow new talent and award-winning veterans alike to develop their creative ideas.
“It's a place where they get to play, explore and take risks," Telsey commented. “What's more thrilling than that?"
While his theater supports upcoming and established members of the theater community, it's also a space for tough conversations — especially those concerning diversity.
“That's when we realize the entertainment industry is too small," he commented. “I don't think it was intentional, but [the industry] wasn't opening up its doors wide enough to welcome our full community."
Today, Telsey tries to have conversations with teams early in the production process so they can influence the direction of his work. He tries to understand what a character's identity can mean and asks more questions about why they do or don't have a different background.
“Those conversations are now happening with much more ease and much more honesty," he added. “And I think that's a wonderful change."
Telsey's advice to anyone working across entertainment? Be nice. Though the entertainment industry is large, Telsey pointed out that it relies on personal relationships.
“It's a people business," he said. “There are so many hundreds of talented casting directors and actors and producers, but it's about building relationships and being someone people want to work with."
At City National, our Entertainment Banking team also understands how important relationships are in the industry. That's why they get to know clients and work toward solutions that meet their unique needs.
When Pelosi asked if working with the bank has helped Telsey, he responded with a resounding, “Yes, yes and more yes!"
Telsey explained that, in the past, he saw a bank as only a building. He noted that meeting the team at City National transformed his perspective about what a financial institution can be.
“Much like casting, it's an organization that relies on people," Telsey commented. “People who I can talk to, people who take care of me and people who can help me keep the all too necessary financial engines behind my organizations running."
For Pelosi, helping clients find solutions is more than a job – it's one of her passions.
“It's also, on the other side, very gratifying for us when we see our clients do well and watch their trajectory go up," Pelosi commented.
Besides helping clients with their financial needs, City National supports the industry as the official bank of the Tony Awards.
Find out more about how City National helps with entertainment banking needs in this episode of Beyond the Spotlight, our series highlighting sports and entertainment professionals.
This video is for general information and education only and is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank. It is compiled from data and sources believed to be reliable, however City National Bank does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates given are those of the speaker as of the date of publish with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change.