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Alison Fowler & Stephanie Pringle on Leading the New Wave of Casting

As all good advertisers know, casting can make or break a piece of creative work. It’s why Principal Casting Directors Alison Fowler and Stephanie Pringle founded their full service casting company Chicken and Chips to service the growing demand for progressive film, television and new media casting. With their unique backgrounds in advertising and production, they’re bringing back the art of casting through creative and strategic collaboration, venturing outside of the traditional means to uncover emerging voices and curate unique and interesting cast ensembles.

Mavens corresponded with the award-winning duo to learn how they’re normalising diversity, inclusion and representation, and helping brands form authentic connections with their audiences.

Tell us about your respective career pathways.

SP: I sort of stumbled upon casting – I didn’t know it was a profession until I started working as a producer’s assistant on a feature film. I grew up as a ballet dancer but stopped that in my late teens knowing it wasn’t realistic for me to pursue as a career. While I was working in production, I also studied business at uni and majored in advertising. It turns out that came in handy when I first started in casting at Chameleon in Melbourne, helping to cast mainly TVCs.

When I moved back to Sydney in 2010, I went on to accept a job at Fountainhead Casting and worked with some of Australia’s best commercial directors including Paul Middleditch, Ray Carlson and Dave Wood. I also got to work with international directors on big brand campaigns including Jean Pierre Junet, David Fincher and Bobby Farrelly. Looking back on it now, I didn’t realise how pivotal some of these directors were on shaping my love of casting and the creative process.

AF: I’d always been very familiar with the inside of an audition room as an actor in my teen years, having spent a lot of my time at castings after school. But my sensible side saw me study advertising at uni to ensure I still had a viable career path – fortunately. I ended up with almost 5 years at Ogilvy working on some of Australia’s biggest accounts. But the advertising burnout came, and I really just wanted to be in the entertainment industry somehow. It was a friend and colleague at Ogilvy who suggested casting, which made a lot of sense given my years of auditioning; that’s when I jumped ship and started fresh in casting at Fountainhead, and where I met Steph, and everything fell into place.

How did you go about launching C&C?

SP: Al was my assistant at Fountainhead – we were introduced to each other by one of my clients at the time, Rob Spencer at Ogilvy. We had the same sort of drive and ambition; we’re both very driven people. I always had an entrepreneurial mindset and thought I’d work for myself if I wasn’t given the opportunities I wanted.

I’m a huge advocate for building a door if people refuse to open them. There’s only so long I will knock before I do it myself.

We were the first casting company to launch in around 15 years. We kept hearing from actors how frustrating it was for them to get an in room audition at any casting office. We felt there was a huge pool of untapped talent that weren’t being given the opportunity to audition at the time. Back then, casting was also very white bred and safe. We wanted to come at it from the perspective of conscious casting – nurturing emerging voices and giving actors that may not have had the same opportunities as others a platform and grassroots entry into the industry. We aimed to open doors for people.

Now, we’re known for paving the way to the New Wave of casting in Australia, being advocates for inclusive casting and supporting emerging voices in storytelling – whether that be in advertising, TV or film.

It was pretty daunting launching in such a niche market, where the market share is held tightly by only a few companies. I remember hitting send on the launch email at 10am and then quickly downing a glass of champagne.

AF: We always say it came about on the basis of a shared frustration within the industry, but I also think it came with a lot of boldness and as Steph says, drive and ambition. But in reality, it came about with a very honest conversation between us, and we didn’t really know each other very well at the time – our visions for the future and existing circumstances.

We also saw more opportunity in the casting landscape than we were perhaps experiencing; it felt like a natural transition to build on the foundations of our shared passions and ambition. It’s like we just needed one another to give us the gentle push to take the leap!

I can’t say I ever really thought about working for myself and being an entrepreneur probably doesn’t come naturally, but when you find a shared excitement with someone for the same things it’s an obvious direction to take. And we still get excited for all of those things; we’re constantly evolving and coming up with bigger and better plans for the future, which never stops being exciting (and still daunting)!

Cricket Australia ‘What We’re Made Of’ (Sedona, Director: Phil Sage) Winner 2021 B&T Diversity Award

Bumble ‘Girls Will Be Girls’ (Eight, Director: Courtney Brookes)

How is C&C contributing to better representation and diversity in Australian film, TV and advertising?

SP: We really feel like the conversation of diversity and representation should be very common sense. It goes without saying that the casting for advertising should be inclusive and represent society how it is, not a glorified version of it. At the moment, we are trying to challenge our clients to cast consciously – that is, choosing the right person for the role, regardless of their background, gender identity, ability, or even because it might be their first ever job. And the trickiest thing with that is encouraging creatives, directors and clients to be less prescriptive with their casting briefs. The less prescriptive you are, the more creative freedom we have in the casting process. We obviously understand that certain demographics need to be ticked off from a brand perspective, but in an ideal world, we’d be able to remove the little box we get given and cast without barriers.

While we will continue to advocate for authentic and inclusive casting, we’ve shifted our focus toward bringing back the art of the casting process. It’s about creative collaboration with our producers and directors, and really nurturing their experience with casting and educating those that are coming up through the ranks. Even in the ad space, casting seemed to have lost its craft - it was like everyone was just going through the motions for a while. Post Covid we have a real opportunity to rewrite the way things are done and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

AF: I think we launched C&C at a time when this conversation was just starting to get some real traction, and it became part of our company ethos from its conception. We don’t feel the need to suggest diversity, because it just is. Our casting process is entirely inclusive and we don’t limit who we explore for a role, but rather endeavor to find the right person for a role.

We are passionate about casting authentically and consciously – I do believe with the launch of C&C in this time, we’ve paved the way for this to be the benchmark in our industry.

Lexus (Eight, Director: Courtney Brookes)

Today FM (The Producers, Director: Cam March)

Who are your favourite women role models?

SP: I am personally obsessed with Clementine Ford, Shonda Rhimes, Bruna Papandrea, Emma Isaacs, Sarah Jessica Parker – all for different reasons.

AF: There’s a few for varying reasons… Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks, Gwyneth Paltrow, Glennon Doyle and Jameela Jamil.

Chicken and Chips is a proud member of the Casting Guild of Australia and the Guild’s Diversity Committee. If you would like to collaborate on your next advertising or creative campaign, please reach out to or buzz 0407 504 690 to talk strategy and costs.

Follow Chicken and Chips on Instagram here.

Portrait of Al and Steph photographed by Jes Lindsay.


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