The Los Angeles commercial casting community mourns the loss of two influential members this month. The passing of both Sheila Manning and Leland Williams has been felt far and wide across the industry by those who knew them but also by those who knew them by way of their indelible legacies.
A Casting Innovator
Sheila Manning was a defining icon in commercial casting, helping shape some of the most venerable advertising campaigns of the 20th century and giving early career breaks to some of film and televisions brightest stars. In many ways, Manning was a trendsetter. She was one of the first commercial casting directors to go independent, leaving an in-house role and pioneering a trend that changed the direction of commercial casting. She was a fierce advocate for talent and casting directors and co-founded the Association of Independent Commercial Casting Directors.
Manning cast thousands of spots for some of the world’s top brands but was perhaps best known for the iconic Coca-Cola commercial “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” and the 1984 Super Bowl Apple commercial that introduced the Macintosh personal computer.
Manning was also deeply involved with the Commercials Peer Group at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and was instrumental in helping the Academy recognize commercials at the Emmys.
To get a better sense of Manning’s impact on the industry, we spoke with Stuart K. Robinson, CEO of Brady, Brannon & Rich. Stuart worked with Manning for 12 years, running her office and becoming a partner in her casting business. When asked about her legacy, Stuart replied, “A moment that always stuck out to me is that, some years ago, the Television Academy hosted an anniversary of decades of commercials. They did a retrospective of the pioneers of the business from the beginning. Sheila had a story with each of them. She had worked closely with them and was as much a pioneer of the commercial industry as anyone in this town. She launched so many careers and worked not only with commercial directors but with the top film directors, up and coming television directors, and had a relationship at every ad agency you could possibly mention. To me, that’s her legacy. Everyone in the industry knew and respected her and knew how great she was at what she did.”
In an ever-changing industry, Manning’s legacy reminds us of where we’ve come from and where we are headed. She will be greatly missed.
The Passionate Advocate
Longtime partner in TLC/Booth, Leland Williams, passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 28. He will be remembered as an enthusiastic supporter of actors and as someone who loved helping actors get their chance to work in the industry they loved. TLC/Booth was a longtime powerhouse in commercial casting, working extensively with legendary director Joe Pytka. The company cast the majority of his extensive and renowned body of work.
Williams was perhaps most comfortable behind the camera, having done all of the videotaping at TLC/Booth for more than 35 years. The role of the session runner is often overlooked in the casting process, but their work is of tremendous importance as it combines the skills of both a cinematographer and a director. William’s impact on the actors he met over his nearly four decades of service in the casting community was matched only by his enormous heart and soul. He will be remembered fondly by his peers and colleagues.