Chuck and Megan Marra
Entertainment industry casting directors call the mountain home
By Julianne Homokay
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
Lake Arrowhead has attracted many Hollywood types over the years. Screen icons like Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple, beloved television stars like Lucille Ball and Dick Clark, musicians from Liberace to Brian Wilson to Sammy Hagar, and even the famous gangster Bugsy Siegel have all chosen to live or spend part of the year on the lake, according to the HD Daily News.
That roster also includes entertainment industry folks of many talents: producers, screenwriters, designers and even casting directors, such as Chuck Marra and Megan Foley Marra of Foley Marra Casting.
Both Chuck and Foley Megan have been working in the entertainment industry for most of their lives. “I’ve been an actor and a dancer since age 6,” said Megan. She landed in casting after doing craft services on set and working as a production assistant for directors. Chuck began his professional path studying acting in New York under Lee Strasberg before moving to Los Angeles. He met Megan only a few days after arriving.
“I wanted a serious relationship,” he says. “When I started acting, I had a night job; the only way I could see her was to work with her.” So, he quit the night job and began working with Megan in casting. He jokes that, at first, he had no interest in the field: “You’re standing eight feet from the job you really want! But I had to get better at it because I was ruining my girlfriend’s business.” The pair went on to found Foley Marra casting in 1987.
Their business was eminently successful during what Chuck refers to as a golden age of commercials, including a comprehensive list of name clients such as McDonald’s, Apple, ABC and Ford, among dozens of others. Business began to drop off due to the changing nature of television advertising and an ill-fated deal the union made after an actors’ strike back in 2000. The Marras, being the creative, innovative and relentlessly positive people they are, however, were not deterred. They refocused the casting side of their business toward theatricals – short films, feature films and television shows – where they’ve been working ever since.
Foley Marra Casting is not a typical casting agency. The Marras find great joy in supporting their actors and helping them to wrest control over their careers, and the Marras have come up with several innovative offerings with which they strive to “ignite your passion.”
They offer classes and coaching in voice-overs, audition preparation, branding, acting and auditioning for commercials. The most unique service they offer is one that actors would be hard-pressed to find at any other casting agency: They help actors build successful reels. Actors can bring them short scripts, or the Marras may even help them to write one, and the Marras will produce the short, aiming for quality that will help actors get jobs.
“You have to have something to say, to know how you want to be seen in the industry,” Chuck says. Many of the shorts they produce have gone on to success in film festivals.
The Marras have had a connection to the mountain for a long time. Says Chuck, “I’ve always wanted to live here,” after he found Lake Arrowhead on a map and began exploring. After their casting business took a turn back in 2000, they bought a house. “I wanted to move up here to have a place to do a scrapbook camp,” says Megan, a camp she ran for seven years. The couple moved up here in 2003, to avoid a fraught experience for their kids in the LAUSD, for one reason. For another, “I fell in love with this community before I even moved here,” says Chuck. “Instant community.”
The Marras are theater people as well, so in 2007 they founded the Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company, where they produced over 60 plays and developed a company of actors with whom they’ve been working for years. Many of their “kids” are still working in the industry in one capacity or another.
The main problem they encountered, as do many folks who do or would like to do theater on the mountain, was maintaining a space. A couple of the spaces they used for the company had code enforcement issues, and sometimes they experienced a difference in philosophy from their lessors. If they could find an affordable space on the mountain with the right zoning, “we’d turn it into a studio in a heartbeat” to offer in-person classes on the mountain and produce plays again.
Regardless of what the Marras decide to do, they are a successful, passionate and creative addition to the roster of entertainment industry folks who call the mountain “home.”
Mountain residents who are interested in taking classes may visit foleymarracasting.com to see the variety of options the agency offers via Zoom.