Casting director

How Zan Ludlum balanced her love of fashion with her do-gooder impulses.

Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Who she is: Zan Ludlum, a casting director whose recent clients include BCBG, Interview magazine, Vera Wang and an HBO pilot for filmmakers the Neistat brothers. When she’s not scouring skate parks, Facebook and Harlem community centers for interesting, unique New Yorkers, you might find her playing pickup soccer on Chrystie Street.

The early days: Ludlum’s first job out of college was assisting fashion photographer Steven Klein. “I studied photography and anthropology; working for Steven, I learned so much technically and it was my intro to the fashion industry.” And she was quickly immersed—in fact, Klein ended up photographing Ludlum’s childhood bedroom for an issue of W magazine devoted to Kate Moss. See, as a teenager, Ludlum’s obsession with the model-waif led her to wallpaper her room with pictures of Moss. Years later, she had the opportunity to meet her idol when she worked with Klein on the W shoot and brought in a Polaroid of her room in the hopes that Moss would sign it. When Klein saw the snapshot of Ludlum’s bedroom, he decided it would be the perfect location for the issue themed “All About Kate.”

Breaking into the biz: After working for Klein for a year, Ludlum met Jennifer Venditti, owner of jv8inc and a trailblazer in the world of street scouting. “Jen looks for content, not just style. Let’s say you see a group of punks on St. Marks Place, they might all have cool style, but there might only be one who has character no matter what they’re wearing. That’s the one we’re looking for.”

The peace-out moment: After four intense years working on campaigns for clients like Louis Vuitton and Levi’s, “I was burned out,” says Ludlum. “I didn’t want anything to do with fashion.” Swapping Soho for Cambodia, she volunteered for an emergency-aid organization. “I wasn’t sure what was next.”

Bringing it all together: Six months into her travels, New York came knocking. “My first job offer was from Vera Wang to cast the New York shows. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I flew in for the week and then went right back. The contrast was so unbelievable.” Ludlum spent another year abroad before returning to New York with a new perspective. “I took a lot of pictures while I was traveling—mostly portraits.That has definitely given me a better eye for casting. Also, I’m getting certified to do disaster-response work here in the states. In the end, it was less about choosing between my interests than managing to combine all of them.”

To see Zan’s casting work or photography, or to just say hi, go to monkeyvibes.com.

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