How’d You Get That Gig?
Ah…Life on the set on a Hollywood movie. The glitz, the glam—the sixteen-hour days, the freezing cold, the 3 a.m. call times. Making movies might be the toughest job a person could ever love, and these five Portlanders should know.
By Stacey Wilson
The Casting Director
Who I am: Lana Veenker, forty-one
Where I live: Northeast Portland
What I do: “As a casting director, I select the actors for a project based on the director’s vision for each role. I audition actors, present the top candidates to the production team, and provide input as needed with the final casting choices. The casting director handles troubleshooting that may come up during production—for example, if an actor needs to be replaced. We also cast smaller roles or those created after principal photography has begun.”
How I got my gig: “Toward the end of a ten-year overseas odyssey, during which time I studied acting in Paris and Cambridge, I worked at a casting office in London. In 1999, I returned to Portland and launched my casting company, Lana Veenker Casting, with just a laptop and a cell phone. Most recently we managed local casting for Twilight, Management, Untraceable, The Burning Plain, and Into the Wild.”
My first big show: “A film called Aberdeen, starring [the Swedish actor] Stellan Skarsgård. I was in Glasgow, Scotland, seeking a girl to play the lead actress, Lena Headey, as a child. I ended up meeting the little sister of one of the actresses who was there to audition, and it was she who landed the role.”
How much I make: “It’s feast or famine, so my income is all over the map.”
Job perks: “Playing with actors and getting paid for it. Watching people and projects you believed in become successful. Also, being able to write off cable TV, Netflix, and movie and theater tickets as research is a major perk.”
Job bummers: “‘Sorry to call you past 10 p.m., but the producers now want Latina soccer moms instead of rockers. And they have to speak Puerto Rican Spanish. Can you round a bunch up by morning?’”
Worst on-set snafu: “One time an actress’s vibrator went off in her purse right after her audition. It sounded like a jackhammer. I tried to reassure her that this could happen to anyone, but I don’t think there’s any way to recover from that.”
Brush with greatness: “Walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival for Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park was great. But one of my favorite memories is of a Christmas party years ago at Kyle MacLachlan’s house in LA. After learning we were both from the Northwest, he produced a bottle of one of his most beloved pinot noirs and shared it with me.”