Oregon Casting Director Lana Veenker invited to one of Europe’s largest film festivals as part of a weeklong program drawing international focus to the casting profession
(Portland, OR) On August 15, 2018, when the International Casting Director Award is handed over to the winner at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Oregon casting director Lana Veenker will be on hand.
Not only is Veenker—alongside longtime Portland colleague Eryn Goodman and Los Angeles casting director Heidi Levitt —nominated for Best Casting of a Feature Film (for Bad Samaritan by Dean Devlin), she is part of a team invited by the Festival to produce a special program centered on the casting profession, entitled “Casting at the Heart of Filmmaking.” The program is sponsored by Sarajevo Film Festival, Spotlight, and the International Casting Directors Network (ICDN).
Veenker, who got her start in casting in London and spent a decade abroad before founding her company in Portland in 1999, is one of the only American casting directors to have been inducted into the association. The ICDN currently has more than 80 members hailing from 23 countries, and provides a network for casting directors from around the world to collaborate and exchange ideas. Its members meet each year at Berlin International Film Festival.
Founded in 2005 under the auspices of European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars program, the ICDN became its own independent association this February at the Berlinale, and Veenker—a member since 2008—was elected to its first official Board of Directors. “It’s funny how things come full circle,” said the Portland native. “Jeremy Zimmermann—the London casting director who gave me my big break—was also elected to the Board, so now we’re working together again after 20 years.”
In less than a week, Veenker will join prominent casting directors from countries such as Italy, Poland, Germany, Turkey and the UK to present a series of events at Sarajevo Film Festival highlighting the art and craft of casting. Included are a master class with Debbie McWilliams (the legendary casting director of the James Bond franchise); a panel featuring Italian casting director Francesco Vedovati (Nastro d’Argento winner for Best Casting for Wondrous Boccaccio, as well as this year’s Cannes breakout hit, Dogman), an international acting workshop for a group of 15 performers selected from the regions of ex-Yugoslavia, and of course, the Award Ceremony, presided over by Festival President Miro Purivatra.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to pull together,” says Veenker, “but what I’m most excited about is that we’re bringing Meals for Monologues to Sarajevo.” Meals for Monologues (first conceived by Chicago casting director Claire Simon, and now practiced by casting companies across the U.S.) is an open casting call/food drive, where actors have the chance to audition in exchange for cans of food for the needy.
Cast Iron Studios, Veenker’s company, has hosted a Meals for Monologues in Portland every year for the past seven years, so when the ICDN Board was debating what it could do for the refugees as part of its Sarajevo program, she jumped in to organize it.
“Meals for Monologues is such a great event, because it’s a win for everyone: The actors get to meet casting directors; we get to discover new talent, and the food bank gets its shelves stocked. In Sarajevo, we’ll have nine or ten internationally-known casting directors auditioning actors from all over former Yugoslavia—a vibrant region with lots of talented, professional performers who rarely get a chance to be seen outside their home countries.” In exchange for their three minutes of fame, actors will make symbolic donations of food, blankets and hygiene supplies. All proceeds will benefit Sarajevo-based non-profit, Pomozi.ba, which provides support and advocacy for the growing number of refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina.