Portland’s own Lana Veenker is celebrating 20 years as a casting director! In that time, she’s made a name for herself both here and abroad — having just returned from the Rome Film Festival where she rubbed elbows with Italian film royalty. Lana joined us to look back at the last 20 years of film and TV productions in Oregon. For more information about Lana Veenker, check her out on IMDb.
Many thanks to the team at AM Northwest for helping us celebrate this milestone! We’re so grateful for our community.
Plans to celebrate a milestone anniversary for Cast Iron Studios were postponed after the company’s founder, Casting Director Lana Veenker, was invited to serve on the jury of the Rome Film Festival’s Alice Nella Città program on October 26th, 2019.
“Spending my 20th anniversary in casting as a jurist at the Rome Film Festival was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Veenker. The other jurists included Talent Agent Frédérique Moidon (France), Cinematographer Alfonso Maiorana (Canada), and Producer Uliana Kovaleva (Russia).
Veenker, who spent about a decade overseas before founding Cast Iron Studios in 1999, has always incorporated her love for travel and languages with her vocation in the entertainment industry. She studied theatre in Paris and Cambridge, and performed on stages in four countries and three languages prior to landing a job in a London casting office in the late 90s. She has lectured in more than 20 countries, and in 2008, was one of the sole Americans to have been inducted into the International Casting Directors Network (headquartered in Berlin), where she currently serves on its first official board of directors.
On October 26th (the date of Cast Iron Studios’ first casting session 20 years prior), Veenker was on stage again, this time in Rome to present the DO Cine Rising Talent Award for Best Young Performer (International Panorama), which was awarded to Belgium’s Anna Franziska Jäger for her performance in Cleo. Other award presenters included Carlo Verdone, one of Italy’s most renowned actors, and Screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone.
“It was a whirlwind weekend, with an incredibly warm welcome from everyone at the Rome Film Festival, especially Talent Agent Daniele Orazi and Producer Carla Mori,” said Veenker. “Once they learned about my 20th anniversary, they rolled out the red carpet to make it an unforgettable experience.”
While Cast Iron Studios’ anniversary celebration back home has been postponed to a yet-unknown date, the weekend’s events in Rome represented a full circle for Veenker.
“I began my career with the dream of working internationally, and have somehow realized that goal, even while remaining based in Portland. It felt like an affirmation of more than two decades of hard work.”
Click below to listen to one of Lana’s interviews in Rome:
THE VERDICT IS IN: The Wonderland Murders Season 2 is live!
Word is out that Season 2 of the hit true-crime series, “The Wonderland Murders”, has just premiered on Investigation Discovery.
Set in the backdrop of the vast and oftentimes dense and dark PNW, the series tells the real-life stories of local Pacific Northwesterners who encountered tragedy, and the subsequent pursuit for truth, answers and closure.
Production kicked off last winter, and took over the region leaving no clues uncovered. With a host of characters from all corners of the state, our local actors brought these stories to life, portraying real people and giving a voice to the voiceless.
Be sure to catch it Wednesdays at 6:00p PDT on ID. (Check local listings.)
Kicking off the summer season with new connections and old friends
Cast Iron Studios hosted an intimate happy hour this week, celebrating a few new members of the Oregon Media and Production Association. This select group was joined by the Cast Iron team, along with a handful of studio friends, to connect, discuss the latest up-and-coming production buzz, and enjoy some delicious bites and bevs!
Thanks to everyone who joined in on the fun and conversation. Cheers to a new season with plenty of exciting, fresh projects barrelling down, or shall we say ‘shooting’ down the local production pipeline!
Z&Z will have a one-week theatrical run in Los Angeles, opening May 17th. Join some of the cast and crew for opening night, or any time that week. The film will run four times a day at the Laemmle Noho Theater, times TBA.
WATCH THE FILM ON VOD, PPV or DVD
Can’t make it to LA? Z&Z comes out on DVD and VOD/PPV in mid-May. Like the project’s Facebook page for updates.
Leading up to the event, improv and comedic actors paired up and threw down their best British accents in one of the loudest and most eventful casting sessions on this side of the Atlantic. Ultimately cast for the cheeky roles were actors Josh Edward and Damon Kupper, who held court on April 19th in Director Park as passersby were encouraged to gather round and egg on the royal duo as they “made way for the Queen”!
The boisterously hilarious and engaging Town Crier interacted with the crowd in attempts to crack up and make guffaw the ever so straight and stoic Queen’s Royal Guard. The best wisecracks and wittiest of jokes reigned–and the further the Royal Guard’s guard was let down, the chance for someone to win a trip to London went WAY UP! Congrats all around on a successful live event.
…And the flight hasn’t officially taken off yet! There’s still time to jump onboard and enter the contest!
From its yearly Talent Diversity Initiative, to its participation in nationwide casting calls for transgender actors and performers with disabilities, to its commitment to always questioning the way roles are written—in order to create more opportunities for women, LGBTQ performers and others—Cast Iron Studios has long been an advocate for underrepresented performers.
Now, inspired by the work of the Annenberg Institute, Cast Iron Studios is working on incorporating an inclusion rider into its casting deals. “The idea is to challenge ourselves,” said President and Founder Lana Veenker, “as well as the production companies we enter into contract with, to more affirmatively seek opportunities for actors who have been historically underutilized.”
This inclusion rider will serve as a benchmark for all future projects; celebrating and ensuring the widest possible range of equity, diversity and inclusion. Based in part on the Annenberg Institute’s open-source template, Cast Iron Studios’ rider will also invite clients to make an optional financial contribution towards the Talent Diversity Initiative (TDI), which provides high-quality, intensive actor training to performers of color (and potentially, in the future, to other underrepresented groups) at no cost to the actors.
The goal of the TDI is to create a larger pool of qualified diverse talent for productions to choose from when shooting in the Northwest by removing the financial barrier to high-quality training, opening doors to networking opportunities in the local film and television community, and funneling participants towards bona fide acting coaches, talent agents, managers and casting companies.
“Graduates frequently go on to book roles in local productions,” said Veenker,” reducing the need for our clients to hire outside of market. By including this provision in our rider, we’re asking clients to not only hire more underrepresented artists today, but to help us build the talent pool of tomorrow; one that more accurately reflects the demographics of the world we live in.”
Roles for Women Hired Locally Increase by 20%
We’re also very happy to report that a recent snapshot of the stats for roles for women cast out of Cast Iron Studios shows an increase in roughly 20% over the past couple of years—and we’re determined and passionate about keeping this momentum going in all areas.
However, there’s still plenty of work to be done, as the stats for women across the board in Film/TV are still pretty dire, both in front of and behind the camera.
According to a recent study by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, male leads vastly outnumber female leads—71.3% compared to 28.8%—over a ten year span. This means that men’s stories were featured twice as often as women’s stories.
Behind the camera, according to a survey released by the Center for the Study of Women in TV/Film at San Diego State University, “The Celluloid Ceiling” by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., women made up only 20% of all the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers who worked on the top 250 films in the last year.
In the words of Geena Davis:
“How do we encourage a lot more girls to inspire to lead? By casting droves of women in STEM, politics, law and other professions today in movies.”
For women, performers of color, LGBTQIA+ performers, and performers with disabilities, here’s to (cast) ironing out the gaps!
Renowned Oregon actor Robert Blanche received a life-saving double lung transplant in August, but has had a difficult time recovering. A Portland resident, Robert has been in ICU in Seattle for six months, with his wife and daughters (ages four and six months old), living nearby. Local SAG-AFTRA members therefore dedicated their January 27th SAG Awards Viewing Party to him, by hosting the “SOS: Salute to Our Star Robert Blanche Fundraiser.”
Our team first met Robert nearly 20 years ago, casting him in various commercials and print campaigns. Since then, he has appeared in many of Cast Iron Studios’ film and TV projects, including NBC’s A Walk In My Shoes, TNT’s Leverage (recurring as Detective Captain Bonanno), and over 30 episodes of NBC’s Grimm as Sergeant Franco. A beloved actor in the community, Robert and his work continue to be celebrated today amongst industry colleagues, union members, friends and family.
The SAG Awards Viewing Party and “SOS: Salute to Our Star Robert Blanche Fundraiser” was a standing-room-only smash hit. One hundred “friends of Robert” showed up to the Lake Theater in Lake Oswego, and raised over $2,500.00 for Robert and his family. The raffle was an amazing success and many union members walked away with delightful goodies, including Amanda Fugate-Moss and Myhraliza Aala, who each won an actor career counseling session, donated by Cast Iron Studios. Additionally, Kristina Haddad won a 2-night hotel voucher, contributed by Casting Associate Ranielle Gray.
With $17,000 left to raise in order to reach their goal, there’s still time to donate! The campaign runs until Valentine’s Day – and what better way to celebrate than a heart full of love and support for Robert.
Casting Director Eryn Goodman and Casting Associate Ranielle Gray made a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles in late January to attend the 2019 Artios Awards, and meet face-to-face with members of the casting community, who are so often only at the other end of a phone or email exchange from our cozy corner here in the Pacific Northwest.
Among those honored at the Casting Society of America’s annual awards ceremony were Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson and Carol Kritzer. UDK Casting received the Hoyt Bowers Award for Excellence in Casting.
Also taking home a top honor for the night was Laura Dern, presented with the Lynn Stalmaster Award for Career Achievement by #OregonMade Wild director Jean Marc Vallée. Cast Iron Studios cast around 30 principal roles in the Oscar-nominated film, based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir.
And though we of course cheered for all nominees and winners, we were especially glad to see so many of the casting directors we’ve worked with over the years be honored for their achievements, including David Rubin (Wild), Corinne Clark (Timmy Failure) and Jennifer Page (Timmy Failure) for Children’s Pilot and Series (Live Action) “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, Meg Morman and Sunday Boling (“In the Vault”) for Shortform Series “Relationship Status”, and Margery Simkin (Extraordinary Measures) with Michael Donovan and Associate Richie Ferris for Special Theatrical Performance Mamma Mia!.
Thank you so much to everyone who showed their support for the Oregon Food Bank by participating in the 8th annual Meals for Monologues event on December 14, 2018. We were thrilled that The Studio NW invited us into their beautiful space and hosted us all for the day.
Official word from the Oregon Food Bank is that we as a community pulled together 336 pounds of food and $453.07 in donated funds this year. All combined, that’s enough to provide approximately 1,611 meals for hunger relief directly to our neighbors.
In addition, we were given amazing total numbers that Meals for Monologues has gathered over the 8 years we’ve been doing this! Since 2011 we’ve helped to provide over 16,000 meals! We couldn’t do it without you, and we’re thrilled to spearhead this event year after year.
We here at Cast Iron Studios are firm believers in giving back, especially during the holiday season. We’re happy to announce that our eighth annual “Meals for Monologues” canned food drive-slash-holiday get-together will be a co-production with The Studio NW!
Be sure to note the new address: The Studio Northwest, 1633 NW Glisan.
Live in Oregon, but outside of the Portland Metro area and still want to audition? Repped by an agent, regularly seen at our office, and helping us out by leaving audition slots open to unrepped talent who may be new to us? We will accept demo reels or self-tapes from Oregon actors, in exchange for a screenshot of your donation to the Oregon Food Bank. Submission must be received by December 14th to guarantee viewing by our casting directors. See instructions below.
SELF-TAPE SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS FOR OUT-OF-TOWN ACTORS
You must be an OREGON LOCAL HIRE with a permanent Oregon address to submit for this general audition.
Self-taped monologue or professional demo reel must be no longer than TWO MINUTES.
If self-taping, be sure you are framed in LANDSCAPE mode, in a CLOSE-UP (head and shoulders), with good lighting and sound. Typically, you would direct your lines to the side of camera, not directly into the lens (it may help to use a real human off-camera).
Submission MUST be a LINK to view your video online, NOT a FILE attached to your email. Upload your video to Vimeo, YouTube or a similar platform and send us the direct URL only. Emails containing video attachments will be deleted.
You may password-protect your video, but be sure to send us the password with your submission.
Special thanks go out to Brian Lord of the Portland Film Office/Prosper Portland, who encouraged us to keep the program going, even if on a smaller scale; to Tim Williams, Executive Director of Oregon Film, for his unwavering support over the years; and to the coaches, who helped us to nearly double the value of our available funds.
We are thrilled to have these wonderful and talented actors as part of this year’s Talent Diversity Initiative!
Lana was on hand at Sarajevo Film Festival for the Award Ceremony, and also helped her fellow International Casting Directors Network colleagues to produce a week-long program of events focused on the casting profession as part of the Festival. Check out the press release below!
FRANCESCO VEDOVATI WINS 2018 INTERNATIONAL CASTING DIRECTOR AWARD
ICDN Award for Best Casting presented on August 15that 24th Sarajevo Film Festival
The Award was established in 2016 by the International Casting Directors Network (ICDN), and represents the first ever international prize for best casting of a feature film.Board President Beatrice Kruger noted in her opening remarks that casting directors are virtually the only department heads to receive main-titles credit on a film without a corresponding national award (such as an Oscar , César or Lola). The ICDN therefore introduced the prize two years ago at Locarno Film Festival to help increase awareness of the essential role that casting directors play in the production of a film.
Vedovati won for the Matteo Garrone film “Dogman,” which made a splash earlier this year at Cannes. He had previously earned laurels from the Italian press association–the Nastro d’Argento–for Best Casting for the same film.
“This is the second award that I have received for this movie,” said Vedovati, “but for me, this is very special, because it is an award given by colleagues. […] It’s also very important to me, because, in the history of Sarajevo, I am the first casting director to receive an award for casting, so this will remain a part of history.”
Casting Directors representing 14 different countries received nominations for the International Casting Director Award:
In addition to the accolade, the ICDN and Sarajevo Film Festival teamed up to present a full program of events centering on the casting profession from August 12th to the 16th. Entitled “Casting at the Heart of Filmmaking,” the program comprised of panels, Q&As, an international acting workshop, a master class through Talents Sarajevo, an Award reception hosted by Spotlight, and “Meals for Monologues,” a food drive/casting call benefiting the refugees of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“It’s amazing that on behalf of the Festival and myself that I can welcome so many prestigious casting directors to Sarajevo for the first time,” said Festival Director Purivatra. “And I’m quite sure that this week-long program focused on casting is going to be important, not only for you who are members of ICDN, but also for so many talents from the region […]. I hope we will not only build this together as the most prestigious event for casting directors, but that actors and actresses will also be almost queueing here. It’s going be a ‘must’ event.”
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.
Hidden amongst the rolling mountains and deep forests of the Pacific Northwest sits a breeding ground for one of the deadliest terrains in the world. Known as a serial killer’s playground, this land once dubbed “Wonderland” due to its grandeur and summer beauty, washes away into nine dreary months of rain that bring gray skies and a falling mist that drives the demons among us to kill. These are THE WONDERLAND MURDERS.
In tonight’s pilot episode, “Pacific Terror,” Detective Molly Daul works two homicides back to back, and she realizes she’s dealing with a sexual predator who targets trusting young women. Arrested before he can kill again in Seattle, his chilling confession remains with Molly to this day.
Check out our great local cast on the series’ IMDB page!
We are super proud to be one of the community sponsors of a new exhibit at Portland International Airport, which was unveiled on Tuesday, May 29th, 2018, and will remain in place for at least the next two years!
The new Oregon Film History Mural and Poster Exhibit showcases #OregonMade productions such as Paint Your Wagon, Stand By Me, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and more recent projects, such as Twilight, Grimm, and Wild.
The mural is located in the Portland International Airport’s south pedestrian tunnel which connects the parking garage to the terminal. It provides travelers with over 160 uninterrupted feet of mural art and posters, representing a small collection of Oregon’s rich film history, and casts a light on Oregon’s unique locations, talented industry members, and film-friendly environment.
We are thrilled to announce Bad Samaritan hits the theaters this weekend! We loved working on this film. Be sure to check out these amazing Pacific Northwest actors!
Watch the trailer here:
“Dean Devlin is a masterful director and does a fantastic job of slowly and mercilessly building tension scene-by-scene. The entire cast gives strong performances including Kerry Condon as Erendreich’s prisoner Katie (who delivers what is probably my favorite line of the film). David Tennant is unrelentingly intense and razor sharp as Cale Ehrendreich.” – Casey Walsh, GWW