The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) added an award for Best Casting in 2020. Will the Oscars soon follow suit?
When Hollywood gets together, either in person or via Zoom, for the 93rd Academy Awards, it will be a moment for the film industry to celebrate the work they’ve done over the past year and beyond during a period of immense strife. Champagne will be drunk, teary speeches will be given, and the various aspects of filmmaking, including many oft-overlooked departments, will receive some much-earned recognition. That is, except for some notable omissions. Actors will win awards, but the people who put them on screen in the first place won’t.
For decades, the job of casting has been one of the most overlooked and easily misunderstood aspects of entertainment, from film to TV to theater to video games and beyond. Yet none of those things work without it. Every time you see a person on stage or screen (or hear them in a radio drama or play them in a game), someone had to cast them. From the central ensemble to the background extras to the voices on the phone, all of those actors were hand-picked by a casting team, and that process is one of the toughest and most widely dismissed parts of the industry.
It’s hard to look at the face of modern entertainment in all its forms and not consider the indelible role that casting plays in shaping that. Consider the work of Sarah Halley Finn, the woman who is largely responsible for filling out the cast of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, thus helping to define the blockbuster of the 21st century, or Nina Gold, the woman behind the multi-award-winning ensembles of beloved shows like Game of Thrones, The Crown, and Chernobyl, not to forget the most recent Star Wars trilogy and no fewer than six Oscar-winning films.
Finn told the Washington Post that she’s cast more than a thousand roles overall for Marvel, from Avengers to background dancers to voices in Tony Stark’s ear. Consider the risks made by Finn and her team in casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man at a time when he was considered unemployable by much of Hollywood, or in hiring an unknown Australian soap star as Thor. Not only did Finn have to anticipate whether these actors would be right for a role that could unfold over several movies, but she had to consider harmony between individuals who would not necessarily appear on screen together for years, interactions that fans were clamoring for thanks to their vast knowledge of the characters’ lore. How different would the MCU Spider-Man movies be if Finn and her team hadn’t anticipated that crackling chemistry between Downey Jr. and Tom Holland, putting the young Brit forward for consideration by the filmmaking team as the latest Peter Parker. For many fans of George R.R. Martin’s expansive saga, casting appropriate actors seemed like an impossible task, yet previously unknown players like Gwendoline Christie, Sophie Turner, and Jack Gleeson, to name but three, ended up being perfect choices. Our entire concept of a pop-culture hero has been remolded for a new generation by the behind-the-scenes work of people like Finn and Gold.
Of course, the director and producer are also part of the casting process, particularly on huge projects like the MCU or the like. And that only feeds into the problem for casting in that it’s something of an invisible art. As Debbie McWilliams, who cast the recent Bond films, told the Guardian last year, “If you notice the casting of a film, we haven’t done a good job.” But what goes into the art of casting?
“”In the same way that production designers and costume designers use their skills, creativity and discernment to bring a selection of options to the director—who then signs off on the final choices—casting directors amass a library of talent through the thousands of hours of auditions they direct, plays and showcases they attend, and films and TV shows they watch,” Lana Veenker tells IGN. She’s the Executive Board Member of the International Casting Directors Network and founder of Cast Iron Studios, which has worked on the casting of projects like American Vandal, Grimm, and Twilight. “The tremendous amount of labor this entails results in a keen eye that allows them to hone in on exactly the right actors for the part, elicit powerful performances in the audition room, and present a tight selection of the most compelling choices to the final decision-makers. When it comes to the cast, they are a production’s best resource, advocates, and guardian angels.”
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.”
As many of our actors know, at this time of the year we are usually hosting our annual awards shindig, inviting scads of nominees and presenting the winners their certificates with all of the pomp and circumstance we can muster.
As many of our actors also know, we have some very exciting projects now underway that are keeping all of us busy.
In order to save some very valuable time this year, we presented our Film & TV Audition Awards on Sunday evening after a last-minute town hall meeting that we had organized with many of our local professional actors. For the curious, and those who missed the ceremony, here is our list of winners.
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CALLBACKS
As you all know, sometimes actors with the best callback auditions don’t end up booking the job. Nonetheless, they deserve kudos for all their hard work and professionalism. Our runners-up for Most Callbacks get Outstanding Achievement Awards.
The Outstanding Achievement Awards for Callbacks in 2008 went to:
Next, we presented our awards for Most Callbacks at our offices in 2008. These actors never cease to amaze us with their solid preparation, incredible talent and consummate professionalism.
The Awards for Most Callbacks were presented to:
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN COMMERCIAL BOOKINGS
Our runners-up for Most Commercial Bookings received an Outstanding Achievement Award.
The Outstanding Achievement Awards in Commercial Bookings for 2008 went to:
MOST COMMERCIAL BOOKINGS
Our top award for Commercial Bookings was presented to the actors and actresses who received the most commercial bookings through our offices in 2008.
The Awards for Most Commercial Bookings in 2008 went to:
MOST FILM BOOKINGS
We only had one award this year for film bookings and it went to the single actor who received two film bookings through our offices in 2008.
The 2009 LVC Award for Most Film Bookings went to:
Catherine Grimme for “Twilight” and “Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”
Our most prestigious award goes to actors and actresses whose auditions were so brilliant that they stood out as the most touching or the most humorous, the most connected and the most inspiring auditions of all of 2008.
Although 2008 was not a year flush with bookings and callbacks, it was an incredible year for stand-out auditions. The other awards presented were based on statistics; these awards were voted on by staff. These are auditions that, months later, we still recall with admiration and wonder.
The Stand-Out Audition Awards for “Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling” went to:
The Stand-Out Audition Awards for HP “Ink Jerks Viral” were awarded to:
The Stand-Out Audition Awards for ORCAS “Aggression II” went to:
The Stand-Out Audition Award for UbiSoft RRR TV “Rabbit” was presented to:
Congratulations to all of our nominees and winners!
Do you see your name among the winners, but didn’t hear about the awards ceremony on Sunday? Shoot us an email at tools4actors[at]slateplease[dot]com to make arrangements to pick up your award. (Be sure to check with your agent first. Some agents took awards home for their clients.)