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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Oscars’ Missing Category: Best Casting

by admin

Kayleigh Donaldson of IGN recently interviewed Lana Veenker of the International Casting Directors Network, and Rich Mento of the Casting Society of America, about the only above-the-line department that receives no recognition at the Academy Awards.

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?

The problem for casting [is] that it’s something of an invisible art.


“”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.”

Link to full article.

Many thanks to Kayleigh Donaldson and IGN for putting a spotlight on casting directors this Oscars season!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Casting Director Lana Veenker on jury at Rome Film Festival

by admin

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).

Lana Veenker at Rome Film Festival, October 26, 2019.

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.

Casting Director Lana Veenker presents the Alice Nellà Citta DO Cine Rising Talent Award (International Panorama) at Rome Film Festival, October 26, 2019. Photo Credit: Carlo Verdone.

 

Following a photo call and interviews with the Italian press, Veenker held a master class and Q&A moderated by Italy’s first lady of cinema, Mrs. Piera Detassis, President of the Italian Film Academy (David di Donnatello Awards; the Italian Oscars), with the participation of Actor Lorenzo Richelmy, star of Netflix’s Marco Polo.

Master Class with Lana Veenker at Rome Film Festival, October 26, 2019.

 

Piera Detassis, Lana Veenker and Lorenzo Richelmy at Rome Film Festival, October 26, 2019.

 

The day ended with a celebration dinner with Italy’s top casting directors and fellow ICDN members, Beatrice Kruger, Francesco Vedovati, Lilia Trapani Hartmann and Barbara Giordani.

“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:


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Eryn Goodman and Lana Veenker nominated for International Casting Director Award

by Cast Iron Studios Staff

In case you missed it, earlier this month, our own Eryn Goodman and Lana Veenker were nominated–alongside L.A. Casting Director Heidi Levitt–for the 2018 International Casting Director Award for “Bad Samaritan,” directed by Dean Devlin!

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!

ICDN Casting Directors Tusse Lande (SE), Anja Dihrberg (DE), Lana Veenker (US), Timka Grin (BA), Beatrice Kruger (IT), Debbie McWilliams (UK), Harika Uygur (TU), Magdalena Szwarcbart (PL) and Nancy Bishop (US) pose with 2018 International Casting Director Award Winner Francesco Vedovati (IT) (second from left).

FRANCESCO VEDOVATI WINS 2018 INTERNATIONAL CASTING DIRECTOR AWARD

ICDN Award for Best Casting presented on August 15that 24th Sarajevo Film Festival

(Sarajevo, BA) On August 15th, the International Casting Director Award was presented to Italian Casting Director Francesco Vedovati at Sarajevo Film Festival. Festival President Mirsad Purivatra presided over the Ceremony.

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.”

2018 International Casting Director Award winner Francesco Vedovati with ICDN Board President Beatrice Kruger and Sarajevo Film Festival Director Mirsad Purivatra.

Casting Directors representing 14 different countries received nominations for the International Casting Director Award:

ROMANIA

FLORENTINA BRATFANOF
Touch Me Not
by Adina Pintilie

SWEDEN

JEANETTE KLINTBERG*
Sami Blood
by Amanda Kernel

SPAIN

CAMILLA-VALENTINE ISOLA*
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
by Terry Gilliam

ITALY

FRANCESCO VEDOVATI*
Dogman
by Matteo Garrone

GERMANY

ANJA DIHRBERG*
Casting Willi Herold:
JACQUELINE RIETZ
The Captain
by Robert Schwentke

IRELAND

AMY ROWAN*
CARLA STRONGE
Kissing Candice
by Aoife McArdle

NORWAY

METTE HOLME NIELSEN*
BELINDA SØRENSEN
U – JULY 22
by Erik Poppe

THE NETHERLANDS

MARINA WIJN*
Just Friends
by Ellen Smit

ISRAEL

EMMANUELLE MAYER
Scaffolding
by Matan Yair

FRANCE

SARAH TEPER
LEILA FOURNIER
120 Beats per Minute
by Robin Campillo

UNITED KINGDOM

SHAHEEN BAIG
Lady Macbeth
by William Oldroyd

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

TIMKA GRIN* (as Timka Grahic)
Casting Turkish actors:
HARIKA UYGUR*
Never Leave Me
by Aida Begic

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

HEIDI LEVITT
LANA VEENKER*
ERYN GOODMAN
Bad Samaritan
by Dean Devlin

SWITZERLAND

CORINNA GLAUS*
Blue My Mind
by Lisa Brühlmann

 

 

 

*ICDN Members


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.

Participating casting directors included Debbie McWilliams (UK), Beatrice Kruger (IT), Harika Uygur (TU), Anja Dihrberg (DE), Timka Grin (BA), Lana Veenker (USA), Francesco Vedovati (IT), Nancy Bishop (USA), Tusse Lande (SE) and Magdalena Szwarcbart (PL).

“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.”

ICDN Casting Directors Francesco Vedovati (IT), Debbie McWilliams (UK), Lana Veenker (US), Magdalena Szwarcbart (PL), Harika Uygur (TU) and Beatrice Kruger (IT) pose with Sarajevo Film Festival Director Mirsad Purivatra (rear center).

 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sarajevo Film Festival puts a spotlight on casting—and on local casting director

by Cast Iron Studios Staff

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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 Shooting Stars Casting Director Breakfast

by admin

Just stumbled across the video of this year’s Shooting Stars casting breakfast, hosted by European Film Promotion at the Hotel de Rome during the Berlin Film Festival.

Lana and fellow members of the International Casting Directors Network (ICDN) met with ten of Europe’s top up-and-coming actors over coffee as part of the weekend-long event.

The ICDN has over 40 members from 18 different countries and is the first international network of its kind. Lana was inducted into the organization in 2008.

PS: Catch a glimpse of Lana’s former boss, London casting director Jeremy Zimmermann at 0:36. They had a surprise reunion at this year’s Shooting Stars!