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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Another Successful Year for the NW Talent Diversity Initiative

by Georgia Luke

It’s a wrap!

On November 12th, the 2016 Talent Diversity Initiative students completed their six-week program with a reception at Cast Iron Studios.
Our 32 first-year students were joined by a group of 16 intermediate students who were able to come back for more training, thanks to the support and generosity of the Portland Film Office and the Governor’s Office of Film and Television.
The need for more diverse actors in shows like The Librarians and Grimm is what led to the creation of the Initiative in 2015.
Turner Network Television, whose series The Librarians shoots in Portland, has been a primary financial partner in the project both years, thanks to their Manager of Casting, Alexis Booth.
Additional support was provided by Milagro Theatre, The August Wilson Red Door Project and Artists Repertory Theatre.
The TDI has been lucky enough to provide excellent coaching by some of Portland’s best: Scott Rogers of Scott Rogers Studios and Jana Lee Hamblin of Act Now Studio returned this year to teach our intermediate program. Kristina Haddad of The Actor’s Lab Portland, and Ben Newman of Portland Actors Conservatory came on board in 2016 to work with our first-year students.
Their passion and enthusiasm was contagious, which really helped spark the desire to succeed in their students. Ben recently wrote:

“Being asked to teach–anything really–but especially something I’ve spent the majority of my life pursuing, is the greatest affirmation one can hope for. Empowering ‘young’ actors to reach full potential has quickly become the most rewarding thing in my life over the past few years. This group was no exception. Humility is key, but I’d venture to say that a few of these people had some big moments of self discovery. It also seems like they made some new and important friendships.”

As part of the application process, the nominees were able to list what specific things they felt they needed to work on in order to become more successful. Acting on camera, audition jitters, memorizing lines and taking direction are just a few examples of skills that they wanted to work on. Coaches Ben Newman and Kristina Haddad took this list into consideration when they planned their classes.
The first-year program culminated on Saturday with mock auditions, two break-out sessions on special skills by Fight Choreographer Kendall Wells and Dialect Coach Mary MacDonald-Lewis, a Q&A with the Cast Iron Studios team, plus special guest speaker Norberto Barba, Director and Executive Producer on five seasons of Grimm. Norberto serves on the DGA Diversity Committee, as well as their Latino Committee and Creative Rights Committee, and shared invaluable information with our graduates.
The second-year students joined our first-year students at a post-graduation reception at CIS.


Cast Iron Studios is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive talent pool in the Northwest, and wants to thank all of its generous sponsors. We would love to see this program expand and flourish in the coming years, perhaps one day becoming its own entity!
PS: Check out our full photo gallery here, courtesy of NebCat Photography.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Get Your Child into Show Business

by Georgia Luke

Lana got to join Tra’Renee Chambers on KATU’s new show Afternoon Live on September 20th to talk about how to get your child into show business.

Lana was able to give some great tips on the best way to go about it, and warning signs to look for with possible scams.

Here’s her full list of tips for parents whose children want to get into acting:


  • Make sure it’s something THEY want to do
    • Is it your dream or theirs?
    • Don’t make them do it if it’s not fun for them
  • Network & do your research
    • Look for Facebook groups geared towards local actors, acting classes, indie filmmaking and casting calls
    • In Portland, join the longstanding Yahoo Group PDXBackstage
    • Talk to other actors who are working professionally and to their parents: learn from their experiences
    • Google any schools, coaches, casting companies or talent agencies you are considering and read the online reviews
  • Beware of scams
    • Don’t fall for the bait-and-switch:
      • You take your child to an audition, but it turns out to be a sales pitch for classes or talent competitions
      • Your child is approached in a mall by a so-called “talent scout” who promises to make them famous, only to try to sell you something later on
    • Avoid talent agencies that want money up front
      • Agents should only earn commissions off the work they find for their actors
      • Other than nominal website maintenance fees, agents should never charge actors for representation
    • Avoid any casting calls or auditions that require your child to pay to be seen; there should never be a charge to audition
    • Don’t join any paid casting websites, unless you know for sure that the casting directors in your area use them. Most are a waste of money
    • (We use Casting Frontier, where basic profiles are free. See our Submissions page for instructions on how to get into our database if you don’t have an agent)
  • Get GOOD training
    • Make sure your child learns good habits, so they don’t have to unlearn bad ones
    • In Portland, Northwest Children’s Theatre and Oregon Children’s Theatre offer good stage acting classes for kids
    • There are also several on-camera acting coaches in town; do your research and audit a class, if possible
  • Get experience
    • Do theatre, school plays
    • Let them make their own projects for practice: most kids are savvy with cameras and editing software
    • Have them do extras work to make sure they can handle standing around on set for hours
    • Find casting calls on Facebook or other websites (but research, be cautious)
    • Follow us on Facebook & Twitter or join our mailing list to be notified about open casting calls
    • Read up on how to participate in our periodic general auditions
  • Get Headshots
    • Don’t spend a lot on headshots for kids; especially before you find them an agent and know what they need
    • Snapshots will do until you find an agent who can guide you to a good headshot photographer
    • Headshots should cost a few hundred dollars, not thousands
  • Create an acting resume
    • Search online for examples
    • Include date of birth, height, weight, eye and hair color
    • Include acting experience, training, and any special skills they may have, like skateboarding, ballet and/or languages
    • Include your contact information (cell number, email address)
    • Never include your home address, the child’s direct contact info or their Social Security number
  • Find a GOOD talent agent
    • Look on the SAG-AFTRA website for SAG and AFTRA franchised agencies
    • SourceOregon also has a list of trustworthy agencies and managers
    • Remember: You should not have to pay a talent agent for representation, classes or photos. They may, however, recommend trusted coaches, classes or photographers who are unaffiliated with the agency
  • Celebrate small successes
    • Even auditioning is a success; don’t focus on bookings
    • Do they feel good about how they auditioned? Celebrate that!
    • However they feel, celebrate their bravery and accomplishment. Auditioning is hard!
    • Do something fun afterwards
  • Be a good actor parent
    • Always be reachable
    • Respond very quickly to emails and calls
    • Be an advocate for your child, but be easy to work with
    • We’re not just hiring your kid, we are hiring you!
    • Nobody wants someone on set who will create problems or drama

Good luck, be safe and have fun!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Thank Grimm It’s Friday: “Skin Deep”

by ranielle

Don’t miss these Pacific Northwest actors in an all new episode of “Grimm“ tonight at 9PM on NBC (check local listings).

Anne Leighton, M. Ben Newman, Amber Stonebraker, Claire Rigsby, Lauren Bair, Anya Ruoss, Julie Vhay, Dana Millican, Noah Greene.
Anne Leighton, M. Ben Newman, Amber Stonebraker, Claire Rigsby, Lauren Bair, Anya Ruoss, Julie Vhay, Dana Millican, Noah Greene.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

KATU on the Success of Our Film Incentive Program!

by Georgia Luke

Anna Canzano of KATU caught up with Lana Veenker on Oscar night to discuss the Oregon Production Incentive Fund and how it has brought many great projects to Oregon!

‘Our film incentive program has brought a lot of TV series & movies to Oregon’

Did you know more than 400 films and television projects have been shot in Oregon? The state’s history in motion pictures dates back to silent films. The film Carol by director Todd Haynes of Oregon was nominated for six Oscars on Sunday evening.

But most days of the week in Portland, hopeful actors audition for parts in films and commercials. Cast Iron Studios, founded by casting director Lana Veenker, has cast parts for every major production that’s come through town including Grimm, Leverage, and The Librarians.*

“I think the perception of Oregon has really changed over the past seven to eight years, since we started implementing our film incentive program, which has brought a lot of TV series and movies to Oregon. And that has put us on the map,” said Veenker.

She joined Grimm actor Danny Bruno in Salem earlier this month. They went to the State Capitol, along with other members of the industry, to lobby lawmakers. They want the Legislature to expand Oregon’s film incentive program. That’s tax money used to bring productions to the state, essentially a rebate on their cost of doing business here.

Full Story and Video

* The video erroneously mentions that Cast Iron Studios does the casting for Portlandia. KATU regrets the error.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

KPTV covers Talent Diversity Initiative Graduation at Cast Iron Studios

by ranielle

On Saturday, November 21st, the 32 actors from our Class of 2015 Talent Diversity Initiative graduated at Cast Iron Studios.

The fun-filled day featured mock auditions, a Q&A with the team at CIS, and guest speakers Mary McDonald-Lewis (dialect coach), Kendall Wells (fight choreographer and instructor), and Grimm Executive Producer Norberto Barba.

The celebration ended with a press reception, with guests including Mayor and First Lady Hales, Representative Lew Frederick, Portland Development Commission’s Brian Lord, Portland City Council candidate Fred Stewart and many others.

We had a blast producing this Initiative, along with our partners at TNT, Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios. Here’s to making it a yearly event!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

XRAY FM’s Jenn Chavez covers the Talent Diversity Initiative

by ranielle


Lana Veenker, the President of Cast Iron Studios, discusses diversity in Oregon film and television casting and her studio’s Talent Diversity Initiative with Jenn Chavez of XRAY FM’s The Five Quadrants of Portland. Running through October and November and culminating in a graduation on November 21st, the Initiative offered intensive acting training and coaching at no cost to Oregon actors of color, whom she’s found have been underrepresented in the top acting schools and acting classes, places that are often the gateway to talent representation and introduction to casting directors.  She argues that these and other barriers faced by actors of color can make diverse casting in Oregon a challenge, and hopes that graduates of the initiative are provided with the tools and confidence to book roles in regional film and television.

(Interview on 11/19/15; story starts at ~51:13)


Thursday, November 12, 2015

CASTING CALL: Female Athletes – All Sports – All Levels

by ranielle

CIS Logo

Cast Iron Studios is currently seeking

Female Athletes

All Sports, All Levels

Ages 18-27

Cast Iron Studios is seeking female athletes who are active (from beginner to advanced levels) in any sport for a new project!

To be considered for this project you should be between the ages of 18 and 27, and active in any sport (such as soccer, swim, basketball, running, gymnastics, yoga, dance, volleyball, tennis, cheerleading, rowing, football, ice skating, track & field, roller derby, lacrosse, rugby, boxing, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, etc.).

Submission deadline is 12PM on Monday, November 16, 2015.

Applicants must be local hires in Oregon, and available to audition in Portland on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, with the possibility of a callback on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Auditions are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

Shoot will be one half-day on either Thursday, November 19, 2015 or Friday, November 20, 2015 in Portland.

This is for a non-union, internet project.

The shoot will pay $500. You must be able to clear your schedule to work on the chosen shoot day.

Role is open to any type and any ethnicity. Only requirement is activity at any level in any sport!

To be considered for this role:

Email the following information to talent[@] (remove the brackets in the email address):

Contact Number and Email:
Current Picture:
*Tell us what sport you participate in and at what level*

Submissions must be received by 12PM on Monday, November 16, 2015 in order to be considered. If you match our specs, you will be contacted and given an audition appointment. ALL AUDITIONS ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

Please no calls or drop-by visits. Email submissions only, per the instructions above.

We will contact you if we need more information, or if we would like to schedule you for an audition on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.

There is no charge to audition, no offers of classes or services for pay, nor any other solicitations at the casting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

5th Annual Meals for Monologues

by ranielle

We here at Cast Iron Studios are firm believers in giving back, especially during the holiday season.  We’re happy to announce our fifth annual “Meals for Monologues” canned food drive-slash-holiday potluck. And new this year: toy drive!

Meals for Monologues
Food Drive Benefiting

Toy Drive Benefiting

Holiday Meet-n-Greet Potluck

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
12:00 PM to 6:00 PM* (M4M)
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM** (potluck)

1430 SE 3rd Ave, Suite 100
Portland, OR 97214


Actors from far and wide, you’re invited to come to our offices for an open general audition call, where you can be seen by a casting director in exchange for three non-perishable food items benefiting the Oregon Food Bank or 1 new, unwrapped toy benefiting Toys for Tots.

  • Bring HEADSHOT & RESUME (stapled back-to-back or resume printed on back of photo).
  • Perform a short, prepared monologue (or two!) of your own choosing.
  • Choose a contemporary piece (we just don’t cast much Shakespeare).
  • Audition slots are 2 MINUTES MAX, so make the best use of your time!
  • No appointment necessary.  No phone calls.  One day only.  First come, first served.
  • Collection bins will be in our office November 18th to December 9th, for those unable to attend/donate on the day.


Bring an appetizer, potluck dish or dessert treat and have a bite at this unique holiday party & open house. After you read for one of our casting directors—or even if you’re not auditioning and just want to say hi—stick around for elbow rubbing and general merriment.

If you’re a regular at our office, please consider leaving the audition spots open for others and simply come for the party. We’d love to see you!

*No auditions will take place 2:30PM-3PM to give Casting Directors a short break.

**Nibbles available throughout the day. Potluck “officially” starts at 5PM.

We’re looking to crack 1,000 lbs of food again this year! Not sure what to bring? Check out OFB’s list of Most Wanted Items and this article on How to Donate Food So It Won’t Go to Waste.

Spread the word!  You can join our event on Facebook.



Not in Portland, but still want to audition? We will accept demo reels or self-tapes from out-of-town actors who are Oregon local hires (meaning you have a physical address in Oregon and/or are repped by an Oregon talent agency), in exchange for a screenshot of your donation to the Oregon Food Bank or Toys for Tots. Submission must be received by December 4th to guarantee viewing by our casting directors. See instructions below.


  • You must be an OREGON LOCAL HIRE 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 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 VimeoYouTube 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.
  • Go to or to make your donation.
  • Please list “Meals for Monologues” in the Name, Event or Occasion text box on the donation form.
  • Please send a screenshot or PDF of your donation receipt with your submission.
  • You may include one headshot and resume (or a link to an online casting profile) with your submission.
  • Include your name, contact information, and city where you are currently based.
  • Please confirm in your email that you are a local hire, either because you have a physical address in Oregon or are repped by an Oregon talent agent or manager.
  • Email submission to talent[at], subject heading: M4M Local Hire. (Replace [at] with @ in the email address.)
  • Deadline for self-tape submissions is December 4, 2015 at 11:59 PM PST. We cannot guarantee your video will be reviewed if received after the deadline.
Monday, November 9, 2015

Talent Diversity Initiative Coach: Jana Lee Hamblin

by Kelsey Norene

Meet our Talent Diversity Initiative Class of 2015 acting coach, Jana Lee Hamblin, owner/founder of Act Now Studio.

Jana Lee Hamblin 2Jana brings 20 years of experience, along with a true love of acting to create an environment for the actors that is wildly safe and groundbreaking. Her commitment to each student builds confidence and trust in the simplest of ways. Her ability to see each actor with clarity and love is what makes her classes unique.

Jana is known to be the person that can work with actors at all levels. As a working actor herself, Jana stays current with what is happening in the audition room now. She’s teaching our Talent Diversity Initiative actors how to walk into a casting office and to be of service – to the character, to the scene, to the director, to the moment.

From script analysis to finding the way the writer wants the text to be spoken, Jana is teaching our actors tools that are guaranteed help them to go from audition, to callback, to booked it! Using various techniques, her goal is to help our TDI actors get to the place where they can seamlessly fulfill a role; be it co-star or guest star.

Jana is high energy, engages with the actors, helps them connect with each other, and encourages everyone to get on their feet and be willing to fall on their face. She does repetition warm ups, cold reading exercises, on camera slates, mock auditions, and physical workouts that keep the actors bodies energized. She is helping our TDI actors learn how to have a strong point of view about the world around them, as this is one of the essential keys to good audition work!

Thanks, Jana, for your commitment to our program and to the community!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Talent Diversity Initiative Coach: Scott Rogers

by Kelsey Norene

Meet our Talent Diversity Initiative Class of 2015 acting coach, Scott Rogers of Scott Rogers Studios!

scott-rogersScott served as Acting Coach for 20th Century Fox Studios under a 3-year, exclusive contract, coaching actors for film and television projects. Scott has coached principal actors, for more than 3000 hours on the sets of motion pictures and national television shows. He has produced, cast, and/or directed more than 100 professional productions and written, directed, and produced dozens of TV commercials. He was the full-time, on-set, Acting Coach for the TV series North Shore and was previously the full-time Acting Coach for the hit TV show Baywatch. In 1994, after living and working in Los Angeles for more than 25 years, Scott moved to Hawai`i with his wife, Jeanne, in order to raise their (soon to be) two children in a safe and sane environment. They opened their school in 2000, to train actors for film and television. Scott has extended his school’s teaching to Portland, Oregon and serves as an acting coach in both regions!

Scott is using exercises from all around the world to help our Talent Diversity Initiative actors work more efficiently on camera and develop a deeper understanding of how to get from a page in a script to a real and captivating character that draws the audience in. Pulling from the teachings of masters such as Constantine Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, and Michael Chekhov, Scott uses text analysis, scene study, audition drills, camera exercises, specially designed improvisations, physical and imagination exercises to give actors the ability to trigger real and truthful emotions on demand.

His students are about halfway through the training program now, and we can’t wait to see how their skills have improved.

For more information about Scott and his acting classes, check out his website. Thanks, Scott, for being a part of our Initiative!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Portland Radio Project features Diversity Initiative Coach Jana Lee Hamblin

by admin

UPDATE: In case you missed it, here’s the link to Jana’s interview on Biz503! Her segment starts at 20:29.

Be sure to tune in on Friday, October 23rd at 1:00 PM to Portland Radio Project‘s new show, Biz503, talking about jobs in the arts.

Jana Lee Hamblin

Our Talent Diversity Initiative acting coach Jana Lee Hamblin of Act Now Studio is one of the guests, along with Portlandia producer David Cress, RACC Executive Director Eloise Damrosch and several others. Rebecca Web is the host. is a music-based station, with a mission of giving a voice to local artists, nonprofits and businesses. With deep roots in the local music and nonprofit communities, they are now focusing on the the third prong of their mission: local small businesses and startups.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oregon film and media types tackle talent diversity issues

by admin

(Thanks to the PBJ for this article on our training program!)

Portland Business Journal
October 12, 2015
By Andy Giegerich

TNT and three film and television groups are hosting a “talent diversity initiative” that could help bring a wider range of performers to stage and screen.

The project is training 32 Northwest actors. Along with TNT — which has shot a handful of series in Portland— backers include Cast Iron Studios, which is working in partnership with Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios.

Lana Veenker and TNT are doing their part to bring more diversity to Portland’s acting scene. Photo Credit: Cathy Cheney

“We realized that we shared a common goal in that we all want to see more diversity represented in the projects that shoot in the Northwest.” said Lana Veenker, president of Portland-based Cast Iron Studios, a film and television casting company, in a release.

Veenker said producers, directors and executives always want more diversity in their productions, but that it’s difficult finding that diversity in Portland.

“Actors of color are underrepresented in the top acting schools and acting classes, places that are often the gateway to talent representation and introduction to casting directors,” she said. “And when they are not able to train at the highest level, it becomes even more difficult to compete and to succeed.”

Cast Iron Studios has worked on the TNT series “Leverage” and “The Librarians,” which continues to be shot in Portland.

The classes began Oct. 10. On Nov. 21, the training will culminate in a mock audition session. Veenker hopes those actors will begin getting work in 2016.

Link to original article.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cast Iron Studios, Acting Coaches Host Talent Diversity Initiative

by admin

32 Northwest Performers Selected to Complete 36-Hour Actor Training Intensive for Film & Television

For Immediate Release
October 10, 2015

(PORTLAND, OR) Thirty-two Northwest actors have been chosen to complete a six-week intensive training program, as part of a new Talent Diversity Initiative to take place this fall in Portland. The program is being produced by Cast Iron Studios, in partnership with Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios, and will be sponsored by TNT.

Diversity Initiative Class Photo 2015 Small
“We realized that we shared a common goal,” said Casting Director Lana Veenker, president of Portland-based Cast Iron Studios, a film and television casting company, “in that we all want to see more diversity represented in the projects that shoot in the Northwest.”

This can be challenging, however, in a city with the notorious distinction of being the “whitest city in America.” “On every commercial, series and film that we cast, producers, directors and executives are always telling us, ‘more diversity, more diversity.’ And believe me, we bend over backwards, but it can be really hard here.”

Veenker understood that the issue was not one of talent or even numbers, but of opportunity and access. “Actors of color are underrepresented in the top acting schools and acting classes, places that are often the gateway to talent representation and introduction to casting directors. And when they are not able to train at the highest level, it becomes even more difficult to compete and to succeed.”

The reasons behind this disparity are as varied as the individuals affected by it: Economic hardship, work or familial duties, cultural stigma, language barriers, lack of support by immediate family, even a perception that there’s no place in the industry for actors of color or their stories.

“We thought, ‘the one thing we can do is remove one of those barriers,’” said Veenker. “Let’s find a way to put a pool of actors through an intensive training program at no charge, and get them to a place where they can be booking roles more consistently. It will benefit all of us.”

Veenker approached Alexis Booth, Manager of Casting at TNT. Cast Iron Studios has had a long relationship with the network, after casting four seasons of Leverage, two seasons of The Librarians and a few TV pilots. Her goal was to see if they would underwrite the program. She also approached known Portland acting coaches Jana Lee Hamblin of Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers of Scott Rogers Studios, to ask if they would provide the bulk of the training. The response was enthusiastic from all camps.

Cast Iron Studios next petitioned Northwest talent agents to nominate actors they felt could most benefit from the program. “We wanted performers who had already been vetted as having talent and a strong commitment to their craft,” said Veenker. “And then we wanted to give them that extra boost; some high-level coaching that will help them close the deal in the audition room. These are already actors in whom we have a lot of faith. Now we want to see them crossing the goal line.”

Beginning on October 10th, two classes of 16 actors each will hone their skills by working closely with coaches Hamblin and Rogers over five 6-hour-long sessions. On November 21st, the course will culminate in a mock audition session and Q&A at Cast Iron Studios, with members of its casting team, followed by a media reception. “Over the coming year, we’ll hopefully start seeing our Class of 2015 on big and small screens nationwide. That’s the goal,” said Veenker.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Columbia Gorge Int’l Film Festival Seeks Actors for Live Script Reads

by ranielle


The 8th annual Columbia Gorge International Film Festival will be taking place, Aug 6-16. They have two Screenplay Workshops with screenwriters attending from around the world and they are looking for talent!

In the past, talent have booked roles with writer/directors who loved their work in the live reads. Talent have also made influential changes to works by offering their invaluable insight and suggestions. Talent can truly be a part of something very exciting!

If you or anyone you know may be available and interested you will be scheduled for the session(s) you can attend. You will be sent the scripts in advance and you will be able to suggest which role you would like to read for.

All participating talent:

  • Will be given credentials for themselves and their guests for entire film festival
  • Will be given a Special Guest Gift Bag
  • Will be able to leave headshots in the Filmmaker Lounge
  • Will be invited to dinner at ANGAELICA FARMS the evenings of the script reads to meet and mingle with attending filmmakers.
  • Will be invited to participate in the awards ceremony and invited to speak about the winning screenplays

Saturday, August 8th at 5:00PM
1201 39th Street, Washougal, WA 98671

Friday, August 14th at 7:00PM
1201 39th Street, Washougal, WA 98671

Simply email if you or anyone you know can attend.

Please send:

  • Full Name:
  • Email:
  • Cell Phone:
  • Screenplay Workshop you are available for: Week 1 and/or Week 2

The first workshop is soon, so again, please email ASAP if you are interested. (Don’t contact Cast Iron Studios, as your inquiry may not get to the film festival in time!)


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

6 Do’s and Don’ts of Sending Gifts

by admin

When is it appropriate to give a gift to an industry contact? When is it not? What should you give (or not give)? Will baking brownies for casting directors earn you brownie points? In Lana’s latest Backstage column, she shares the guidelines that she and her team use with their own clients.

Lana Veenker CSAOnce upon a time, an actor sent homemade brownies to our office, lovingly hand-wrapped in tin foil.

But this was not long after Sept. 11. Casting companies were on edge with anthrax scares on the news and crates of mail arriving daily.

We didn’t suspect anthrax, but since we didn’t really know this actor—and hadn’t done anything to warrant a gift from her—we weren’t sure what to think.

Should we eat brownies made by a stranger who hadn’t even delivered them in person? How long ago had they been baked, and under what conditions? Was the name on the package even real? Did we have some unknown enemy? What did it mean?

We were indisputably paranoid, but in the end, no one was brave enough to dig in, and the batch was tossed. We felt bad that the actor had spent time and money needlessly, and wished we could have told her not to bother. A postcard with a photo and a few words of introduction would have been a better investment.

When does it make sense to give a gift to an industry contact? What types of gifts are appropriate? Here are the guidelines we use with our own clients.

1. Cards and emails usually suffice. Most of the time, a note of thanks is more than sufficient for a good deed, whether handwritten or by email. But be judicious: There’s no need to acknowledge each time your contact lifts a finger. That will earn you stalker cred.

Reserve your missives for circumstances that warrant them, or end the year with a single holiday card thanking your contact for the opportunities they gave you throughout the year. Include your photo, contact details, project updates, and any other information they may find useful (change in representation, new headshot, etc.).

It’s also a kind gesture to acknowledge their accomplishments. Several actors sent postcards this spring congratulating us on our new series, “Significant Mother.” This had the double effect of making us feel good, and reminding us of them for the show.

Beyond thank you’s and congratulations, limit personal updates to a few times a year. One manager sends an email blast every time a certain actor he represents sneezes. I’ve had to flag them as junk, they’re so frequent. Not where you want to end up!

2. Gifts are OK for bigger gestures. Gifts are generally unnecessary, and as described in the story above, can even be a wasted effort. (Nothing tops the odd and disturbing parcels we received while working on “Twilight.” A few required rubber gloves!)

That being said, when a contact goes above and beyond, sometimes you want to show your appreciation. While we discourage actors from spending money on us, we have to admit that we do, on occasion, send gifts to our own clients: after they’ve hired us on a big job, for example, or when their referral helps us secure a major gig.

If you’re adamant about recognizing someone with a gift, here are a few things we’ve learned through our own and others’ missteps.

3. Food and beverage gifts are tricky. Once, I showed up at an executive’s office with a bottle of pinot noir, only to discover that she’d recently quit drinking.

Another time, I brought three bottles of wine for three producers. Only one of them drank, so she scooped them all up, and the other two didn’t get anything.

I was smart enough in one instance to call an agent’s assistant and ask what kind of gift would be appreciated. He informed me that his boss was a big Bombay Sapphire fan, so I had a bottle of gin delivered. Never underestimate assistants! The agent was thrilled.

In our office, we (like many nowadays) have a variety of food restrictions—carbs, gluten, sugar, etc.—not to mention we are usually watching our waistlines. Doughnuts and cupcakes are often given away instead of eaten (although we have, on occasion, succumbed to a certain brand of high-end salted caramels; no one is infallible).

For several years, we sent holiday gift baskets to our biggest clients, including fruit, cheeses, crackers and the likes. There was enough variety that everyone could share the spoils.

4. Gift cards are versatile. These days, we tend to stick to gift cards when we want to recognize someone. Not only are they easier to send (some even by email), but our clients can choose exactly what they want. Coffee cards work great for smaller gestures. For those who brought us bigger jobs, we’ve sent iTunes or Amazon gift cards, movie passes, or certificates to well-reviewed foodie restaurants.

One smart actor researched restaurants in our neighborhood and presented a gift card that allowed us to treat the whole office to lunch. We loved that everyone got to be included!

5. Personalized or shareable gifts are a nice touch. Do your research to come up with an appropriate, personalized gift. Is your contact an animal advocate or environmentalist? A donation to their favorite charity could be a lovely gesture.

Items easily shared with an entire staff are also thoughtful. Frequently, it’s the behind-the-scenes people who are most responsible for your good fortune, but it’s the figurehead who gets all the recognition (and presents).

Keep this in mind, and try to think of things the whole team will enjoy. An office plant, flowers for the front desk, or a small box of tea samplers or scented candles might work (but find out how many are needed, so that no one gets left out).

Calling the office ahead of a visit to take everyone’s coffee order might also make you very popular with staff, but only do this if they know you well enough that they won’t mind the intrusion.

6. Simple and genuine wins the day. Above all, remember that gifts are never necessary or expected, and they can even make the receiver uncomfortable if you spend too much or if they haven’t done anything special to merit them.

They may think you’re angling for favors, rather than expressing gratitude. After a major booking or around the holidays, a small gift might be appropriate, but lavishing gifts in hopes of securing an audition could feel desperate or like a bribe.

In truth, the best reward our office can receive is a report from the production team that you nailed a role we cast you in. Make us look good so we’ll get hired again and recommended to others. That could mean more work for you down the road. Way to scratch each other’s backs!

Link to original article.

Casting director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country, Cast Iron Studios.

Her recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, “Grimm” for NBC, “Significant Mother” for the CW, and both “The Librarians” and “Leverage” for TNT. Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Jean-Marc Vallée, Catherine Hardwicke, and Tim Robbins are among her past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple, and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Veenker is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, the Actors Platform in London, the Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris, and Prague Film School.

Veenker has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today,,,, and Wired, among others.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

3 Mistruths That Can Ruin Your Chances as an Actor

by admin

Have you ever lied or exaggerated about your acting credits on your résumé? Beware, because the truth always comes out! Lana shares several real-life stories in her latest column, courtesy of Backstage.

Lana Veenker CSA

I once received a pitch email from a young actor that began like this:

Dear Lana, 

I have been working on a few major projects like [Hit TV Series], and also been shortlisted to join [A-List Actor] in the upcoming film [Title of Film]. Please see a rough cut of my new reel attached. 

This email was problematic for a few reasons. One, neither his reel nor his IMDb page made any mention of his appearance on said hit TV series—which I suppose could be explained if it were a recent episode that hadn’t aired. But it was the second half of the sentence that threw his credibility out the window.

First of all, this actor had limited credits, so it surprised me that he could be shortlisted for a role in a major studio film.

Secondly, what the actor didn’t know was that, when I received his email, I happened to be sitting next to the director of this tent-pole film, on set of another project he was directing. We had been discussing his feature, so I knew that even the lead actor’s deal had not yet closed.

(It’s possible names were in discussion for the supporting leads, but without knowing who the star was, how could anyone be shortlisted for what had to have been a minor role, based on this actor’s résumé? The location casting director in charge of the smaller roles wouldn’t even have been hired yet, with no A-lister attached to green light the production.)

Although it annoyed me, I forgot about his email until a similar experience—i.e. someone seeking employment with us whose résumé falsely listed a casting associate credit on a project that our office cast—made me realize this one was still stuck in my craw.

On a long and boring transatlantic flight, I searched my inbox for his message, and clicked on his IMDb page. More than seven months had gone by and still his hit series appearance was not listed in the show’s credits, nor had the footage been added to his reel. This led me to suspect that he had worked as an extra, not as a principal, on the show (if at all).

On a whim, I shot him an email to ask him if his role on the series had been a speaking part, and in what way had he been shortlisted for the tent-pole film.

He responded that, yes, his role had been a speaking one, albeit small, but that the episode still hadn’t aired (seemed weird after more than seven months, but whatever). Then he affirmed that he had been shortlisted for the second lead opposite the A-list star in the feature film.

Second lead?! I’ve been in business long enough to know that the studio could get almost anyone they wanted to play this role (and they did). This was a $100M+ budget film, directed and produced by a team with a history of blockbusters. Did he seriously want me to believe that he, at one point, had been in consideration for the supporting lead?

Skeptical, I wrote him back, “OK, but shortlisted in what way? Meaning you were submitted for the project by your agent/manager? You auditioned (for which CD?) and received a callback with producers? You were placed on avail for the role that [A-List Actor] is now playing?”

He replied that he had been submitted for it by his manager, and that “someone had told him he had been shortlisted.”

Folks, being submitted for a role in no way signifies that you are on a shortlist. (And shame on his manager, if he led him to believe otherwise.) This kind of exaggeration does not fly with the pros, and only serves to irritate them.

Here are a two more mistruths that could cost you your reputation:

1. Listing a background credit on your résumé as if it were a principal role. Especially when auditioning for—or sending materials to—the casting director of that project, who knows she’s never hired you. (By the way, this kind of stunt can unnecessarily eliminate you from consideration on a TV series, if they think you’ve already been on the show as a principal when you haven’t.) Same goes for claiming you were a guest star, when your role was co-star: Big no-no.

However, do make sure that your materials are polished, up to date, and accurate, so that you don’t miss out on opportunities suited to you. A manager recently asked me if I knew any talent she might be interested in for pilot season. I thought of forwarding the materials of an actor I knew who had recently relocated to Los Angeles. But after I saw the state of his headshots and demo reel, I decided to hold off. (I did inform the actor, though, and he is rectifying the situation.)

2. Listing skills on your résumé that you don’t really have. I heard a story from a commercial director (that I cannot verify) that he once pushed an actor out of an airplane, after the actor—who had claimed in his audition that he knew how to skydive—chickened out during the shoot. (The actor deployed his parachute and landed safely, I’m told, but holy cow!)

On the other hand, do list skills that you actually have. Just recently, we were hiring talent with teleprompter and/or CPR experience for a training video. Those who failed to include those skills in their online casting profiles were not called in to audition.

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to your acting career. Give yourself the best chances by being straightforward, thorough, and professional, and no one will fault you for just starting out. We’ve all been there ourselves!

 Link to original article.

Casting director Lana Veenker began her career in London and, upon returning to her Northwest roots, founded one of the top location casting companies in the country, Cast Iron Studios.

Her recent projects include “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon, NBC’s “Grimm,” now in its fourth season, and 64 episodes of TNT’s “Leverage.” Gus Van Sant, Robert Benton, Guillermo Arriaga, Catherine Hardwicke, and Tim Robbins are among her past film clients. Commercial accounts include Nike, Apple, and Nintendo, and international campaigns from Shanghai to Santiago.

Veenker is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network. She frequently lectures across the U.S. and abroad, most recently at the Finnish Actors’ Union in Helsinki, Amsterdam School of the Arts, the Actors Platform in London, the Acting Studio in Berlin, Studio Bleu in Paris, and Prague Film School.

Veenker has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today,,,, and Wired, among others.

Monday, January 5, 2015

4th Annual Meals for Monologues Post Game

by ranielle

Our 4th Annual Meals for Monologues event on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 was a rousing success! Actors from all over the Pacific Northwest — and beyond! — joined the efforts and the results were spectacular.

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photo by Deneb Catalan

In just five hours, Casting Directors Lana Veenker and Eryn Goodman saw 125 actors perform monologues. That’s one actor every 2 1/2 minutes! Cast Iron Studios collected an outstanding 1,010 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank, and with the continuation of self-taped submissions upon proof of donation (introduced last year), an additional $437 was donated. That’s a total of 2,505 meals! That’s more than double last year’s number of meals! You guys are amazing!

What really helped put us over the top this year were donations from our generous acting community! Special thanks to Deneb Catalan, Jana Lee Hamblin, and Scott Rogers for their contribution.

(web) _MG_7401
photo by Deneb Catalan
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photo by Deneb Catalan
photo by Deneb Catalan
photo by Deneb Catalan
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photo by Deneb Catalan
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photo by Deneb Catalan
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

AM Northwest: Local Actors in the Movie, ‘Wild’

by admin

In case you missed the segment on AM Northwest this morning, here it is!

“It’s a movie based on the best-selling book by local author Cheryl Strayed.  Wild is playing now in Portland and we were happy to be joined by two local actors who played memorable parts, Jan Hoag and Will Cuddy, along with Casting Director Lana Veenker.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

PHOTOS: Portland’s ‘Wild’ Cast & Crew Screening

by ranielle

If you attended Portland’s Wild cast and crew screening on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at the Hollywood Theatre, or just want to see fabulous photos from the event, this is the blog post for you! This is just a sampling of photos taken on the night. You can find the full gallery of photos here.

Photo Credits: Nathan Coltrane & amber smith with SpokenRAD

Lights, camera, action at the Hollywood Theatre!
Casting Director Lana Veenker, author Cheryl Strayed, Casting Director Eryn Goodman, and Casting Associate Ranielle Gray.
Actors Jeffree Newman and Robert Alan Barnett.
Actor Randy Schulman with author Cheryl Strayed.
Agent Mary Dangerfield, author Cheryl Strayed, and actress Jeanine Jackson.
Ranger danger? Ranger awesomeness!
Actors Greg James and Jerry Bell.
Author Cheryl Strayed with actor Jerry Carlton.

Full gallery of photos here.