Hidden Figures….In Film/TV Casting

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It’s almost that time again, Oscar time, that is! And this year, is monumentally important, on so many levels. First and foremost, a record total of 7 minority actors, to include, 6 Black actors, were nominated this year, (yaaassss!), according to an article in Variety on January 24th, thus, breaking the streak & the infamous Oscars trending topic of 2016, #OscarsSoWhite. AND, with the swearing in of one of the most controversial presidents in the history of mankind/ since the beginning of all time, (or at least it REALLY feels this way), this year, more than ever, is just the beginning of a slew, of record breaking events…God help us all.

Any who, back to the topic at hand…The Oscars. Ahh…I love The Oscars, and not only, because of the the glitz and the glam…it’s also a time to celebrate extremely talented industry pro’s! Not to mention, it’s the industry’s biggest event and just being nominated, is one of the highest honors, one in entertainment can receive!

With all of the current #Oscar buzz, and swarm of extremely talented actors, directors, producers etc, who are in the spotlight, I can’t help but think of a crucial piece of the puzzle that almost never, makes it into the main stream media.

The Casting Directors– or CD, in industry lingo.

Site note: Did you know….Casting is still the ONLY main title credit, (meaning you will see this credit, before and after the film), without an Oscar Category?!!?!?!??!!?!?!!?!? WTF?!?

A year ago, an agent that I had a meeting with, asked me if I had seen the Oscar nominations and what films I had seen. I mentioned a few that stuck out to me and we got to chatting about the one of the films. He mentioned that he was close friends with one of the Casting Directors who cast around, 90 roles, for one of the Oscar Nominated films. (90 roles!!) I was so impressed when he said her name, because I had definitely heard/seen the name before, but I didn’t remember seeing her name on IMDb, for that particular film, or on the credits of the film, when I watched it. He went on to explain, that it was “something that happens”, more often then he would like to admit and it was “very frustrating”. He said, “sometimes, people who have worked very hard on a film, don’t get a credit..anywhere.”

I didn’t know what to say because the first thing that came to mind was, “WHAT!? Shut UP! That’s BS!” but, I decided to take a breath first and save the drama for the screen. I asked him, if this was common throughout the industry and especially in Casting? He nodded and said, “Unfortunately, yes, sometimes it’s an executive decision and sometimes its a mistake.”

Say what?!

While I understand, people don’t do this for a “Credit” per se, and I understand a student film team, making a mistake… but when a huge studio film, that’s been nominated for several awards, doesn’t give credit, to anyone that worked hard on a film, that’s just wrong, in my opinion. Every project, is another notch in your belt and especially, when something is nominated, can be the key to securing a lot more work, in the months and years to come! Not, getting that recognition, not only lessens someone’s name and very hard work, but could potentially take away valuable opportunities.

Serious, Ouch.

I wanted a little more info, so, I decided to reach out to a CD, (who wishes to remain anonymous), that has worked in the industry, for many years. I asked her if she had experienced any of this uncredited hoopla. She shared, that she “personally had not except for commercials, but that’s just how it is”, and recommend that I see the film, “Casting By”, stat.


So I did.

OMG- YOU GUYS-If you have not seen this film yet, stop what you are doing and GO SEE IT NOW!

Casting by, which is streaming on Netflix, is an eye opening documentary, about Marion Dougherty, the woman who revolutionized the casting industry and many of the CD’s that began independently casting, once studios moved away from the studio system, of having contract players, in the 1950’s. Marion is truly a super hero and THE original casting Goddess!

Marion got her start as the casting assistant, for The Kraft Television Theatre, back in the 1940’s and eventually went on to become the casting director. She was in charge of casting the entire show, for 8 years, which did over 500 pictures, and get this… never once, received a credit! I mean, we are talking, she gave James Dean, Glen Close, Jon Voight and MANY, MANY, others, their start in film and television!! And it wasn’t just her, but all casting directors and assistants, were never credited. Insane.

Eventually Marion and several other CD’s did received credit, but only after several attempts in the 1960’s, and after being rejected several times, due to the fact that it was argued they are technically “not directors”. (Oh, brother. Really?) Yup, really. They were credited as “Casting By”, but, it was not a full credit for just the CD, but it was shared with an assistant. It took 3 years for Marion to receive a full credit, meanwhile, her Hollywood “counterpart”, Lynn Stalmaster, (also a casting God), was the first CD, to ever receive a full title credit, on a film.

There is SO much more to tell you all, like the fact that the majority of her staff, were all women and she felt very strongly about women working together…ok, ok, I’ll stop…I don’t want to spoil it! You have to experience this film for yourselves- especially if you are an actor! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish you were alive in the 40’s….ok, maybe that’s just me….but one thing is for sure, unless you are a robot, you’ll be utterly and completely moved! I was beyond inspired…it’s a definite must see!!!!!!

In this industry, and for those of us who are courageous enough to pursue it, we know that most of the time, there is a lack of appreciation, credit and recognition. And especially, if you are an actor who is in this industry, solely for that reason, you are going to be sadly disappointed. The only way to “do this”, is to do it because you LOVE it; period, point blank. Everything else that comes, in due time, is all a gigantic bonus.

These unsung casting heroes, spend countless hours, days, weeks and months, going through sometimes, thousands of submissions, (this is not an exaggeration), to ensure they find the actor(s), who are an exact match, to the role(s) they have been hired to fill. Talk about some major pressure! In my opinion, this is probably, one of the hardest jobs, and not for the faint of heart. It takes someone really special, to be in casting, for the long haul.

So, the next time you watch a movie or sit down to binge watch your #fav tv show OR, for all you actors out there, the next time you have an audition, get a general meeting, have a call back or take an educational workshop, walk in there with TONS of appreciation, gratitude and ALWAYS, take the time to say THANK YOU!

Want to read a great article on Casting By? Check this one out by Meghan O’Keefe! (@megsokay on Twitter)

Want to know more about what a CD does? Read this great article by Kate McClanaghan! (@Sound_Advice on Twitter)


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