Casting Director David Rubin Elected President of the Motion Picture Academy
For the first time in its history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences elects a casting director to be its 35th president. With over a hundred film credits under his name, Emmy-winning David Rubin replaces former Academy president John Bailey. He’s now charged with helping to lead the film industry’s most prestigious institution through the next chapter of its transformation.
David Rubin, a Casting Director, Is Now the Academy’s New President
The Academy presidency actually comes up for grabs every year. A president is able to serve up to three consecutive one-year terms. This is provided that they do not, in the process, hit the maximum of nine consecutive years on the board. If they do, they “term out” and must step away from the board for at least one year, which is the case for Bailey.
The vote took place in the evening of last Tuesday. David Rubin got this nomination from a fellow member of the organization’s 54-person board of governors.
Work and achievements
Among Academy watchers, Rubin’s election did not come as a great surprise. Rubin was first elected to the board in 2013 as one of the original three representatives of the newly formed casting directors branch, which he had fought to establish. Re-elected in 2016 and in 2019, the board also chose him to serve as its secretary, a position to which he assumed again in 2017 and 2018. Rubin also actually ran as president two years ago. However, Bailey unexpectedly beat him after coming up during the meeting as a surprise alternative.
Rubin won his Emmys for casting Game Change and last year for Big Little Lies. This year, he is up again for casting HBO’s Sharp Objects. His many film credits include The English Patient, Men in Black, Hairspray, Lars and the Real Girl, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Get Shorty, My Best Friend’s Wedding, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Fried Green Tomatoes, Trumbo, Wild, Gravity, Cold Mountain, My Cousin Vinny, and Days of Thunder.
To this achievement, the board of the Casting Society of America said, “David Rubin is an accomplished and award-winning casting director, and his election to president of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a testament to his leadership, vision and passion for the craft, as well as the larger impact casting has in film. The Casting Society of America congratulates its member David, as well as AMPAS, and we know he will be a successful and effective president.”
What’s in store
There has never been an Oscar for best casting director, but it seems possible now during Rubin’s presidency. Among the other issues Rubin will be facing when he takes over include the ever-evolving Oscars, from choosing a producer for the 92nd edition set for February 9, 2020, to deciding whether it will go hostless again like this year. He also will help lead the continuing drive toward equality and diversity in the membership. He will also be presiding over the expected opening of the Academy’s museum, planned to debut in 2020.
In larger productions, where the casting process is too much for one person to handle, casting assistants are typically hired to assist the casting directors in the selection of actors, singers, dancers, or models for movies, commercials, musicals, and stage or screen productions. Casting assistants also provide general running duties in the office, including answering phones, sending faxes and emails, liaising with couriers, as well as assisting during casting sessions when actors perform screen tests on camera.
Learn more about their responsibilities here.
Duties of Casting Assistants: What Are They Here For?
The casting assistants of the casting director or casting firm of multiple casting directors is responsible for supporting casting operations through a number of administrative and secretarial tasks, as well as performing research and preparation for auditions. This is an entry-level position and is considered an apprenticeship toward a career as a casting director. The specific job description of a casting assistant will vary by employer, but the essential responsibilities are the same.
Knowledge and skills
Casting assistants must have a wide knowledge of cinema and actors. An interest in theater and stage actors is also a prerequisite. As this position is considered a formal steppingstone toward a career as a casting director, education in acting, directing, and dramatic criticism is encouraged. Casting is a skill that comes with experience and cannot be taught in a classroom.
Most casting assistants are graduates with an interest in acting and casting and who have managed to enter the film industry at junior levels as assistants in talent agencies, thereby gaining experience of selecting and working with actors or as runners for productions. Those involved in casting should constantly keep up to date with new and interesting actors and must develop the confidence and taste vital for any casting director.
Acquiring casting credits on feature films is important for a casting director’s career progression, but since casting assistants are not usually credited, it may be difficult to develop a good reputation. Many talented, hardworking casting assistants work for many years for the same casting director before they are offered larger responsibilities or promoted to casting associates.
General administrative duties
Casting assistants are multifaceted helpers in the casting process. They are usually all over the place. They perform administrative duties such as answering office phones; taking messages; and sorting, sending, and receiving general mails, emails, and fax correspondence. Casting assistants also manage client or talent databases. This includes adding or updating contact details and scanning or uploading copies of pictures, resumes, headshots, demo reels, audition tapes, or portfolios. Additionally, casting assistants might help to drum up business by working on advertising or by researching upcoming productions that might need talent.
Some casting assistants also help with a casting firm’s or casting director’s online presence. For example, they might update websites or blogs with new information; create and issue email blasts to potential clients; or design and send newsletters to subscribers. They might also provide social media support like updating a firm’s status on social networks or responding to questions submitted via social networks, blog comments, or forums.
Casting assistants typically finish work when most of the cast have signed contracts, so they always have to keep an eye out for next gigs. Thus an internship with a casting firm is the preferred first step. Most of these internships are unpaid as interns earn college credit instead. However, temporarily providing free labor can provide substantial benefits to this career. Applicants with internship experience will have a considerable advantage over the competition, and often, the firm providing the internship will elect to offer permanent employment to exemplary interns.
1. Read the script to understand the project
Like casting directors, casting assistants need to read the script or project description to understand the creative vision of the writer. Note that the casting director is responsible for realizing the characters of the story. A casting assistant’s choice of actors for each role, therefore, must not disappoint. They have to keep in mind that good casting is crucial to making characters credible on screen and is fundamentally important to a film’s success.
The casting assistant is responsible for conducting any necessary research concerning a new client or new project. Vital information must include period, style, theme, information on past productions of the show, previous cast, and directorial team, etc. Some casting directors may own a library of resources for numerous shows, including librettos, musical scores, DVDs, and cast recordings. It would be the job of a casting assistant to catalog and maintain this collection of resources.
3. Sort through, compile, and maintain database of actors
From the casting director’s existing database of actors, casting assistants sort through talent résumés, headshots, and other background material to match potential talent to specific roles. They compile and maintain the database of client and performer information. The electronic or paper system will include data pertaining to every production cast by the company, including details about the production company, directorial staff, and billing.
4. Contacting for scheduling
Casting assistants subsequently call the actors’ agents to check the availability of talent and schedule auditions, appointments, and go-sees or general meetings. If the talent is unavailable, they update the list and research other options. They are also tasked with coordinating logistics with the directorial clients, the casting venue, and actors’ agents.
5. Send out audition materials
When scheduling is complete, casting assistants may prepare and send out audition materials, such as scripts or sheet music, contact forms, and other details about casting requirements.
1. Greet talents and agents
On audition days, casting assistants greet arriving talent and agents and conduct check-ins for auditions and other appointments. If requested by the casting director, the casting assistants corral performers and conduct the check-in process.
2. Provide general support
Casting assistants ensure that the sessions run smoothly by serving beverages and snacks for the actors, acting as liaisons whenever there are changes and delays, and running errands (e.g., answering phone calls, keeping in touch through emails, welcoming other guests, and setting up the camera for screen tests).
3. Keep records for every auditionee
During auditions, casting assistants may handle camerawork and film auditions for later viewing and consideration (although this is usually a casting associate’s job). Casting assistants also compile all records for every auditionee. This includes the performer’s headshot, résumé, agent information, union affiliation, and notes on his/her audition.
1. Label the best takes
After each casting session, the casting associates make selections and edit together the best takes. The casting assistants then label them correctly and send them to the director, producer, and/or financiers.
2. Handle callbacks
Casting assistants follow up auditions and let actors know if they have been successful or not, sometimes explaining to some applicants why they didn’t fit production needs. Then they schedule the successful talents for additional auditions or interviews. Once a role is filled, they make offers where appropriate, following these up when necessary. They might also contact talent or agents on behalf of casting directors to arrange contract meetings.
3. Take notes
During any follow-up meetings with talents or agents, casting assistants often take important notes and record agreements for the casting director. They assist in providing forms and contract signing when necessary.
Future career path
A casting assistant’s role is usually the first step in the casting sector. With enough talent and experience, casting assistants get promoted to casting associates and, eventually, casting directors. However, career progression is typically slow and can take many years.
The Casting Directors’ Guild is a professional organization of casting directors in the United Kingdom. This year, the guild makes history as it holds its first-ever CDG Casting Awards. The event aims to honor the vital contribution of casting directors to the success of any production.
Inaugural CDG Casting Awards Honors the Industry’s Brightest
The duties of casting directors make them the unsung heroes of every production, so it is just right that they be recognized for the work that they do. Hence, the inaugural CDG Casting Awards directed the spotlight to them.
Concluded on February 12, 2019, the CDG Casting Awards 2019 distributed six titles: best casting in a theater production, best casting in a television production, best casting in a film, best casting in a commercial, outstanding contributor to the casting profession, and outstanding contribution to international casting.
Here are this year’s winners.
Best Casting in a Theater Production
Paul Wooller, Felicity French, and Trevor Jackson, the minds behind the casting for Hamilton, received a nomination for Best Casting in a Theater Production. Besides the Hamilton team, Alastair Coomer also earned a spot on the list of nominees for The York Realist. Sophie Parrot received a nomination for An Octoroon, Wendy Spon and Jacob Sparrow for Follies, and Charlotte Sutton for Caroline or Change.
In the end, Hamilton’s casting directors bagged the award, sponsored by The Stage, UK’s theater news platform.
Best Casting in a Television Production
United Agents awarded the Best Casting in a TV Production to Kate Rhodes James for her work in the BBC One series Bodyguard.
Also receiving nominations were Kharmel Cochrane (The End of the F***king World), Tracey Gilham (Inside No 9 season 4), Julie Harkin (Kiri), and Jina Jay (Black Mirror season 4).
Best Casting in a Film
Debbie McWilliams won the Best Casting in a Film at the CDG Casting Awards. McWilliams is the casting director behind Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. Independent Talent Group, an organization with an extensive production network in London and across UK, sponsored the award.
Nominees for the award included Lucie Bevan for Murder on the Orient Express and David Grindrod, Stephen Crockett, Will Burton for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Julie Harkin and Jina Jay were nominated as well.
Best Casting in a Commercial
Cadbury’s Mum’s Birthday’scasting directors, Michael Cox and Thom Hammond, bagged the gong for Best Casting in a Commercial. The award was sponsored by New Wonder Management, a talent-acquisition management in the UK.
Aside from Cox and Hommand, Martin Gibbons, Dan Hubbard, and Orlla Maxwell also received nominations. Sasha Robertson Casting received two nominations for Audition for an Advert and Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare.
Outstanding Contribution to the Casting Profession
British film company EON Production presented the Outstanding Contribution to the Casting Profession to Charlotte Bevan. Her passion as a director of the National Theater made her the woman for the spot.
Outstanding Contribution to International Casting
Completing the list is Richard Cook, a talent agent, who won the Outstanding Contribution to International Casting. Cook created the Subtitle Fest, a film fest that welcomes hundreds of international filmmakers, directors, and actors every year.
Speaking of the ceremony, the Committee of Director Victor Jenkins hopes that the event will “lead to the creation of a casting category within other industry ceremonies.”
It’s true, casting directors are the unsung heroes of every production. They’re the backbone of every production. While the job is oftentimes rewarding, the casting process can be a challenge. From understanding the script to get to know the characters to finding the right actor for the role, it takes more than just basic knowledge about the industry to be a good casting director.
Lucky for you, the industry is now home to casting directors who have polished their skills and are ready to guide the newer ones to be better at what they do. One of them is Ellen Chenoweth.
Casting Tips from Ellen Chenoweth
Gathering the best actors to take on the roles in a film is no easy task, take it from Ellen Chenoweth herself, the award-winning casting director behind No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010). An entire day of interviews isn’t even enough to fill the spots. Don’t be dismayed, though! The hurdles in the industry are necessary to help you blossom into a world-renowned casting director.
To guide you, Ellen has shared her secrets on how to be an efficient casting director. Here’s what she has to say.
1. Scout for your candidates yourself.
Don’t sit idly in your office waiting for the candidate with the most amazing credentials to walk in. Instead, go out there and look for people with potential yourself, even if you’re not hiring at the moment.
It pays to have a lot of options so when casting season starts, you have a list of talents to choose from. Call your acting teacher friends, visit their plays, and watch out for the brilliant performers. Better yet, hold online auditions so you can save time and cut costs.
2. Make room for innovative performance.
In the film industry, there are different lists you can pick actors from. Most of the time, casting directors do that; however, this sometimes leads to poor, dull, and habitual performance. As much as possible, consider those candidates who seem “unfit” for the part then mold them into the perfect person for the role.
Do it like Ellen, she skipped the list of notable comedians and chose a less visible actor—Brad Pitt—to play a stupid health buff. As a result, the movie Burn After Reading became one of the goofiest plays in Hollywood and Chad Feldheimer remains the goofiest role Brad Pitt has ever done.
3. Bad interviews don’t mean bad talents.
Don’t let a brilliant talent slip away just because of a failed interview. More than a one-off interview, an impressive résumé should speak for their acting abilities.
Ellen Chenoweth once said, “I know they can do better. I know that they’re right for this in a way that they didn’t show us.” If you sense candidates are off their game during the first try, don’t hesitate to give them a second chance.
4. Stick with your first pick.
You might find yourself in the middle of sparring with other casting directors because of your choice, and that’s okay! Ellen suggests that you never concede without putting up a fight to defend your first talent pick.
Casting directors may not see the same potentials you saw. But if you try hard enough, you might rally them on your side to take your advice.
5. Avoid rush decisions.
“There are some directors who just want to get it done and make decisions,” Ellen shared. “Sometimes you have to try to slow it down and say I have a few more people I really want you to see before you decide.”
If you still have time to spare, use it to your advantage to scout for the best talents. In the end, you’ll realize that fine-tuning all the characters really pays off.
6. Learn to look past the candidates’ known strengths.
There are candidates who possess great strengths without even knowing they have them, and one thing you must master to be an efficient casting director is to learn to look for them. Once you spot their unknown forte, you can decide how the candidate will best suit the film’s needs.
Oftentimes, you’ll put talents on uneasy, uncomfortable, unfamiliar roles and they might not realize you’re helping them. Nonetheless, the experience will challenge their acting and creative abilities.
These tips from Ellen Chenoweth will advance your career as a casting director if you use them right. Besides these, you must also take notes during auditions, make talents feel comfortable, and compliment candidates if necessary.
Always have the right attitude and skills for the job, and you’ll surely cast the best ones!
If you are thankful to actors, actresses, and film directors for a sensational blockbuster movie, you should be equally grateful to the film’s casting directors. The result would have been different had they chosen another actor for certain roles. They may seem tough during auditions—inquisitive, callous, and meticulous—but that’s how they know who has a born talent for the job. That’s what makes them great too!
Unsung heroes—that’s what casting directors are. Always behind the curtains of every act, observing behind the camera. The responsibilities of a casting director include going through the script detail by detail to know what the production needs. On top of that, they endure the tiresome task of listing names, interviewing strangers, and scanning portfolios just to pick the right person for the job.
It takes skills and patience to be a good casting director. And in the quest to gathering the best for a film, some have failed, while others managed to stand out.
5 Best Casting Directors in the Entertainment Industry
Their roles aren’t simple, so they deserve to be recognized. Hence, here’s a list of the best casting directors who have proven their abilities in the industry.
1. Ellen Lewis
The eight-year apprenticeship she had with Juliet Taylor, a veteran casting director, only made Ellen Lewis a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to her, Forrest Gump (1994) has become a timeless film. The skillful cast still makes anyone jerk in tears, even after 25 years since the movie’s release.
Ellen Lewis is also known for the films The Departed (2006), 13 Going on 30 (2004), and A League of Their Own (1992). Because of her dedication to the craft, she had already received two Primetime Emmys, first in 2004 and second in 2011.
2. Sarah Finn
Next on this list of best casting directors is Sarah Halley Finn, who’s best known for Black Panther, one of 2018’s biggest films. No wonder she received the Best Ensemble Cast Award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ).
Sarah Finn is the goddess of the Marvel universe, so to speak. From The Avengers series down to the installments of every hero film such as Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Thor, Finn was able to find the right actor for each role.
Finn is also a recipient of other major awards including Outstanding Achievement in Casting from the Casting Society of America and Best Ensemble from the Black Reel Awards.
3. Mark Summers
An actor-turned-director, Mark Summers worked as a personality in the entertainment business for over ten years. Now he manages his own casting agency called Mark Summers Casting Directors & Management.
What made Summers stand out amid the strong competition is his versatility. He handles casting calls for music videos, dances, musicals, commercials, television, and fashion, besides film casting. So it’s not a surprise that he received multiple awards from famous productions since he switched careers. Those awards include BAFTA, Emmy, The Lions, MTV, The British Arrows, and Tribeca, among others.
Are you familiar with Queer Eye and The Hydra Executives? Mark is one of the men behind those series’ success. Apart from that, he has been the regular casting director for the shows of singer-songwriter Madonna.
4. Ellen Chenoweth
Another one of the best casting directors today is Ellen Chenoweth, who has more than 30 years of experience. Since she started as a casting director, Chenoweth already received three awards from Film Independent Spirit Awards and Casting Society of America, USA. On top of that, she has been nominated 28 times for an Emmy, AWFJ, and Online Film & Television Association award.
She worked as the casting director for No Country for Old Men (2007), Michael Clayton (2007), and A Serious Man (2009). Other notable credits include Men in Black 3 (2012), Meet the Parents (2000), The Bourne Legacy (2012), and Analyze That (2002).
5. Avy Kaufman
Last on the list but definitely not the least is Avy Kaufman, a casting director based in New York City. With 32 nominations in addition to six casting awards, few of her credited works will surely ring some bells.
The controversial drama about the love affair between two men Brokeback Mountain was a box-office hit in 2005. And that’s partly thanks to Kaufman who handpicked the award-winning actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams—who all ultimately contributed to the film’s success.
Few more films she gained credits for are Gotti (1996), Color of Justice (1997), and Dinner with Friends (2001). Besides those, the psychological thriller The Sixth Sense (1999), science fiction Prometheus (2012), and crime drama Public Enemies (2009) also tapped Kaufman for the casting.
If you’ve always thought a casting director’s job is pretty easy, think again. If it was, there wouldn’t even be a need for a separate professional (and sometimes an assistant) responsible for casting in the first place. A casting director’s responsibilities extend beyond contacting actors and holding auditions.
The Many Duties of a Casting Director
The first step to becoming a casting director is knowing the job’s description. Here’s what a casting director does.
1. Understand the project
The casting director meets with the producers, the director, and the writer to understand each of their creative visions. Note that the casting director is responsible for realizing the characters of the story, and their choice of actors for each role must not disappoint.
2. Ask about casting budget
Can the production afford actors such as Jennifer Lawrence? Brad Pitt? A casting director needs to keep the casting budget and the number of roles in mind when choosing actors. For this, they meet with the production accountant before proceeding with coming up with a possible list.
3. Read the script
In order to visualize the ideal actor for each role, a casting director has to read the script and make notes about each character’s speaking parts. Working closely with the director and the writer, the casting director also determines which lines define the characters’ personalities the best to be used for auditions.
4. Ask about schedules
The casting director then asks the line producer about the production schedule and target dates. This helps them verify whether actors in mind are available for this project before actually calling them or their agents. Also, they negotiate audition schedules with the line producer to ensure the casting procedure is organized and unhurried.
5. Create a tentative list of possible actors
A casting director is required to have up-to-date knowledge of available acting talent and, if possible, their current projects. They would then identify which actors are perfect for each role and list them down in preferred order, important parts first, taking into consideration rates, location, and abilities.
6. Contact actors or their agents
After coming up with the list of ideal actors, the casting director looks for their contact information to contact them or their agents. They let them know that they’re interested in casting the talent for an upcoming project on the scheduled dates. While speaking with the talent or the agent, they note down the talent’s dates of availability and prior commitments. This helps assistant directors appropriately prepare call sheets during the production phase.
7. Provide the list to the producers and director
The casting director then consults the producers and the director regarding the available and ideal actors they have in mind. Depending on the producers’ or director’s decision, lead actors may not be asked to audition. The director and the writer then identify which roles need other actors more suitable for it.
8. Prepare schedule for and list of supporting and minor actors
After actors for some of the main roles are set, the casting director then proceeds with creating another list for supporting and background actors. With the number of roles in mind, they schedule the date(s) for casting calls, correspondence, and auditions.
9. Make appointments with available actors
Meanwhile, the casting director contacts the available actors from the list to invite them to the scheduled auditions and cold readings.
10. Get the word out
Once it is clear which roles are filled and which are not, the casting director then informs talent agencies about available parts, often by utilizing an online casting service. If the production is huge, open casting calls may be necessary to attract more interested actors.
11. Conduct auditions
Finally, the casting director is at the casting panel to conduct interviews and auditions for each part. Together with the director, they make recommendations for each speaking part and at times ask the actors to do additional tasks to see each range of abilities. This requires a strong instinct for acting talent, an innate skill that can be fine-tuned and developed over time. In fact, starting as an actor can lead to a career as a casting director. Casting director Kim Petrosky notes in Tanja Crouch’s book 100 Careers in Film and Television that acting classes help casting directors understand the acting process and recognize talent.
12. Sort through submissions
Headshots, resumes, acting reels, and audition tapes are another part of the audition process. The casting director sorts through them all with the director, based on the number of roles necessary. Afterward, the casting director may need to hold callbacks to ensure that the actors are perfect for the job. The director and producers then make the final selections.
13. Negotiate contracts
Negotiation and organizational skills are also invaluable for agreeing actors’ fees and arranging the terms and conditions of their contracts. The casting director is in charge of offering each actor their appropriate fee to appear in the film. They then discuss this with the actors’ agents, keeping an eye on the casting budget.
14. Act as a liaison
The casting director relays all the details of the negotiation and contract to the producers and director. Should the producers arrange further negotiations, the casting director serves as the middleman between the agents or talents and the producers. Actors then finally sign a contract containing the terms and conditions agreed upon.
15. Find replacements when needed
During production, there may be actors unable to fulfill their contracts. This can prove to be very troublesome to casting directors, but their job entails looking for replacements should the need arise. They may have to conduct auditions for the specific role, and the replacement has to be as ideal as the actor who left.
The job of a casting director requires more than just having the patience to sit through a number of auditions. Before you can even organize an acting audition, you need to read the script and analyze it. Then you have to meet with the director of the film, the screenwriter, and the producer to know the type of actors the film needs.
Although the role the casting director plays in the whole filmmaking process remains unknown to some, they hold a position just as important as everyone in the crew.
Trying to determine whether an actor is the perfect guy for the role can be a challenge. To guide you, we gathered a few tips for casting directors from the experts in the field.
Helpful Tips for Casting Directors
If you are working on a new project, here are a few tips for casting directors you will definitely find helpful.
1. Have an eye for talent
This is the skill every casting director must have. The whole production team relies on your ability to choose the best of the bunch. You can’t present a talent who can’t read a line properly before the movie director.
Hone your skills. Study the previous works of more experienced casting directors or do more castings until you’re good enough yourself to tell right away whether or not a talent is the best person for the role.
2. Make the talent feel comfortable
One of the best tips for casting directors is to avoid being too intimidating. Maybe it helps in some ways, but appearing scary will only give talents the nerves. As much as possible, try to look friendly. A simple act of hospitality like offering them a cup of coffee or a glass of water will do the trick. Or start a small talk before getting to a more serious discussion.
3. Take notes
It pays to take notes. It’s up to you what you want to pen down, maybe the talent’s strengths and weaknesses? Not only will this help you when time comes you have to give them the results, it will also give the actor a clearer picture of what they have to work on.
4. Give praise where it’s due
Everybody deserves to hear compliments, so do not hesitate to give praise where praise is due. Highlight their strong points, but do not exaggerate. This is a good way of encouraging them to work harder and achieve even bigger goals as an artist.
5. Don’t make promises
As a casting director, you will meet one talented actor after another, which is a really good thing because that means you’re getting closer and closer to meeting the best person for the job. But one of the things a casting director must remember is that it would do everyone good if no promises were made.
You may be facing a really promising talent right now, but it’s possible that the next one you meet is better at unleashing emotions. Promises will only result in disappointments, so you might want to save everyone from that.
Casting can be harder than what it looks, but if you have the right attitude and skills for the job, you will surely produce a work that exceeds expectations.
When asked why you love a certain film, we always go with the plot and script reasoning. Or that the cinematography was astounding or the direction was just one for the books. Rarely do we mention that it’s because our favorite actor is in it and we just really want to see him spit fire in the overrated movie franchise he’s appeared in five years in a row.
It’s a card we rarely pull when it comes to what makes a film worth sitting through, but truth be told, sometimes, the ensemble cast of a film is what draws a large audience in. In some instances, it’s the only thing that makes the film worth watching. But a lot of times, the talented cast and how they complement each other is what makes a movie a masterpiece.
5 Films with the Best Ensemble Cast
Here are five films with the best ensemble cast, they make the film tenfold greater. Thes films’ casting directors know exactly what they were doing, and perhaps, you can take inspiration from their work as you prepare for your next film.
1. The Departed (2006)
Rarely do we see two Academy Award for Best Actor winners, a Golden Globe for Best Actor winner, and two Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series winners appear in the same film directed by one of the best directors in the world of filmmaking, but The Departed gave us exactly that. Starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin, The Departed will always be remembered as that 2006 crime drama film where the industry’s best gathered. And that’s thanks to the film’s casting director, Ellen Lewis.
Loosely based on a real-life gangster and his encounters with the FBI, The Departed gained recognition for the direction and the performance of its cast. It went on to win several awards and nominations including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for Martin Scorsese. DiCaprio and Nicholson went on to receive Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards from the Austin Film Critics. Further proving their one-of-a-kind chemistry, the whole cast won three awards for Best Ensemble (Central Ohio Film Critics, National Board of Review, and Satellite Awards).
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
If it’s crime film we’re talking about, Pulp Fiction would always be at the top of every Top 10 list. Besides the fact that it is directed by someone who’s known for films that are “focused” and have plot development that’s hard to overlook, Pulp Fiction boasts an ensemble of actors that gave brilliant performances, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
It’s been more than two decades since it was released, but Pulp Fiction remains one of the films that have an ensemble we thought would never pull through but became a reality—and we have casting directors Ronnie Yeskel and Gary Zuckerbrod to thank for that. Featuring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, and Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction has secured a spot on several AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies lists and it’s easy to see why.
3. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Definitely one of the films with the best ensemble cast, Ocean’s Eleven remains legendary even when a lot of other more recent films tried to strip it of its glory. Debra Zane was tasked to direct the casting for the 2001 film, and she obviously knew what she was doing. She was able to assemble a cast of actors that work very well together, the film wouldn’t be the same had one of them pulled out.
Ocean’s Eleven features George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts, and all four of them gave a career-defining performance, a portrayal that will never be forgotten. Now those names alone are enough to have people lining up to buy tickets to its premiere.
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Another film on the list with Matt Damon in it but this time, he’s with an actor that is basically one of the pillars of the acting industry—Tom Hanks. Hanks is astonishing in this epic war film, but the film wouldn’t have been worth sitting through if it weren’t for how perfectly his acting complemented with that of other actors like Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Adam Goldberg, and Vin Diesel. This is what makes Denise Chamian, the film’s casting director, a force to reckon with when it comes to casting.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
Since the first one in 2005, we’ve all seen three Batman movies grace the big screen. Now they are equally great, but there’s something about the 2008 film that gives it an edge over the rest—its ensemble cast. Directed by Christopher Nolan with John Papsidera as the casting director, The Dark Knight rewrote the future of superhero films. With an iconic performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, which earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and an unforgettable Batman portrayal courtesy of Christian Bale, it does not take too many words to explain why this Batman movie is still the best among the rest.
Behind every great ensemble cast is a casting director who gathers candidates for roles in movies, television shows, and other productions. Before an acting portfolio reaches the table of a filmmaker, it sits on the lap of a casting director first.
But it seems like their job description still sounds alien to those who don’t look past the actors they see on screen and the directors that put the whole movie together. The unsung heroes of every production, casting directors endure a tedious process of studying the script to know what the movie needs, listing numerous names, staring at unfamiliar faces, going over countless portfolios just to find the perfect person for an acting job.
The role casting directors like you play is crucial to every production. So it is only right to celebrate your contribution to the industry. To do that, we came up with a list of renowned casting directors that helped turn Hollywood into the unaparalleled force it is now.
4 Casting Directors to Learn a Lesson or Two From
In the world of cinema, Martin Scorsese is considered a force to reckon with. He’s the man who makes films that address themes some are scared to tackle. But before Scorsese could sit on the director’s chair yelling “Cut!” he turns to someone to help him find the right actors and actresses for his films. And that is Ellen Lewis.
Where there’s Martin Scorsese, there’s Ellen Lewis, they would say. A lot of Scorsese’s films, Lewis was tasked to direct the casting. The Chicago-born is the casting director behind critically acclaimed films like Goodfellas (1990), Forrest Gump (1994), Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), Mamma Mia! (2008), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Bridge of Spies (2016), and The Post (2017).
Lewis believes that “there is no small part.” Every role that has to be played, every part that needs to be filled in, matters.
She said, “I love small parts. I want to be in the sessions; I want to hear the one word they have to say and see if I believe it. Because that’s what casting’s about—Do I believe what you’re saying? Does it seem truthful? Does it fit the world that the character lives in?”
Taiwanese film director Ang Lee has made a lot of game-changing films, and the director has his whole team to thank for helping him make his Oscar dreams come true. One of them is Avy Kaufman.
Kaufman has worked with Lee multiple times, and these collaborations often end up in Lee making his way up to the stage to receive a trophy. She was the casting director for the Lee-directed Brokeback Mountain (2009) and Life of Pi (2012), which both got a best-picture nod.
Avy Kaufman also directed the casting for Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln, a task she would later say she found hard. As a casting director, one has to study the script and understand the story and each character in it to find the best actor for the role. And for Kaufman, the casting director plays a big role in keeping a film as realistic and honest as possible.
Talking about Lincoln, Kaufman shared, “Because it’s a piece of history, I tried to get to the honest living person in resemblance and personality. These are all real people. . . . It was really hard but really exciting.”
Marvel is known for a lot of things, but perhaps one of the best things about the studio’s movies is its cast ensemble. From superstars like Robert Downey Jr. to rising actors like Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright, each of their films boast a cast that you can’t help but marvel at.
Whom does Marvel owe this to? Probably Sarah Finn.
Often described as Marvel’s secret weapon, Finn is the casting director behind superhero films like the Avengers film series, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Iron Man trilogy, Black Panther, and many more.
A lot of actors have come and left the Marvel Universe, but it seems like every time a star decides to leave, Finn always knows what to do and which actor to invite to the studio and breathe a new life into the character.
To all the casting directors out there, Finn has one important piece of advice: it all relies on getting to know the character on a personal level. She quipped, “I get a little attached to every role I’ve ever cast. It has to come to life for me. It’s a journey to get to know a particular character, and when the actor is very much a part of that process, it’s really memorable.”
Ellen Chenoweth has over seventy films under her belt, most of which have given birth to today’s biggest stars.
The 1982 film Diner is one of Chenoweth’s first projects, but even then, she made sure to not limit herself to the already-rising stars in the industry. Chenoweth chose to dig deeper, she more research until the applications of then-unknown actors Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser reached her desk. Diner became a huge hit, among critics and at the box office. The movie helped boost the careers of the actors in it and made Chenoweth a casting director that’s worth looking forward to.
The projects that followed Diner were also successful, further proving that Chenoweth knows what she’s doing and does her job as flawlessly as possible. Her prominent works include Terms of Endearment (1983), Lolita (1997), No Country for Old Men (2007), True Grit (2010), and Men in Black 3 (2012).
For Chenoweth, it pays to give every actor a chance to stand in front of the camera. Chenoweth also suggests that casting director find fun in what they do. She once shared, as she was asked about working on a theater production, “I want to put the best, more interesting actors together. I love doing it. There were so many juice smallish parts where people could come in and work for a day or two. And I was just licking my lips, thinking about how much fun it would be.”
The entertainment industry is one that welcomes a new face every second. Every day, in every movie and show that invades the screen, a star is born. With this comes the fact the competition is high, making it one of the most competitive industries there is.
As a casting director, it’s your job to find someone who will stand out in the role they are to portray. When looking for a talent for a shampoo commercial, you have to look past one’s hair. Convincing people to purchase the product requires more than just long, shiny locks, after all.
Casting can be draining, psychologically and emotionally, but today’s world has provided a lot of platforms where casting directors, agents, and talents can find each other. The rise of the Internet has revolutionized the casting process. It has helped major industry players find new faces that helped them make their projects the revelation that they are.
Ways Technology Is Revolutionizing the Casting Process
The Internet isn’t just for meeting new friends, it’s for working your way to stardom too. And for casting directors like you, it’s for discovering fresh faces with unique personalities you can hire for your next project. Here are the ways technology is revolutionizing the casting process.
If there’s anything about the new times that has been a great help in connecting people, that would be the Internet and social media. It’s true, this side of the Web has its downsides, but it has also helped bridge gaps, unite diverse groups, reconnect lost and severed ties, and build relationships.
For aspiring actors, it is on social networking sites that they share just about everything. From photos and videos to random thoughts, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram have seen these people’s lives unfold. As a casting director or agent, it is your job to seek new faces that will suit a certain role. Holding auditions remains the best way to get the task done, but you don’t have to limit your choices to those who walk into the audition room.
Take advantage of the world of social media. A lot of new talents these sites to reach a wider audience. Be a part of their crowd audience and you might just find the next big star that will make the project you are working on the talk of the town.
Online media distribution platforms
YouTube has done more than just entertain people through funny and informative clips. Some casting directors and agents credit the site for helping them discover today’s biggest stars.
Ever since it was founded in 2005, YouTube has grown to become the biggest video-sharing platform ever. If before, we could only rely on television and theaters to give us a good laugh, now we have YouTube. The site allows us to share videos we believe are entertaining to the rest of the world. Everyone can now watch an artist’s music video without turning their TV on or watch movie trailers without going to the cinema. Taking advantage of the site, some aspiring talents turn to YouTube to share videos of them singing, dancing, or acting in hopes of attracting casting directors and agents.
While most social networking sites come with a free mobile applications too, there are apps that specifically cater to the needs of aspiring actors.
One good example is the Actors Apply, the app where talents and casting directors meet. The app has information on latest auditions, the location and requirements, how to apply, etc. These applications connect industry players and break the barriers that hinder them from working together, like distance and language. With these phone apps, a few taps will get you closer to the talent you’ve been looking for and them to you.
Demo reels are probably one of the best ways technology is revolutionizing the casting process. As mentioned, one of the major obstacles aspiring actors and casting directors face is the fact that sometimes, they’re from different sides of the world. As a casting director, you organize auditions and conduct interviews. Before you are talents looking to break into the industry. Outside the interview room, however, is a whole big world full of equally, if not more, talented actors that would have been the perfect fit but just couldn’t be in the same room with you.
This is when demo reels come into the picture. With the help of a camera and the ever-helpful email service, talents from all around the world can flaunt what they’ve got, without worrying about having to fly across continents. And you can just look at their videos and decide if they’re worth hiring.
Online casting service
Another one of the best ways to discover new talents is by signing up to online casting services. It’s where talents find casting opportunities and where casting directors like you can find the best person for that acting job. And it’s very convenient too. A talent just uploads their portfolio, gets matched to a role, a casting then director looks at their details, and their journey together starts from there. There are a lot of reliable casting in existence. Slowly rising to prominence is Auditions.net.
Auditions.net offers free casting service to casting directors, agents, and talents who want to make a name in the industry. It is also easy to navigate. To get started, you just have to fill out an online form. Casting directors post about their upcoming projects, which talents can look into and apply for, if they believe they have what it takes.