Great performances demand great actors. And casting directors. But while the former gets plenty of recognition, the latter—not so much. Until last week.
On March 5, Twitter user Gizmo challenged the Internet, saying: "What's the best casting you've ever seen?" To make things easier, she even went first and submitted her own answer: Wyatt Oleff and Andy Beam who played young and grown-up Stanley Uris in It.
The timing for such a thread couldn't have been better. Most of us have been binge-watching Netflix during the lockdown, so we've become quite the critics. Everyone immediately started posting their choices for the Best Casting award at the Twitter Oscars. Here are the nominees.
To put it simply, casting directors find the stars to bring the characters in a film or TV drama to life. They are usually hired by the production company to match actors to roles.
Casting directors read scripts and meet with producers and directors to get a good sense of the type of person they are looking for. Since they have to find someone who not only looks right for the role but can deliver a memorable performance as well, they really need to understand the art of acting.
Sometimes producers have a lot of demands. Other times they won’t give much guidance at all. Casting directors must consider all the nuances that come with each production and think about the actor’s availability, fees, and how much box office buzz they’re going to create when signing them.
They need to know the talent that’s out there, so they attend theatre productions and even graduation shows to really get to know potential actors.
Casting directors organise auditions and look at headshots, demos, and reels. When they present a selection of candidates to the producer and director, the whole gang usually make the final decisions together.
The casting director’s job also involves negotiating actors’ deal points or conditions which they put into a casting advice note, or deal memo. Then, the production team can draw up the actual contract with the actor’s agent.
As important as these people are to the industry, there is still no Oscar for casting directors. Jack Smart, the awards editor at Backstage, where he covers all things Emmy, SAG, Oscar, and Tony Awards, thinks this profession requires as much skill as producing, and as much a craft as sound mixing, and it should get more attention.
"Casting involves filmmaking know-how, distinct ingenuity, and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi gut feeling that takes years to hone," Smart wrote. "Casting Society of America's Artios Awards draw their inspiration from the Greek work 'artio' meaning 'perfectly fitted.' There are practically no working actors at any level who don't owe their livelihood to a casting professional who saw their work in an audition room (or, more likely, many audition rooms), and took a chance on them, perfectly fitting them to a breakthrough role."
So isn't it time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which honors the best of the best of the filmmaking industry, included such a profession in their award categories? Smart's colleague, senior editor, and guru of all things casting, Elyse Roth, once said, "All the actors get awards. Why not the people who put them there?"
"The idea of a casting Oscar prize isn’t just a pipe dream of ours; recent developments point to the Academy coming around to the idea. Firstly, they created a casting branch in 2013, the most recently formed of 17 disparate groups specializing in each aspect of filmmaking. Alongside the writers, directors, and designers, most of which have a corresponding award category, there are currently 57 casting directors voting in the Oscars, according to CSA’s website," Smart explained.
Yes, casting isn't the only Academy branch lacking an award (for example, there is a marketing and public relations branch), but its addition to the roster seven years ago without a category is raising some eyebrows.
"[A promising sign] was the Academy’s first bestowal of an Oscar, albeit an honorary one, on a casting director. As we reported way back in 2016, Lynn Stalmaster is responsible for the careers of countless A-list stars, and his deserving recognition felt long overdue, both for his individual achievements and for the profession he helped pioneer. It was around this time that the idea of a casting Oscar truly became a point of discussion within the industry."
Then there was BAFTA’s recent decision to include casting honors for both their film and TV awards. According to Smart, this makes the nominated casting directors of the 2020 British Academy Film Awards—from “Joker,” “Marriage Story,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” and “The Two Popes”—the first to receive recognition from a major film awards group.
As BAFTA Chair Pippa Harris said in a statement, “Casting is essential to the screen industries and vital in terms of promoting diversity and inclusion on screen.”
Smart also pointed out that The Emmys, run by the Television Academy, added a drama casting category back in 1994 and a comedy one in 2000, recognizing then how instrumental CDs are to small-screen casts. There are now awards for reality and limited series casting, too. Now, with BAFTA, it could be the film world’s turn.
Do you think casting directors should have their own Oscar? Tell us in the comments!