For the past 35 years Risa has worked consistently as a director, producer, casting director, writer and teacher. She’s had the great fortune to have collaborated with some of the most talented, passionate and groundbreaking artists in the world. She’s been able to move from one arena to another – from theatre to film to television and back – and is actively exploring new media.
With two feature films in her directorial body of work – the cult classic, 200 Cigarettes, and most recently, The Con Artist, made in Canada and released in 2011, Risa’s also directed for television, including multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone for New Line/UPN, and shows for HBO, Lifetime and Comedy Central.
She’s directed dozens of plays in New York (THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE, THE SECOND STAGE, MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB) and in Los Angeles. She calls THE ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE her artistic home, where she’s been a member for over 30 years, producing and directing six years of the flagship festival MARATHON OF ONE-ACT PLAYS. In L.A. Risa founded and produced ACT ONE, a successful two-year festival of one-acts, in collaboration with Showtime Networks. And as a founding Artistic Director of ENSEMBLE STUDIO THEATRE’S L.A. PROJECT – now E.S.T. LA – Risa worked with HBO, producing and directing a series of acclaimed one-acts for THE ASPEN COMEDY ARTS FESTIVAL. In her long association with HBO, starting in 1981 as a talent scout for comedians, Risa co-produced two years of THE YOUNG COMEDIANS shows for the network. She was also a producer with THE CARSEY WERNER COMPANY.
Risa started casting in the NY as part of her extensive theatre life. From there Risa and her partner, Billy Hopkins, took their first step into feature film casting with Desperately Seeking Susan. They worked as a team for 11 years. During and after their successful partnership, Risa cast some of the most memorable films of the past 25 years.
Risa’s résumé includes more than 65 feature films, classics such as Something Wild, At Close Range, Angel Heart, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, Talk Radio, Jacob’s Ladder, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, The Doors, Sneakers, The Joy Luck Club, True Romance, Speed, How To Make An American Quilt, Dead Presidents, Twister, Benny and Joon, and Flirting With Disaster.
She’s cast numerous television shows and pilots, including Roseanne and CSI:NY. She is currently casting the Showtime series, Masters of Sex.
Risa served as a Producer on Oliver Stone’s films Heaven and Earth and Natural Born Killers, movies she also cast.
In the past few years Risa’s passion for teaching and coaching has become a serious concentration and she’s had great success in her work with actors and directors around the world. She’s partnered with Steve Braun in The BGB Studio, dedicated to revolutionary acting training.
Risa is a woman saturated with knowledge, history, experience, language, depth… and balls. Mostly her own. I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity to work with this extraordinary woman. My life is richer for the time I’ve spent with her.
-Pamela Adlon – Californication, King of the Hill, Louis
I have known Risa for nearly thirty years, as casting director, director, teacher, theater co-member, sounding board, friend, and advocate. What continues to inspire me most is her enduring passion for, and support of, actors, and the work that they do. Risa loves the process, she loves the people, and she continues to be devoted to locating, nurturing, and assisting in the growth of each individual’s specific gifts. Maintaining enthusiasm, excitement, and a deep sense of purpose over such a long span is no easy trick. Risa pulls it off because, with her, it’s not a trick at all. It’s her life’s work, and she’s very, very good at it.
- Evan Handler, Californication
Risa stresses the two most important and most often overlooked components of acting, CONNECTION and INTENTION. Within a few days after taking her master class I walked into an audition for ONE TREE HILL and thought to myself, “just connect with the reader,” needless to say… I booked the job and I’ve been on the show ever since. Whether you are just starting out or have been around for a while… this training is invaluable.
– Joe Manganiello, True Blood, Magic Mike
For some reason fortune was smiling on me in the summer of 1991 when I met Risa Bramon Garcia. From that first meeting Risa saw in me something that I honestly didn’t see in myself at the time and told me as much. Is Risa brilliant? Yes. Can she articulate what it takes to perform on a different level- one that provokes and inspires because it chimes with a common humanity that exists in all of us? Yes. But beyond just being an amazing teacher, writer, director, and casting director, Risa was able to make me, an agent-less, essentially credit-less actor at the time, step into a heavy-duty environment, stacked with multiple Academy Award winners and quiet the doubts that plagued me (probably all actors) by teaching me to focus on two powerful truths: one, that it is only about the work (and not the outside stuff) and two (and maybe more importantly) she taught me to ask- Why not me? Someone is going to be in this position, do this part, carve a career, why can’t it be me? She teaches, inspires, tells it like it is and is an amazing person. What happened to my life (forget career) was so remarkable after Risa cast me in a few films in quick succession is something I am so grateful for, it’s almost impossible to articulate. And yet I don’t mean to say she did me a favor, she recognized the artist in me and brought it out and helped me never to be intimidated by external circumstances that have nothing to do with what we do as artists. I love Risa and if anyone wonders who to study with, I always send them her way.
-Donal Logue, Terriers, Grounded for Life
Risa’s class is such a wonderfully invigorating day of exploration. The special thing about Risa is that her attitude and passion gives us, as actors, the freedom, and more importantly the permission, to get out of our own way. To be committed to what we’re doing, no matter if it’s right or wrong. I will be back!
– Aaron Tveit, Next to Normal, Catch Me If You Can – Broadway, Graceland (Fox), Les Miserables, the film
Risa, that was so much fun! It was really wonderful to see the other actors work, and how the work changed, as well as feeling the the support from everyone towards everyone, and especially from you. And to have that safe space to challenge myself.You gave so much all day. I was engaged from the start and felt like we could have gone on. I left feeling more confident and really excited to play. thanks for giving us all permission to be ourselves and bring our sense of fun. And to see how much that parrot on my shoulder with those negative beliefs can paralyze and stiffen me. Thanks for your patience, generosity, insight and encouragement. I know what I need to do and i’m really excited about it.
– Dendrie Taylor, LA working actor, The Fighter, Jarhead