Risa on Casting By
For the past several years Tom Donahue, Kate Lacey, and Joanna Colbert researched, interviewed, archived, and cut hundreds of hours of footage on Marion Dougherty and casting directors overall, culminating in this wonderful film, Casting By.
Marion was the first casting director to identify the job and turn it into something truly significant. And in celebrating her, the film sheds a way overdue spotlight on casting directors everywhere. In support of Marion, actors, directors, and casting directors showed up to be interviewed for the movie, expressing their deep appreciation for her advocacy. Marion’s gutsy taste and instincts, along with her willingness to fight for actors in whom she believed, led to the extraordinary casting in films like “Midnight Cowboy,” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (my all-time favorite movie), “Bonnie and Clyde,” etc… She was definitive NY; Lynn Stalmaster was her Hollywood counterpart. Marion and Lynn changed the way movies were cast… forever. They gave young actors who are now iconic stars, their start in films – Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Jon Voight, Glenn Close, John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino… The list goes on and on. And they championed a new kind of movie star, actors who were flawed, emotional, and complicated human beings. Actors who came from a rich training ground in NY.
The movie gives us the perspective of history by documenting the sea change that happened in the movie business when trained, professional actors from the NY theatre began starring in films and TV shows, cast out of NY by Marion Dougherty. When live TV started in NY and Marion was casting for Kraft, the pool of actors were those who had been drawn to the city to train with Strasberg, Meisner, and The Actor’s Studio. Suddenly the craft of acting, emotional honesty, and connection became more important that a headshot or a pin-up. Hollywood was introduced to trained actors with NY stage credits. And before long, the model for a movie star was Dustin Hoffman and no longer Tyrone Power. Suddenly emotional honesty, naturalistic, truthful acting, and imaginative casting eclipsed the Hollywood typecasting that had been the norm. It was all part of the artistic explosion that changed movies (as well as TV and stage) forever. Acting and the actor overcame the studio manufactured movie-star and starlet. And that started a love affair that is still going. This is so relevant today in the emerging atmosphere of celebrity and stunt casting. Where movies need a “money” name to get financed.
Through Marion and Lynn, “Casting By” identifies the true and vital work that casting directors do. The passion, the conviction, the fight. Marion was known to have believed in actors before they believed in themselves, as so many of them say on screen. She developed them, as did Lynn. I am fortunate to have been mentored by some of the casting directors who were trained by Marion, including Juliet Taylor and Gretchen Rennell… Women whose taste, passion and integrity determined how I worked, and continue to work, as a casting director and overall industry professional.
And yet I have always thought of casting as my waitressing job, something to pay the bills while I pursued my passion for directing, and now also teaching . But being a part of this film has allowed me to appreciate the work we all do in casting, and to find a renewed respect for the craft. It also reminded me that those of us who truly love actors and love working with actors, distinguish ourselves in our work. And for me, being a director and teacher as well, deeply informs my casting process.
At The BGB Studio and casting office Steve Braun and I celebrate the kind of actor Marion and Lynn introduced on screen. Actors who are passionate, committed, and truthful in their work. Actors who are of the work first and foremost. And here, at BGB, we have been able to open the door between the casting room and the studio, breaking down a barrier between training and auditioning. It’s been breathtaking to experience the shift in actors as they cross the threshold with a new confidence, a sense of collaboration and excitement, rather than with judgment or fear. And it’s paid off. A large number of our Studio actors read for the new Showtime series I’ve been casting, Masters of Sex. They scooped up roles, one after another. It proved to us that because a big part of the work of the casting director is to advocate for actors, and the primary work of actors is to do their most remarkable work, casting directors and actors can work in concert more often. Great work will be seen and acknowledged. Hell, even hired! And the process of casting can be joyous.
Watch “Casting By” as soon as you can. It’s on HBO now and through August. It will change the way you look at the process and the profession. All actors can raise a glass to Marion and Lynn (as well as for me personally to Juliet and Gretchen), in thanks for recognizing the kind of talent that today defines how we write, direct, produce, cast, and act.
Check out the CASTING BY website here
Here’s what people are saying about Casting By & Risa…
Risa Bramon Garcia thank you so much for your kind words towards the film. As you know many years of hard work went into this film. We are so thrilled with response. I think it is important for others to know that our last question to Marion in our interviews with her was – “What do you think made you such a good Casting Director?” Her response – “I just love actors. I think to be a great Casting Director you really have to love actors”. Thanks for loving actors Risa! – Kate Lacey, Casting By producer
“Casting By” was so moving. I was very glad to see you featured there. – Evan Handler
Risa, I was so so touched by Casting By. You too are the epitome of Marion D. And with you and Steve Braun guiding us actors we are so blessed. – Danielle Kennedy (BGB actor)
It’s astounding, Risa! I can’t tell you how much I felt from this piece, absolutely incredible story .. the tremendous acknowledgements deserved by casting directors is such a no-brainer and just oh so PROUD as punch that it was made. – PS. Agreed, you looked great! -Jessica Randle (BGB actor)
Risa, I just finished watching the doc. I was/am so struck by the parallels of how Marion Dogherty approached her work and the lessons you teach in your class. It was really incredible to see these fantastic one of a kind actors being cast against type but for their truth. I am inspired all over again to throw everything away that is not my authentic self and let that alone speak for me. I just had to write and say thank you, once again, for keeping this art alive in your work as a casting director and as a teacher. -Mina Badie (BGB actor)
For more check out the CASTING BY Facebook page here