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The Casting Company, Los Angeles, Calif.; Transformers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, When Harry Met Sally, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

You need to be a person with insight and compassion. Talent is and always has been in the eye of the beholder, but our primary objective is to serve the need of the script and the vision our director has for each part. One simply must trust their own intuition, and after years it is what we rely on. As far as training: becoming familiar with as many actors as possible by attending theatre, seeing films, and watching TV, making notes so you remember people. Study the SAG rule book so you can make deals properly. Learn who all the agents are so you know who you're talking to. Get a job in a casting office as an intern and work your way up.

Mackey/Sandrich Casting, New York, N.Y., and Los Angeles, Calif.; Chapter 27, United 93, Holes, The Cooler

Obviously, a love of film, a great love of actors, and a great memory. I was actually an English major at Berkeley and did a lot of theatre, and the English major was extremely helpful because it teaches you how to break down stories. I think a lot of what we're doing is telling stories, and it's not just "Is an actor good?" but "Who is the most interesting actor to tell the particular story we're telling, and which actor helps represent the vision of the director and the vision of the world that's being presented?" That was very useful. I also think it's incredible verbal and written communication—there's a lot of it. So I thought that was a very well-rounded liberal arts background, personally.

Los Angeles, Calif.; Phat Girlz, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Fat Albert, New Jack City, In Living Color

The best casting directors [have] an ability that's instinctual, I think—a really good instinct to recognize talent even when it's talent that's undeveloped. I have a liberal arts college education. However, I've always been a very media-oriented person from the time I was a kid. I was the neighborhood television guide. I could tell you who was on Channel 13 at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on any given day, because I just loved actors and I loved watching performances and comparing performances. At that time, I didn't know what casting was. I loved actors and I had an affinity with actors, but I didn't want to act. So I wasn't sure where I fit, and when I discovered casting, it was like, "This is it." I love facilitating talent and discovering it and being a part of the process of creating it. I think having a good background in literature is very helpful, and being just very aware and open about the world around you. It gives you a point of reference.

Los Angeles, Calif.; Die, Mommie, Die!; My So-Called Life; Frasier; Cheers

Having been an actor was fantastic casting-director training for me: being able to communicate verbally and emotionally with other actors in their vocabulary, working with directors, analyzing the text, knowing what it's like to have walked in the actors' shoes and how difficult it is on a daily basis to live the actor life.

New York, N.Y.; The Pink Panther, The School of Rock, Sleepy Hollow, A Simple Plan

First of all, you have to be able to read a script intuitively. The better written a script is, the better job one can do, but I think you really have to have a feel for the nuances of a character. Then I think how one really learns the job is to start out working as an assistant to a wonderful casting director who does high-quality projects and who has excellent taste in actors. I was very fortunate because my mentor in casting was Dianne Crittenden [Spider-Man 2, Star Wars], and she's fabulous, incredibly smart, experienced, and has the best taste. I learned the difference between really terrific actors and those who were perhaps less so from working for her and just absorbing information and being in on readings when actors would come in. Then, obviously, as a casting director you have to go see people's work. You have to go see film and plays. You can't just audition them in your office. You have to have a larger context in which to evaluate the work.

Los Angeles, Calif.; The Black Dahlia, Kill Bill: Vols. 1 & 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks

The most effective background for a casting director is, first of all, to have the ability to spot an actor's work early on in their career, keep an eye on them, and appreciate the fact that once they become hugely successful, you as a casting director could have predicted this. This is what interested me years before I actually became a casting director but gave me the confidence to believe in my instinct once I got in the business. Creatively, I don't think there's anything to learn if the natural curiosity and motivation isn't there to start with. It is also invaluable to have worked in other aspects of the business. Before going into casting, I had worked in development and also at a major talent agency. That in particular gave me a greater understanding of what an agent or manager's work entailed, which helps build those working relationships. One does have to learn how to negotiate deals and the political aspects of the business if you don't instinctively have that aptitude.

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