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The Big Picture: Feature Film Casting
Find out what feature film casting directors are looking for when you walk into the audition room, and how agents and managers can get clients seen. Learn how independent film is a way for unknown actors to build their resumes and reels. Moderated by Jenelle Riley.
-- Pam Dixon, casting director
-- Meg Morman, casting director
-- Rick Pagano, casting director
-- Joy Todd, casting director
-- Marion Campbell, talent agent
-- Scott Sedita, acting coach
After graduating from USC, Pam Dixon was hired by CBS Television. She soon became assistant to the head of casting. Six months later, she left CBS to become vice president of casting for ABC Television, where a year later she was promoted to senior vice president of casting. She oversaw the casting for all series, miniseries, television movies, and daytime soaps. She left ABC Television to become a production vice president for Paramount Pictures under Michael Eisner. After several years there, she decided to open her own casting company.
For the last several years, she has been an independent feature casting director, casting such features as Zorro, City Slickers, Tremors, The Moderns, Goldeneye, Music Box, Baby Boom, Cookie's Fortune, Gosford Park, and Prairie Home Companion. Recently she cast Hamlet 2 and finished casting Edge of Darkness, starring Mel Gibson and directed by Martin Campbell. She is a consultant with Morgan Creek Productions, where she is head of Feature Casting. She lectures at USC, UCLA, the Los Angeles Film School, Harvard University, and high schools throughout California. She is an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is currently president of the Casting Society of America. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
Meg Morman's feature film casting credits include such independent films as the well-received Waitress and Me and You and Everyone We Know. More mainstream credits include The Hottie & the Nottie and Dr. Doolittle 3. She was a casting associate on Be Cool, November, The Italian Job, The Banger Sisters, and Ice Age.
Since 1985, Rick Pagano has worked as president and CEO of Pagano/Manwiller Inc. His company has cast more than 70 feature films, including X-Men 3, Hotel Rwanda, Rudy, Drugstore Cowboy, Alien Resurrection, Point Break, Say Anything, and most recently 88 Minutes, Stardust, Nobel Son, and Bottle Shock. His company has also worked in television, casting such hit shows as 24, Picket Fences, and Chicago Hope, winning two Emmys for casting. Pagano/Manwiller has also cast more than 100 productions for theatre around the U.S. — including at the Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, and Lincoln Center — and on Broadway, including the original Tony Award-winning production of Big River.
As writer-director, he has directed his own plays — including Goose Amid the Revolt, My Italian Café, YBGd?, Ten Tricks, Eldon Corvet's Karaoke and Career Counseling Weekend Retreat, Hanging Alice, and Sex and Work — Robert Litz's Mobile Hymn and Rope of Smoke; J.D. Johnston's All Good Horses; Eugene Ionesco's Exercises De Converation… with the playwright in residence at Stages L.A.; and Hedda Gabler at the Odyssey Theatre. He also directed a film adaptation of 10 Tricks and is currently developing feature film versions of My Italian Café, Hanging Alice (to be produced by Richard Donner), and Sex and Work. He has a B.A. from Middlebury College and completed his doctoral studies in dramatic literature at Columbia University. He has taught at UCLA, NYU, Columbia University, and the National Theater Conservatory in Lodz, Poland.
Joy Todd had begun her professional career, in Philadelphia, as an actor and standup comic, when her friend, producer Marty Richards, asked her to help cast extras in New York. Working from an office in New York from 1976 to 1993, she landed her first casting job for Sidney Lumet, casting background for Network. This led to a long association with Lumet as his sole casting director.
Their films include Prince of the City, Garbo Talks, and The Verdict. While in New York, she also cast Rambo III, Once Upon a Time in America, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Gettysburg, working with such directors as Sergio Leone, Ridley Scott, Paul Mazursky, and Ron Maxwell. Relocating to California, she cast Demolition Man, The Next Karate Kid, Gods and Generals, and Redline. She says, "I love what I do, and if it was up to me, I'd hire everyone that comes through my door. That's not how it works, so the best part of this job is discovering exciting new talent and then calling them to say, 'Hey, good buddy, ya got the part.' " Her current project is the indie Farewell Veda; Armand Assante is attached.
A celebrated talent agent with TalentWorks, Marion Campbell moved to Los Angeles by way of Dayton, Ohio after graduating magna cum laude with a BFA in Theatre and Film from Ohio University. After assisting top tier agents at Coast to Coast Talent Group and The Gersh Agency, Campbell joined the ranks as a talent agent for TalentWorks in 2004.
Working with such key clients as Kevin Alejandro (Drive, Ugly Betty), Alma Award winner Jesse Garcia (Quinceanera), Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, Charlie's Angels), Amy Sloan (The Aviator, Gothika), Kyle Bornheimer (Blades of Glory), AJ Buckley (CSI: NY), and Octavia Spencer (Coach Carter, Ugly Betty), Campbell has worked to build her clients' film and television opportunities. Campbell has implemented her creative and effective strategies to secure such accomplishments as booking Liza Lapira in the Sony film 21, Kevin Chapman as a series regular in the Showtime hit Brotherhood, packaging a VH1 reality show for client Melissa McCarthy, and securing roles for two clients in the HBO pilot Hope Against Hope.
Campbell is looking forward to future triumph with the TalentWorks team and to promoting growth in the agency's feature film endeavors.
Scott Sedita, winner of Back Stage West's 2008 Readers' Choice Award for best acting teacher, has been a working actor and is the author of the best-selling comedy boo The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to Sitcom Acting and Writing. A graduate of Boston University's film and television program, he has more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry. He began his career in New York as a talent agent, where he helped to launch the careers of Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Teri Polo, Christopher Meloni, Dylan Walsh, Jerry O'Connell, and Vincent D'Onofrio, just to name a few.
In the 1990s he worked as a casting director for Danny Goldman Casting until launching Scott Sedita Acting Studios in 1998. Today, he works with hundreds of actors per week. He has coached and taught Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas), Jessica Stroup (90210), Chase Crawford (Gossip Girl), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), and many others. He has been hired as a comedy consultant on sitcoms in the United States and Canada. He has appeared on numerous TV talk shows and can be heard on radio stations around the world as an expert on Hollywood. His new book, Scott Sedita's Guide to Making It in Hollywood: 3 Steps to Success, 3 Steps to Failure, is in stores now.
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