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Backstage Experts

Casting Extraordinary Actors

Casting Extraordinary Actors

Every actor strives to find the spark of truth in every action and every word spoken. The goal is to “act” without showing you are “acting.” This is a truly an extraordinary task. It is important for actors to realize that just as hard as they work to get the part, the casting director will have worked equally hard to find them. Every day and often into the night, too, we are seeking to fulfill the vision of the writers, directors, and producers by casting the actor who fits so seamlessly into the role, that it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. 

The journey of casting is a shared adventure between the seekers and the talent. I consider myself a terribly conscientious hunter and gatherer; I feel pangs of guilt knowing I may have skipped over a submission or email. I am all too often Googling late into the night—much to my husband’s chagrin! The Internet has given us an endless supply of talent to sift through and study. 

Honestly, we must rely on all the curators of talent. How can we possibly know everyone? And though some actors may slip through the cracks, the best ones tend to stay in the game long enough to be discovered. If we missed them the first time in their equity waver showcase or in that fleeting guest spot, the talented actor will do it again and again until that tastemaker—agent, manager or casting director—finds them and knows that attention must be paid.

I think actors who have built long careers are those who approach their career from a similar conscientious point of view: learning, researching and practicing their skills, arriving at auditions with pictures and resumes stapled, in hand. (I consider my self a 21st century techie CD, but I still need tactile reminders.) Actors must prepare to find the ‘extra-ordinary’ moment in the room with us. 

At The Golden Globes in 2010, Meryl Streep stated it was not that she herself is extraordinary (Who are you kidding, Meryl?) but more importantly, that she is the vessel for extraordinary characters. Well, not every role will be a Meryl Streep-award-winning-kind-of-part and not every actor will have that opportunity, but just as every casting director must do the extra work to to discover the best talent, actors must strive to be extraordinary in roles big and small, starting from the ground up, and building a career that lasts. 

Truly we all want the same things. Both the seekers of talent and the actors that fulfill themselves by giving life to a character. Sometimes, I may be a discoverer, sometimes a doula nurturing the process, sometimes a mother hen protecting it, but always like the actor, I am seeking truth. 

Rest assured, the casting directors are the first ones watching you celebrate as you walk the red carpet. Remember us as you celebrate the extraordinary. Chances are, we were there, behind the scenes at the very beginning.

Heidi most recently cast Wim Wenders’  “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” in production now starring James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rachel McAdams, and Marie-Josée Croze . She is also working with Werner Herzog on the feature film, “Vernon God Little,” which will now go into production in Spring 2014, and is also casting a play  for Center Theatre Group at The Kirk Douglas Theatre called "Different Words About For The Same Thing." by Kimber Lee." The film, "Chavez," directed by  Diego Luna  and  starring Michael Pena, America Ferrera, and Rosario Dawson  will be released  by Lionsgate this Aprill. Heidi continues to collaborate with director, Mark Pellington  and is casting and exec producing his  next feature, “Clang.”  Other  notable films she cast include, “The Artist,” “Nixon,” “JFK,” “Natural Born Killers,” "Nurse betty," "The Rock," and the beloved “The Joy Luck Club."

She is a graduate of Barnard College and the AFI Producers Program where Heidi is now an adjunct faculty member teaching casting to second year directors. In 2010, she created of Actor Genie, which is available on iTunes and Android. The app tells actors what's casting and who's who, and it has loads of inspiring quotes and advice from well know actors, directors, writers, acting coaches, and much more.

For more information on Heidi, visit Follow Heidi on twitter@theactorgenie.

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