Lana Veenker launched her Portland, Ore.–based firm, Lana Veenker Casting, in 1999. She says Oregon offers an abundance of employment opportunities—both union and nonunion—for actors in the vicinity. "This year is predicted to be the biggest year ever for us in films," she says, noting that there are also plenty of television roles and many opportunities in commercials, though not much voiceover work. Veenker has cast 35 episodes of the TNT series "Leverage." She doesn't often cast theater, she says, but will do it occasionally—and pro bono.
Among the projects she has cast recently are "Grimm," a pilot for NBC from the producers of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" the Lakeshore Entertainment thriller "Gone," starring Amanda Seyfried; and "Brain Trust," a pilot for TBS. Veenker points out that the IFC series "Portlandia" has also been a boon to the Northwest casting scene. "There's a ton of independent films shooting in the area," she says. "It's really cracking."
The region offers a wide variety of shooting locations. "The cool thing about Portland is that you're within an hour of desert, snow, mountains, ocean, cities," Veenker points out. Furthermore, production companies are discovering a wealth of good talent in the area. "There are really great crews up here and a really strong acting pool," she says. "Pretty much every production that comes up here is thinking they're going to have to fly up actors from L.A. Then they realize they're able to hire a lot of the guest stars locally, and the co-stars, even many of the leading parts."
She continues, "The talent base here is really serious, making their own indie films and Web series and taking acting classes. A lot of people who had careers in Hollywood or New York, with long résumés, have moved here for the quality of life. So the producers don't have to pay them for per diem or travel."
According to Veenker, there is less ethnic and age diversity in Portland than in some other regions. But "there's more diversity in the younger categories," she says. "For actors in their 40s or 50s, it's less so, though we have some great character actors. If actors of color are looking for a place to move, they might get a lot of work here. Recently on 'Leverage,' I was looking for an older Asian actor. One actor sent his reel, it landed on my desk at just the right moment, and he got the part."
Though Veenker is happy to accept headshots, résumés, and reels, she recommends networking as the best way to get her attention. "It's also better for me to see actors in something," she says. "They need to get into the community, take an acting class, find out what indie projects are shooting and what theater projects are happening, so they can keep auditioning. Also, it's not impossible here to get a talent agent if you're good, because this is a smaller market. I know who all the acting teachers are, all the talent agents, all the best actors. If these people start talking about a new person who just moved to town, I'm going to want to know who that person is."
Lana Veenker, Lana Veenker Casting, (503) 221-3090, www.slateplease.com, www.castingscoop.blogspot.com
Catrine McGregor Casting, Boise, Idaho, (801) 793-5008, [email protected], www.myspace.com/mcgregorcasting
Simon Max Hill Casting, Portland, Ore., (503) 317-1309, www.smhcasting.com
Nike Imoru, Casting Director, Spokane, Wash., (509) 252-2574, [email protected]
Patti Kalles, Kalles Levine Casting, Seattle, (206) 522-2660, [email protected], www.kalleslevinecasting.com
Stephen Salamunovich, Complete Casting, Seattle, (206) 903-6500, www.completecasting.com
Danny Stoltz, Danny Stoltz Casting, (503) 227-6055, www.dannystoltzcasting.com