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Casting By

A look at Hollywood film-making from an entirely new perspective...

Casting By, directed by Tom Donahue, is a love letter to the casting industry in general, and to the pioneering casting director Marion Dougherty in particular. Along the way, it provides a history of how the production of Hollywood movies have changed over the years, from the early days of contract players—who specialized in types, and were often placed into roles because they were available, rather than because they were right for the part—to our present-day belief that casting is an art, and that getting the right actor for a role is a huge factor (80 to 90 percent, according to some directors) in a film’s success. Dougherty got her start in television, working on Kraft Television Theatre, Naked City, and Route 66. She developed an aesthetic favoring interesting actors (many with experience on the New York stage) rather than Hollywood glamour boys and girls. A steady procession of movie stars who got their start with her testifies to her good judgment—James Dean, Gene Hackman, Jon Voigt, Bette Midler, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Maureen Stapleton, Warren Beatty, and Robert Duvall among them. Even when they were bad at an audition or in their first role, Dougherty could see potential and had the courage to argue for them in later performances—a notable example being Voigt, who recalls how terrible he was in a Naked City episode, and marvels at how she later championed him for the career-making role of Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy over the better-known Michael Sarazzin. A secondary theme in Casting By is the lack of industry appreciation for the importance of the casting director. Even that title is contested, as the Director’s Guild claims that a film can have only one director (I guess that explains the popularity of referring to the director of photography as the “DP,” even though everyone knows what it means). There is still no Academy Award for casting, a rather bizarre choice given that specialties such as makeup and hairstyling, sound mixing, and visual effects all get their own Oscar. Dougherty, who died in 2011, didn’t let the lack of recognition, or the inevitable back-stabbings (she does have a great Michael Eisner story), bother her too much—at least as presented in this film. She concentrated on doing her work, and on nurturing the talents of young casting directors, as well as actors and directors—Juliet Taylor, Ellen Lewis, and Lynn Stalmaster are among the casting directors who got their start working for her. Courtesy: Sarah Boslaugh, PopMattersOfficial Trailer
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Directed by: 
Tom Donahue
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