LAFF 2013: CASTING BY Movie Review
One of the unsung aspects of the filmmaking industry is casting the film. The actors get accolades for their roles, but how did they end up in that role, in that particular film, to begin with? It’s because of the men and women who go through what must be thousands of headshots and reels, who meet with them for a few minutes to nail down their essence that would show up on the screen. The documentary Casting By highlights the great casting directors and their work through the trenches in a vastly under-appreciated field.
Focusing mainly on the queen of casting, Marion Dougherty, we learn the history of the profession as it shifted from television in New York City like the Kraft series, to the studios before and after the contract method of acting, all the way to today. Marion was instrumental to the shift of casting someone based off looks alone to actually looking at their talents and skills to match them with characters. Instead of trying to find movie stars, she found actors. She went to the NYC theater, Broadway and off-Broadway and even off-off-Broadway to meet new talent and get them in to the TV shows she was casting. This lead to discovering some big actors you have may have heard of before – Jon Voigt, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Glenn Close, and Clint Eastwood just to name a few.
And yet, despite this success, she went largely unrecognized in the industry she brought about change. Lynn Stalmaster, her LA counterpart, was the first to get real credit within the movie titles. Her biggest accomplishments in casting – several Academy Award winners – didn’t even have her name publicly attached. Highlighting her struggles with the industry, particularly Directors and the Directors Guild of America, shows the glass ceiling that’s still present in the industry today. It also functioned as a microcosm on how the industry as a whole has changed from all-powerful studios in the 40s to the more art-house, creativity focused ventures in the 70s, to the corporate/conglomerate system we live in today. To be honest, it paints a bleak picture on the future of film as an art as it falls further into film as a business.
Casting By captures the struggles of the unsung heroes that make truly great films possible, while also showing the inequality bestowed upon them by the “elite” directors. They’ve been denied title credits, oscars, awards, and more, but maybe this documentary can get them at least a moment in the sun. Fans of classic Hollywood will not want to miss this inside peek into how iconic films like Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Deliverance, and more all popped on the screen.