Motion picture academy gives casting directors their own branch

Casting directors now have their own voting branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Here, stand-in fake Oscar statuettes are ready backstage during rehearsals in the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood and Highland Center as preparations are in full swing for the Oscar live telecast of the 85th Academy Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Casting directors landed a role of their own Wednesday, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences granted the group its own branch within the organization.

Though there are currently 59 casting directors within the academy’s ranks, they have previously been admitted as members at large -- a diverse circle that includes choreographers, stunt doubles and assistant directors.

The move comes after a June presentation given to the general membership committee by casting director and academy member David Rubin.


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“The casting process generally takes place behind closed doors between a casting director, a director and a producer, so there is little known about it,” explained Rubin, whose credits include “The English Patient” and “Lars and the Real Girl.” “Part of this endeavor was to inform other academy members about what our job entails and its effect on movies.”

That casting directors have not been recognized in the same way as actors or directors has been a source of contention in recent years. Between 1996 and 2011, the academy’s awards rules committee rejected three separate proposals from casting directors asking that they be eligible for Oscars.

Part of the reason the academy was reluctant to grant casting directors their own branch was because “there’s no easy way to tell who did the casting in a movie,” the group’s former executive director, Bruce Davis, told The Times in 2011. “It’s not that we don’t respect casting directors, it’s that we don’t know how to” create an Oscar category, he said. “We’re not looking for a lot of new categories. People think the award show is long enough.”

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To be clear, while casting directors can now vote to decide who will receive Oscars, they are not yet eligible for the golden trophies themselves.


“Now is not the time to lobby for that,” said Richard Hicks, director of the Casting Society of America, who is not a member of the academy.

“We’re more interested in celebrating what happened today,” Rubin said.

There are now 17 branches of the academy, though new members will not be admitted to the casting directors segment until June 2014. The casting directors who are presently members at large will be moved to the new branch, and this fall, a special election will be held to choose the three individuals who will represent the branch on the academy’s Board of Governors.

“Casting directors play an essential role in the filmmaking process,” newly elected AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “Their inclusion on our board will only broaden our perspective and help ensure that the academy continues to accurately reflect the state of filmmaking today.”


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