Casting director shares industry tips

The Department of Performing Arts and the Student Government Arts Council hosted "A Day in the Studio Theatre," a series of events aimed at students looking to pursue a career in the performing arts, to coincide with National Arts Advocacy Day Friday.

One of the highlights of the event was a panel discussion with Tony-nominated Broadway director Scott Ellis and Emmy Award winner Lora Kennedy, who is currently the head of casting at Warner Brothers, Motion Picture Division.

In an interview with The Eagle, Kennedy said she thought majoring in theater helped her in her career.

"I think it helped me, but there are a lot of people who have come from different backgrounds to this," she said. "I don't think it's a prerequisite, but I'm happy that I have it."

Later, she said, "If I went to back to school today, I'd probably get a degree in literature or art history, and then take theater classes ... because now I really wish I would have read more ... But for me, at the time [a theater major] was exactly what I needed, today I'm a different person, it wouldn't be what I'd go study."

Kennedy also said she thought hands-on experience was very important. She said the best way to get an idea of a job was to intern and stressed that having creative inspiration is important for those pursuing a job in the arts.

"Today, so many young people want it all now, but it is a learning process," she said. "To be good at anything you have to set your foundation and really learn. I would go to as much theater and as many movies and watch as much television, and read as many books and go to as many museums, and do whatever you can creative to add to the base of what you are. And then start there."

Having cast her first movie over 20 years ago, Kennedy has a firm grasp of the creative process. She has worked on such diverse films as "The Boondock Saints," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Syriana," perhaps her favorite project to date.

Kennedy described the experience of casting "The Boondock Saints" without much nostalgia.

"There was a lot of smoking and a lot of drinking going on, and we'd have auditions in the bar where [writer and director Troy Duffy] worked," she said. "Seriously, these actors would come in, you know Brendan Fraser and Heath Ledger and all these people, and we'd get a pitcher of beer and the cigarettes would come out and we'd sit there for three hours. That was the audition."

Kennedy said her experience casting "The Boondock Saints," though clearly not her favorite, is a part of her job.

"Every single director is different," she said. "So every time I approach a movie, they tell me and I form to how they work. Every single person is different ... You kind of have to wait to see how they want to do it, and then you just [conform]."

Flexibility is an important part of Kennedy's job overall, and it's something she looks for in the actors she auditions as well. When asked what impressed her in an auditioning actor she said, "An actual understanding of the text and an understanding of the process and the ability to be flexible. To come in with an opinion about what you are doing and a fix on what you are doing, but then actually to be flexible to listen to me if I direct them."

Though her advice may be situation specific, it is truly universal. Kennedy's experience in film lent itself to the theme of the day's events - to prepare students for their future, whether it be in motion pictures, theater, or the world beyond.

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