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Monday, 03 January 2011 21:48

Casting: East Coast vs. West

Written by  Margie Barron
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There’s been an enduring East Coast versus West Coast rivalry going on in production as far as casting is concerned –– and both sides have something to brag about. After 20 years of filming and giving legions of actors their first job in New York, “Law & Order” series Creator/Executive Producer Dick Wolf decided to bring a new version of the franchise to the distinctive West Coast with “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (also known as “LOLA”). And while the original series featured wonderful New York characters, the L.A. show can boast casting characters that are equally as colorful.

Executive Producer Rene Balcer insists that L.A. is “a mosaic of communities,” and for the new show that means hiring actors who can fit into storylines set in East L.A., Koreatown or at the beach hanging out with surfer dudes. Each distinct episode needs a spectrum of actors, and heading the series’ casting department are Dylann Brander and Megan Branman, who are both veterans of their craft. The fresh faces that we see on “LOLA” is a tribute to them and the other casting professionals who work to bring diversity to the show.

On the opposite coast, Actress Laura Linney is the star and executive producer of the acclaimed Showtime series “The Big C,” and she wanted her new show to film on the East Coast because she says it’s “the best environment” for her personally. And, fueling the coastal feud, she adds, “I think there’s a depth of field of actors in New York for character parts who have never been seen on television. That was interesting to me, a whole generation of theater actors who have never been on screen. There’s a tremendous resource there that hasn’t been taken advantage of in television.”

While this east/west debate can go on forever, it’s ultimately up to casting directors on both coasts to come up with talented actors to fill roles in films and television. And there are many resources that are helpful, such as the online services that make the casting process easy.

The Screen Actors Guild’s (SAG) is one great resource. SAGIndie hosts a series of monthly workshops to assist filmmakers in using the SAG Low Budget Agreements, simplifying the process and helping to cast quality actors in independent films. It also lets filmmakers post a casting breakdown for their films to help them connect with SAG’s vast pool of well-trained talent. Of course, SAG has offices in Hollywood and New York and everywhere in between. gives free registration for basic actor profiles and offers a place to post “Now Casting” notices that allow actors to submit electronically for projects created by casting directors on the website. They have Los Angeles Now Casting notices as well as submissions for projects not in L.A.

Going directly to the networks is another way actors can discover new opportunities. ABC, as well as other networks, is making an effort to reach out and find diverse talent, and a good place to start is the Disney/ABC Television Group’s Casting Project. The goal is to develop culturally and ethnically diverse talent and actors with disabilities, and the Casting Project conducts an annual showcase in New York and Los Angeles.

With these and so many more resources available, both coasts can easily take credit for nurturing great talent.

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