It is often said that it takes talent and luck to land a role. Today, proactivity and grace are added to this list of skillsets. In contemporary times, recognition seems less of a far-fetched notion than before thanks to the state of the art technology and interconnectivity. However, film festivals of the likes of Berlin play a substantial role as the gridiron for the discovery of new European talent as well as the creation of new roles and new relations, prompted by the ever so popular and widespread practice of co-productions on European turf. Among these relations is the one between actors and casting directors.
European Shooting Stars
Every February, for the past 18 years, European Shooting Stars, a unique pan-European initiative, takes place at the Berlinale, shining a little light on Europe’s most prominent up-and-coming young actors and placing them at the top of the busy film program that unfolds year after year at the festival. These ten emerging acting talents, hailing from across the Old Continent, are selected by a jury of experts who hand-picks them among a long list of potential candidates nominated by the member organizations of the European Film Promotion (Efp).
During the craze of the festival’s first weekend, the Shooting Stars connect and network with casting directors, talent agents, directors and producers with the objective of broadening and strengthening industry alliances. They are involved in a wide range of activities that include presentations to the film industry and the press as well as one-on-one meetings with international casting directors, a reception and an Awards Ceremony at the Berlinale Palast.
The Shooting Stars program kicked off in 1998 during the Berlin International Film Festival
. But, why the Berlinale? The project finds unique support in this particular festival. Moreover, its director, Dieter Kosslick
is especially enthusiastic about the initiative as well as supporting young talent. According to Karin Dix, the project director of the European Shooting Stars, the Berlin International Film Festival
“is an ideal platform for Shooting Stars,” pointing out that the Efp would not receive such exposure anywhere else.
Bridging Cultures Through Actors
Behind the glamour of film festivals, is a world, unknown to audiences, where films are made and discussed by the movers and shakers of the industry. Everyone sees the actors’ and directors’ work during the production of a film. But, very few people are aware that before the shooting even starts, casting directors have already dove deep into the script and spent hours, days and months researching the right people for a specific role. This demands intrinsic skills and gut instincts. The important work is felt behind the scenes, indeed, but when it comes to the public presentation it is often already forgotten.
Therefore, in 2005, the Efp acknowledged that the art, craft and business of casting should not only be incorporated in its activities but also better transmitted to the international industry. That is how and why the International Casting Directors Network (Icdn) was founded during the Berlinale, that year, by fifteen casting directors from seven countries. Today the network counts seventy-four casting directors from twenty-four countries world-wide. They meet annually on occasion of Shooting Stars in Berlin.
These casting directors come to the Berlin International Film Festival
to “shop” for new talent, collaborate, and meet their fellows. Some will also meet the Shooting Stars who have already sent them tapes, like for instance María Valverde
, for whom the human interaction is an important factor, “I think it’s a nice thing to just be yourself talking to them, not as a character in a certain role”, she remarks. On the other hand, for Londonderry Entertainment
’s Sheila Wenzel
, who works with top young female stars and holds a strong and well-respected deal-making reputation, “the world has gotten so much larger”. And, in that larger world, she is constantly looking for new talent anywhere.
In that regard, apart from offering support and publicity to these fresh faces of the big screen as they step from national fame into the international spotlight, the endeavor also highlights the vital role new actors can play in the marketing of European films. And, this year’s Shooting Stars are very well aware of that.
For Daphné Patakia, the Greek star of "Interruption
" (Yorgos Zois
), it is a “great opportunity to open in a European way and meet people from all over Europe,” adding she hopes to find work in different languages. The international cooperation and linguistic dimension of Shooting Stars are something that fellow Dutch Shooting Star Reinout Scholten van Aschat
and former Shooting Star
and this year’s jury member, Anamaria Marinca
, also share, “…everyone is involved in co-productions so there is place for someone from Croatia or France or Spain in an international production spoken in English, or Spanish or another language and because they have these aptitudes and they can act in another language, not only speak it,” the latter observes. Scholten van Aschat, a fan of European film, and in particular the Danish film industry, is especially sensitive to the aforementioned aspects. Not only does he have great respect for casting directors but he also feels the need to improve his language skills (German and English) and believes that the Dutch still have to learn from the Danes, “and the way to do that, of course, is to work together,” he admits.
Impactful and Inimitable
With the recognition as a Shooting Star
, the impact is often instantaneous. For Anamaria Marinca
, it has given her the opportunity to meet French casting director Nicolas Ronchi
who offered her her first French script, which led her to being represented by French talent agent Annabel Karouby
, and thereby “facilitated a possible career in France”. Her time in Berlin as a Shooting Star
“kind of started these other possible languages [she] could work in.” Former Shooting Stars include such talent as Daniel Craig
, Rachel Weisz
, Alicia Vikander
, Carey Mulligan
, Daniel Brühl
, Mélanie Laurent
or this year’s Berlinale International Jury member Alba Rohrwacher
What’s more, the Shooting Stars initiative is inimitable and unique. Indeed, many have tried to copy the concept but no one has the expertise of the Efp’s member organizations, according to Dix who also concedes that the fact that each country nominates one actor is a guarantee for the high quality of the selected actors and actresses from Europe.
On the European film market where co-productions are common practice today, familiar actors help the audience relate to a particular “foreign” film. As harsh as it sounds, bankability is the key of the film biz. In that, actors are the faces of the films. They move the audiences, create their enthusiasm and need for films and are the personalities that promote them. Casting directors stand right behind them and make it happen. They bridge the gaps between cultures and open new horizons and possibilities. They help actors speak the European language of film. They are its unsung heroes.