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Academy of Motion Pictures Creates Casting Director Branch

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to rethink its long-entrenched policies, creating a branch for casting directors. Many have been asking for this change for decades, and it raises some hopes that it will lead to an Oscar category for the profession.

Casting directors began to be admitted to Academy membership more than 30 years ago, many becoming members-at-large (i.e., non-voting members). The Academy has rejected motions for a casting director branch three times since 1996. Many advocates said it’s the only above-the-line credit that does not have an Academy branch.

Casting directors will compose the 17th branch of the Academy. As with the other branches, there will be three members represented on the board; elections for that trio will be held this fall.

Newly elected AMPAS prexy Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement, “Casting directors play an essential role in the filmmaking process. 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.”

The board decided on the move Tuesday night, the same evening Boone Isaacs was elected.

The Acad has long resisted various petitions to add new branches or categories. But in the last few years, it’s made a series of changes.

Casting directors will also be in the spotlight next week, as HBO debuts a documentary on Marion Dougherty on Aug. 5: “Casting By,” from director Tom Donahue, which looks at the rise of the profession as the studio system waned, and the still-held misperceptions of the role.

Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, applauded the move in a statement, “The Casting Society of America (CSA) is tremendously grateful to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for acknowledging the vital contributions made by casting directors to film. To be recognized with the creation of a Casting Branch is something the CSA has long worked for, and to be seen on a par with the other filmmaking crafts is both humbling and gratifying. Thank you, Academy.”

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