Thirty-five years ago, the Casting Society of America (CSA) held its inaugural Artios Awards to celebrate casting directors’ indelible contributions to the industry. The Beverly Hills ceremony was short and sweet, handing out awards in only four categories. As content has continued to increase in volume, so too have the Artios Awards grown. Now, the ceremony boasts more than 35 categories across film, television and theater, as well as special honorees/achievements, with ceremonies expanding to include New York and London.
“With time, it’s been an evolution,” says Russell Boast, president, CSA. “The more people have come to understand what the art and craft of casting is, the more they’ve been able to recognize that we’re in a position to have a voice to change stereotypes or break molds. All the honorees this year speak to the heart of what the CSA is today and our push for inclusion and diversity.”
The 34th annual Artios Awards focused on the celebration of that evolution: remembering the past by honoring the founders of CSA, enjoying the present by feting those the voting members thought were doing the best work at the moment, and looking toward the future with the announcement of an inclusion program designed to inspire and assist “diverse candidates interested in pursuing a career in casting, which would be CSA-endorsed and which would start to change the conversation behind the camera,” Boast says.
This year, there is a push to recognize the “creative collaboration” of the field, as well as to celebrate the growth of CSA itself.
“It’s very important that all young casting professionals understand what casting really is,” Boast says. “It’s about relationships and about being able to push the envelope when needed. It’s a really intricate craft.”
Two of the awards that have meant a lot to the organization, especially when it comes to visibility, collaboration and the scope of the impact of casting, are the Lynn Stalmaster Award for Career Achievement and the Marion Dougherty New York Apple Award. This year the former will be given to Geena Davis during the Beverly Hilton ceremony, while the latter, which is recognition from the casting community to individuals who have made a special commitment to the New York entertainment industry through their collaboration with casting directors, is going to Audra McDonald.
“It can be very nerve-racking when you’re auditioning for the showrunners or the people who you’d possibly be working with. What I now know is that the people behind the table — the casting directors and the directors and the showrunners — are on your side. They want you to succeed,” says McDonald, who stars on CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight.” “That’s something that I think you need to keep in mind when you’re getting started.”
Looking ahead to the next 35 years of the casting business and the Artios Awards, Boast says there will be a push to ensure CSA is “maintaining our history, maintaining the past” while still continuing to “push the envelope, encourage new talent [and] encourage different ways of perceiving the world.”
Davis, too, hopes the field of casting continues to increase inclusion in storytelling across screen size, and she notes that the field is the “quickest and best way to make real progress in representation.
“My observation is that when a character doesn’t need to be female — typically because she’s in a relationship with a male character — writers tend to go to male as the default. Writers often will not have asked themselves, ‘Does this character need to be a white straight male?’ So this is where casting directors comes in — they can be the one saying, ‘This character could easily become female/a person of color/LGBTQ/differently abled/intersectional,’ and propose actors who push the boundary or who can play a role beyond how the writer may have described them in the script. It’s very freeing to think outside the box, and I think casting directors can be the ones leading the way and showing how it’s done.”