★ Buns of Yogurt ★ (vejiicakes) wrote,

The Language of Casting

For the sake of argument, let's assume I wanted to cast a part for a movie.

Let us assume that I want every agent submitting for every appropriate available actor. I want every actor of every ethnicity to feel welcome to submitting a headshot and a portfolio of their work or audition video.

Which one of these phrases should I use to specify this in the casting call?

1. Wanted: All ethnicities.

2. Wanted: Caucasian or any other ethnicity.


Critical thinking time: Do these phrases mean the same thing? Do these phrases imply the same thing? How is one different from the other? What impression does each one give you about the role being cast? What impression does each one give you about the intended, or resultant, applicants?

FIRST, let us examine what some official casting calls look like, for both roles of specified and unspecified ethnicities:


NBC'S HEROES
(Casting calls for ancillaries/recurring characters in Vol.4)


[ AGENT 1 & 2 ]
28 – 45. PLEASE SUBMIT MEN AND WOMEN OF ALL ETHNICITIES. MUST BE IN GREAT PHYSICAL SHAPE. EXPERIENCE HANDLING WEAPONS A PLUS. These men/women are FBI agents taking part in a top-secret military operation…CO-STAR / POSSIBLE RECUR [Source]

[ JAPANESE DRIVER ]
30 - 45. JAPANESE. A funny, amiable guy from Texas, this truck driver’s voice is 100% pure Texan twang…CO-STAR / POSSIBLE 1 DAY GUEST STAR [Source]

[ WAITRESS ]
28 - 50. HISPANIC. A nice waitress who works in a small diner in Arizona. CO-STAR [Source]

[ COOK ]
35 - 55. CAUCASIAN. This role is seen in a flashback to the Early 60s. This cook works in the Arizona desert. He is racist and makes threats against one of his customers. CO-STAR [Source]

[ MR. SHAW ]
Late 30's. CAUCASIAN. Dark Hair / Brown or Blue eyes. Mr. Shaw is a devoted father trying to protect his daughters. CO-STAR [Source]

[ 1960'S MOM ]
Mid 20's - Early 30's. PLEASE SUBMIT ALL ETHNICITIES. This cheerful young mother is seen in a flashback to the 1960's. sptv050769 CO-STAR [Source]

[ YOUNG ANGELA ]
16. FEMALE. CAUCASIAN. BRUNETTE. WE NEED TO CAST A YOUNGER VERSION OF CRISTINE ROSE (see attached pic). Beautiful and intelligent, young Angela is a dreamer looking to make the world a better place. GUEST STAR / IMPORTANT ROLE. WE NEED A SPECIAL ACTRESS WITH A LARGE EMOTIONAL RANGE [Source]


Looks pretty cut and dry, yeah? NEXT, let's look at what the official casting call for the four young leads for Paramount's upcoming live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender looked like--while keeping in mind that these characters canonically hail from the equivalent of Tibetan, Inuit, and pan-Eastern-Asian cultures:


PARAMOUNT'S AVATAR
(Casting call for core, leading cast)
[Source]

Edit: Above source now outdated since filming is underway, thus casting call text has been swapped out for available positions. Fortunately, screencaps of the casting call have been saved [here]

[ AANG ]
12-15 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. We are looking for a young man to play the lead role in a motion picture franchise. He must be athletic and graceful with an ability in Martial Arts (not necessarily extensive experience, but at least an aptitude for it). Kids with experience in gymnastics, dance, or sports could also be good. He is a young adventurer and should seem like the type of young man who will grow up to be heroic.

[ KATARA ]
14-17 years-old, Female, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. She is Sokka's younger sister. She is a headstrong and determined girl with a real sense of idealism. She believes in herself and feels that she can play on the same team as the boys. She is beautiful, intelligent, passionate, feisty, and has a real sense of adventure.

[ SOKKA ]
16-20 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. He is Katara¹s older brother. He is intelligent but awkward, and very funny (although not necessarily intentionally so). He aspires to greatness, but he tends to doubt himself. He is always one to be swayed by a pretty girl.

[ ZUKO ]
16-20 years-old, Male, Caucasian or any other ethnicity. He is a brooding, intense young man who wrestles - not always successfully - with being good. Regaining his honor is a driving impetus for him. He is extremely handsome and is the type of dangerous boy every girl falls in love with. Athletic and/or martial arts experience is a plus.


Finally, after seeing how Paramount preferred to handle the casting for the film leads, let us look into how they made their casting call for Avatar extras--people without dialogue or scripted interaction, intended only to walk the background and fill space and not actually impact events in any way:

"We want you to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire," [Deedee Rickets, the casting director for the film] said. "If you're Korean, wear a kimono." [Source]

Ahh, the old "casting for 'ethnic'-ness only in roles of no consequence" song and dance. Unfortunately I'm Japanese, but if any Koreans needed me to lend them one or two family kimonos, I'd have been good for it. They'd also like you to bring any martial arts experience or basket weaving skills with you.

One middle-aged black woman, clad in a denim jacket and black slacks, raised her hand. "Are you at a disadvantage if you didn't wear a costume?" she asked, evidently concerned about her "non-ethnic" outfit.

"Absolutely not!" Rickets reassured her. "It doesn't mean you're at a disadvantage if you didn't come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you'll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever." [Source]

African + head scarf = Ukranian! It's just like the 300 Non-white + piercings = Persian equation! (Oh wait, unless it's a Persian hero--then you go fetch Jake Gyllenhaal...) Stay classy, casting director. Stay classy.

Part 1: Yellow (and brown)-face: A History in Pictures
Tags: animation: avatar, animation: avatar-because media matters, lol azn
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