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Academy AMA: Casting Director Bernard Telsey

Bernard Telsey AMA

Casting Director and Academy governor Bernard Telsey (Into The WoodsA Most Violent Year and Across the Universe Movie) took part in our ongoing Academy Q&A series.

Here are some highlights from his hour-long interview.

Q: Have you ever watched a film that you didn't cast and said to yourself, "wow, that was great casting?"

A: I just had that feeling recently when I saw Selma. I thought the detail that went into that casting from the lead parts down to the one -liners was so specific and so memorable. Every face stayed with me throughout the movie. I couldn't wait until the movie was over to look at the cast list and see all the people I didn't know. I thought Aisha Coley did a people job casting that film.

Q: When Meryl Streep first agreed to do [Into the Woods], what was going through your mind?

A: Having been a Meryl Streep fan, basically my whole adult life, I was beyond thrilled when I was hired for Into The Woods - being told that she was playing the witch. It was even better to find out three months later that she would be starring in Ricki and the Flash and I would get to cast that film with Jonathan Demme. This time Meryl came to auditions and read with people. That was one of the best weeks I've ever had.

Q: What's your views on casting new talent? Do you ever purposely look out for new talent when casting a production?

A: I personally love getting to work on projects that cast new talent. It's great to be introduced to new people and have a hand in helping them get work or introducing them to creative teams. Mostly that happens when the project is looking for younger people because that makes more sense that it would be people who would be new.

Q: If an actor is not a YouTube star, a Vine star, doesnt have a big agent(or manager) and they find out that a casting director is casting a film they are very interested in, what can that person do to get noticed by that casting director or to even get in the door?

A: I think anytime an actor wants to write a letter or a note with their picture, resume and possibly reel and approach a casting director in a professional way - all the better. Personally, I am always open to hearing from actors I don't know. It is a business so approaching the letter or the casting director should in a business-like manner. 

Q: Hello Mr. Telsey, I was wondering if you have any advice for people who want to become casting directors?

A: Start seeing as much theater, film and tv as you possibly can. Start acquiring a taste for the actors that you like. Possibly, if you can, go intern for a casting director and learn the ropes of the industry and see if it's something you want to do.

Click here to read the entire session and catch up on all our Academy Q&As here.