Is Zoom only a temporary solution and what scared Donna Morong about an acting career?
Today we are proudly presenting you, the successful casting director, who spent 15 years at The Walt Disney Company and became their Senior Vice President of Motion Picture Casting in the feature film division. In 2008, she even won an Artios Award for the amazing casting of Ben Affleck’s “GONE BABY GONE”. Let´s ask today's guest Donna Morong a few questions about her numerous successes and movie dreams.
What does casting mean to you and how did you discover that
this is your calling?
I was originally training as an actor when I realized that I didn’t feel I wanted to be that vulnerable both emotionally, as well as financially. I think it takes great courage to expose oneself emotionally and financially. I ultimately decided I would do better using my creative talents in something more analytical and frankly with more control.
"The vicissitudes of an acting career scared me!"
I got the opportunity to intern for a casting director in NYC on an off-Broadway show and it was such a blast. I felt that I had found my calling when I saw the inner-workings of Pat McKorkle’s office with Roger Sturtevant. That was the beginning of my career in casting. I later also discovered that I was able to spot a raw talent that had the potential to have a vibrant career like Rachel McAdams, Heath Ledger, and Chris Pine. In addition, I am an empathetic person, and that served me well in helping directors realize their vision. I developed other skills, including diplomacy and negotiation, during the course of my career.
How do you view new and upcoming technologies used in the film, specifically in casting?
I started out in the theater in the ’80s. We didn’t even record auditions. Everything was done with note-taking. We had to rely on our ability to remember and take accurate notes. It had its plusses and minuses, but with the number of actors now, it would be very difficult to not be able to go back and review auditions, especially when you are exhausted at the end of a long session. What has developed is, of course, self-tapes, which means more actors have access to casting but also means less human contact.
Due to COVID restrictions, we are now doing auditions, not only by self-tape but by Zoom for callbacks and chemistry reads. That is problematic. Hopefully, this is a temporary development and that director auditions will continue to be in person.
"That way the creative team can work with the actor and get a sense of their physicality."
I know it is financially beneficial to producers to use Zoom for callbacks but it is not the same thing as being in the room with the actors and director. Let’s face it, on set, the director will be with the actor, and no Zoom call can create the 3-D reality of being physically together. I don’t think even VR will be able to replace human beings being together in the same space at the same time.
Where do you take inspiration from? How do you choose your cast for films and commercials? Do you have a favorite way of discovering new talents and faces?
Inspiration always starts with the script. It is the blueprint of the project. If there is a lookbook or other visual guide, I use that as well. I read the script a few times and allow it to marinate in my imagination. My conversations with the director are really critical as well. Someone may immediately come to mind, while sometimes it takes more time. I draw actors from TV, film, and theater. At the beginning of my career, I use to go to the theater 4 or 5 times a week. I got to know the N.Y. talent pool well. It is no longer possible to rely on that for me, as I am in L.A. I look at many reels, as well as watch as much as I can. I now have the opportunity to watch actors from around the world.
"The world is much smaller than when I started casting, and I love learning about actors from other countries."
It may be through an agent, or watching a film, or even being contacted by an actor when they have work they are proud to share with me. I have been using my training and my casting experience to teach audition techniques and acting as well. There have been times when the casting and teaching have intersected, but I never want an actor to study with me, in the hopes of being “seen”. It just sometimes is a happy coincidence when a student of mine is right for a role.
And the latest news? After returning to her first love, teaching, her dream of a studio full of like-minded artists continues to grow, firstly at the Aquila Morong Studio and now in a new venture: Donna Morong Acting Studio. Donna Morong is using her passion to nurture actors’ talents and support them in realizing their talents through technique and training. Don´t hesitate to contact her on the website: www.donnamorongactingstudio.com