Say Hello, Say Goodbye
Another Academy Awards, another year in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to recognize one of the key contributors to the art of filmmaking: casting directors. Academy officials have issued statements in the past saying the reason this group of professionals is omitted from Oscar glory is that a) there is no room for additional categories, as the ceremony is already too long, and b) credit for the casting of a movie is often ambiguous, as the director and producers frequently have a hand in that process.
My response is this: Would Jennifer Hudson have stood at the Oscar podium if not for Dreamgirls casting director Debra Zane? Would Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin have come to voters' attention if it weren't for the casting team of Justine Baddeley and Kim Davis? Would The Departed have walked away with the best picture trophy without the input of Ellen Lewis, longtime casting director for Martin Scorsese?
Here's an idea: Cut out one, or better yet, two, of these torturous montage sequences that the Oscar producers insist on including, and give casting directors the respect and acclaim their profession deserves. While you're at it, Academy, give stunt coordinators their due respect, too.
On a separate note, but related to the theme of absence, Back Stage will soon be missing its beloved publisher and leader, Steve Elish, who is leaving the company after 34 years of distinguished service. Of all his professional accomplishments -- and there are many -- his greatest legacy will be that he launched a West Coast offshoot of Back Stage 13 years ago. I'm speaking, of course, of Back Stage West.
Thanks to Steve's passion and business savvy, Los Angeles actors and those performers in neighboring cities had a new trade publication to call their own. It's been a pleasure and an honor to watch Back Stage West flourish in my dozen years with the company. I remember the days when we couldn't get publicists to call us back because they didn't know what Back Stage West was. Those days have passed, and we have since relished the participation of countless actors, directors, writers, casting directors, agents, managers, producers, and other talented professionals -- all of whom have proudly shared their insights with us.
Always looking for new ways to grow the paper, Steve launched an online version of Back Stage, BackStage.com, in 1997. Currently our website has nearly 20,000 subscribers across the country and gets more than 3 million hits per month. With the click of a button, actors can access online job postings daily and send their digital headshots, résumés, and demo reels to casting directors and producers via the Internet. Another milestone for which Steve deserves credit is the 1998 acquisition of our West Coast competitor, Drama-Logue, bringing Back Stage a larger, more concentrated audience.
Steve is also responsible for green-lighting Back Stage's annual Garland Awards, honoring excellence in Southern California theatre. He recognized the value of our local stage heroes, and my staff and I thank him for his support of the Garlands. This week we salute this year's roster of Garland winners and honorable mentions. I would also like to thank our theatre critics, who make these awards possible. Appreciation also goes to our executive editor, Dany Margolies, who organizes these awards and works with our critics throughout the year.
Thank you, Steve, for your belief in the editorial department and your deep commitment to doing what is best for actors. We miss you already.
-- Jamie Painter Young, National Editor-in-Chief