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Calls intensify for Oliviers to introduce casting category following BAFTA move

This year’s Oliviers drew in 600,000 TV viewers. Photo: Darren Bell Photo: Darren Bell
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Organisers of the Olivier Awards are facing renewed pressure to recognise casting directors, after it was announced that BAFTA will introduce a dedicated category at its film ceremony for the first time next year.

The head of casting at the National Theatre and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s casting director are among those calling on Olivier Awards organiser the Society of London Theatre to honour casting professionals, who it is argued have long been overlooked at awards.

The Casting Directors’ Guild organised its own awards this year in response to this. However, until now casting has not been recognised by a major awards ceremony in the UK.

Awards launched to honour casting directors

Last week, BAFTA revealed that a casting award would be introduced at its film awards, as well as in the British Academy Television Craft Awards, in 2020.

It is the first time BAFTA has established a new award since 1999 and the first time ever that a category has been simultaneously introduced across both awards schemes.

Alastair Coomer, the NT’s head of casting, described BAFTA’s decision as a “timely recognition of the invaluable craft, skill and dedication of casting directors within the creative process”.

He added: “Sadly, and surprisingly, casting is still not recognised at the Olivier Awards, and I hope BAFTA’s exciting decision will encourage SOLT to re-evaluate its position with some urgency.”

Fellow casting director David Grindrod, who oversees casting for Lloyd Webber’s shows and whose company works across theatre, television and film, added: “It’s so exciting to hear that BAFTA has taken a step forward to introduce two new awards for casting in TV and film.

“It’s absolutely right that casting professionals are credited and recognised for the creative skill they bring to a production and I’d love to see this echoed at the Olivier Awards.”

When BAFTA introduces its casting award next year, the longlist will be decided by a chapter of voters with specific expertise and knowledge about casting. The BAFTA jury will then decide the nominations and a winner.

Editor’s View: Will BAFTA casting director award lead to changes at Oliviers?

According to BAFTA’s guidelines, it will be judged on elements such as how the casting serves the characters and the piece, how the brief was interpreted to reflect the writer and director’s vision, how the casting director collaborated with other creatives and their approach to new talent and diversity.

Praising the move, CDG chair Victor Jenkins said he was “personally and professionally over the moon”, but added: “The alchemy of casting has long been overlooked in awards categories. We really hope that the creation of these awards will lead to wider recognition for the huge amount of work that goes into casting for both stage and screen, and instigate further casting categories.”

Jessica Ronane, who is in charge of casting at the Old Vic, said the work of casting directors was often not fully understood, and that celebrating the profession at the Oliviers could increase its visibility and encourage young people to consider it as a career.

“The more awareness and consciousness we can give to the work we do and how vital that is can only be a good thing,” Ronane said.

She added: “[An Olivier for casting] now feels like the natural step as opposed to something that needs a discussion. It’s taken us a while to get here, but it is growing.”

SOLT declined to comment.

What do casting directors look for in auditions? Theatre’s hidden talent spotters reveal the secrets of their trade

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