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Ethnicity and Entertainment: An Interview with Casting Director Renee Garcia

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing noted casting director Renee Garcia and it was so hard to work around her understandably busy schedule that I literally did it on the fly in between her countless production meetings and endless casting sessions. I was struck by her limitless positivity and refreshingly peppy attitude.

Renee is the owner of her own casting company called Renee Garcia Casting in Beverly Hills, which casts mainly films, but also TV pilots, commercials, web series, voiceovers, music videos and print work and she cast from kids to seniors. Before she got into the field of casting, she was a senior talent manager. And before that, she had a successful career as a working actress and model. You may have seen her in the original blockbuster hit, “The Fast and the Furious,” or gracing the covers of various magazines. Soon after entering the business, even with all her successes, Renee realized that she would rather be behind the camera and she really wanted to focus on making others’ dreams come true. Actors in Hollywood often call her an “Actors Casting Director” because of her audition methods where she patiently guides actors in a very warm and positive environment during the casting process. I read for a sketch comedy show for Renee a while back and did the standard “5 in a door” (acting out 5 different characters). I was struck by how patient, generous and fun it was to audition for Renee. She was very gracious with her time and it’s an audition I really remember and a moment that I really cherish as that is all too rare as an actor.

Renee Garcia on the Set of “The Fast and the Furious” with Vin Diesel and Renee now with the film’s poster

Renee Garcia on the Set of “The Fast and the Furious” with Vin Diesel and Renee now with the film’s poster

So without further ado, here’s my interview with Renee.

How did you get your start in the entertainment business and how did it lead you to where you are today?

While I liked being in front of the camera and working as an in demand model and actress, I really liked being behind the camera much more. Then I transitioned into talent management, but really feel more fulfilled as a casting director. I happened to bypass a lot of jobs like casting assistant and associate and my background in acting and talent management helped. I decided to change professions as a Senior Talent Manager to a Casting Director, which was my dream after seeing an interview with the late Casting Director Mali Finn. With God’s will, everything fell into place. I also enjoy producing and many of my colleagues in the industry think I’m ultimately meant to be a producer.

Renee Garcia with Robert Scott Wilson (“Days of Our Lives”) and David Proval (“The Sopranos”) at her casting office for the casting of the film “Papa”

Renee Garcia with Robert Scott Wilson (“Days of Our Lives”) and David Proval (“The Sopranos”) at her casting office for the casting of the film “Papa”

What is it like being a Latina in this business and do you get to work on Latin-themed projects much?

Well, I’m 100% Mexican and I like to joke that I’m a Latina that made it to Beverly Hills. Seriously though, I don’t think one should let being a minority or a woman get in your way. Work hard to prove yourself regardless (of your gender and ethnicity) as that will shine through, but just be prepared as a woman in the entertainment industry that there will be some barriers you will have to get through. Accept the challenge and problem solve through it. 2016 marks a decade that I have been a Casting Director, it was 10 years ago that had the dream to be a Casting Director and it wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it. I’m actually just finished casting a few Latin-oriented projects like “Cartel” and “Papa,” which both films I am an associate producer on as well. I also have some upcoming film projects that I am casting where I will need a vast amount of Latino actors as well as other ethnicities as well. I pride myself in being a diverse casting director and a producer who is bringing in more ethnically diverse cast and lead characters into her projects. And in fact I made it to the top 5 candidates out of 3,000 candidates for the Casting Apprenticeship Diversified Program for NBC/Universal.

Renee Garcia on set on the film “Papa” with Vincent Pastore and David Proval, who both starred in "The Sopranos"

Renee Garcia on set on the film “Papa” with Vincent Pastore and David Proval, who both starred in “The Sopranos”

What other projects are you currently working on?

Right now I’m working on “Larceny” with Dolph Lundgren, which is an action heist film by an amazing director R. Ellis Frazier, who I am delighted to just find out that he would like to work with me again as his Casting Director on two other films he is directing. I am also the Producer and Casting Director on two films right now and one of the films is called “Rat Trap” and it is written and directed by Darryl J. Quarles (creator and writer of “The Big Momma’s House” franchise) and will have star names attached to the film. The other film I am producing is called “Me and My Girlfriend” which is 21st Century Bonnie and Clyde starring Bria Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s daughter) RZA (“Man with an Iron Fists 1 & 2”) and RZA is also a producer on the film as well and there will be more star names attached and both film are set to shoot by the summer of 2016.

Renee Garcia with Michael Madsen (“Hateful Eight”) on set of “Papa”

Renee Garcia with Michael Madsen (“Hateful Eight”) on set of “Papa”

What advice do you give actors?

Have the best headshots possible. I get over 2,000 submissions per role, so each submission has to stand out. It’s good to typecast yourself initially to book roles easier then you can be picky and pick and choose what you want to play when you’re more established. First and foremost, you must believe in yourself and be a risk taker. Don’t burn bridges and networking (even in the social media/branding age) networking is still key, be it in person or online. I’ve booked work as a casting director for instance via facebook and linkedin. I also attend events with like-minded, women-centric organizations like Women in Film and I recently attended the Ms. In the Biz panel event at Hatchery Press. Women can be so supportive of each other and we should be here to help guide each other. I also believe in creating weekly goals, even if it’s stuff like updating your website and social media. And lastly, don’t listen to the negative comments. Everyone will be a pessimist. Know your heart and follow your dreams. Never give up on your dreams, the cliché is true! I am an example that dreams do come true!

More info about Renee Garcia at www.ReneeGarciaCasting.com

Renee Garcia with Award for "Blood on Canvas"

Renee Garcia with Award for “Blood on Canvas”

 

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About Vida G

Vida G. is a multi-talented performer that is active on the Tinsel town scene as an actress,voiceover artist and a reporter. Vida recently shot a supporting role in Savage Cinema’s campy horror flick,”Pond Scum,” directed by legendary indie Aussie filmmaker Mark Savage, who has also cast her in a major supporting role in his upcoming thriller called “Circus of Dread” starring Bill Oberst Jr. Vida recently voiced two characters in an animated film called “Lovesick Fool” created by Emmy-nominated director Dominic Polcino (“The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “King of the Hill”), which stars Fred Willard, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garofalo also voiced roles in this film. “Lovesick Fool” is hitting the festival circuit and has won first place at the Topanga Film Festival and LA Arthouse Film Festival. It has also screened at the Burbank International Film Festival, the Manhattan Film Festival, and the NYC Independent Film Festival.