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APRIL 25, 2014

35

THE PBJ INTERVIEW

Her role: Advocate for Oregon lm


CASTING DIRECTOR LANA VEENKER ON TAX CREDITS, ACTORS AND BEING STARSTRUCK
and corporate videos. Then came the lm (tax credit) incentives. I became involved in the legislation for that. After that is when it started really taking o. You dont receive tax credits, but youre still a direct beneficiary of that program, right? Oh, denitely. Nowadays, for better or worse, so many states and places around the world have lm incentives. If you dont have a program, youre not in the game. They y right over the state. We lost a lot of business to Vancouver, Canada, when they started a program. Implementing our small, very modest program was just enough to get people to stop and look. Does the states film incentives program need another revision? Heres the thing: every week the lm oce is having to turn away projects because all the lm oce funds are committed to the series we have here now. If another Twilight-sized movie wanted to come, the lm oce has to say were already at capacity as far as our program goes. Weve lost series that were actually written to be shot in Portland. Theres a Rainn Wilson project that really wanted to come here but couldnt make the numbers work. Anything we can do to add to it will bring in more business. What is the strength of the local acting talent here? Its growing in the same way the crew base has been growing. Actors who maybe have never auditioned for episodic television six years ago are now going out several times a week. They have the drill now. They know how to come in and nail it on the rst take. Do you ever get over being starstruck? When youre in a work environment, the vibe changes. When you see people working and youre trying to get something done, you tend to see them more as an equal. I did go to set when we worked on Extraordinary Measures and I really wanted to meet Harrison Ford. I was hoping one of the directors would introduce me so it wouldnt be weird. The opportunity didnt arise. I was too shy to just go up and say, Im the casting director. I was a little starstruck with him because, well, hes Indiana Jones. Who would you cast as yourself? People always tell me I look like Jodie Foster. I was in a restaurant once in New York and I noticed people were staring at me. Then my friend said, This is where she comes for lunch all the time and youre sitting at her table. Erik Siemers, @PDXBIZErik

Casting director Lana Veenker said Oregon is missing out on big productions including some written specifically for Portland because the states film industry tax credits are all committed to existing series filming in the city.

CATHY CHENEY

eing a casting director is as glamorous as you can get for a job that exists on the edge of the spotlight. Like many others that dreamed of life in show business, Lana Veenker envisioned herself on the stage. Then life took a left turn in London, a pair of casting directors got sick and 15 years later shes picking the stars for some of the movies and TV shows that have put Oregon on the lm industry map. Veenker runs Portland-based Cast Iron Studios, where shes served as casting director for Twilight, NBCs Grimm, and TNT Networks Leverage, among others. We caught up with Veenker recently to talk about her career, the acting pool in Portland, and whether she ever gets starstruck. The conversation has been edited for brevity. How did you get into this? I used to be in performing arts, both in the states and overseas. I came back to Portland, nished my degree, and decided I wanted to do theater directing. I got an opportunity to move to London and to work in a West End theater, but when I got there the job fell through. Out of hundreds of resumes I sent out, it was a casting director that responded and hired me, initially, to do admin work. I kept telling him I had a background in theater. One day he fell sick and sent his associates to run the casting session for him. I went along as a helper. In the middle of the casting session, she got sick, too, and collapsed on the couch. I had a room full of famous British actors and a camera guy waiting.

LANA VEENKER
Title: Founder and principal at Cast Iron Studios. From: Portland Employs: Three full time Noteworthy projects: Casting director for Twilight, as well as Oregon-made TV series Grimm and Leverage. Her companys commercial casting division has done work with major brands including Apple, Facebook and Nike. Recent projects: Casting for the film version of Cheryl Strayeds book, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. Also handling casting for Leverage producer Dean Devlins latest TNT Network series, The Librarian. Website: Castironstudios.com

So what did you do? I had to nish the session. My boss about lost it when he realized that his admin assistant had done the casting for this very important project. He insisted on seeing the tapes before we shipped them o to L.A. and said, this is pretty good. What was the project? I think it was a movie called Dungeons & Dragons. It was a Joel Silver project. People like Ian Holm were coming in to audition, before he did Lord of the Rings. Former Doctor Whos came in. It was a big project at the time. He started sending me to run the sessions after that. So when I decided to come back to the states, he said you should keep this up. You could be good at it. How did you end up coming back to Portland? I came back with the intention of moving to a bigger market and planned on crashing here while I saved up money to move somewhere else. Someone here heard I worked in casting and hired me to do a commercial, then hired me again and then told other people. Next thing I know, I better make this legal, so I started a company. That will be 15 years ago this fall. What was the landscape here then? It was mostly commercial work. There had been some movies of the week coming here, but there was another casting director in town that had a corner on that market. I didnt have any equipment. I didnt even have a car. I was taking a bus to casting sessions. Wed do a lot of infomercials