Photo Credit: LightField Studios /

Many casting directors found their way into the entertainment industry through unconventional means. Others knew that this was what they wanted to do from a very young age. At some point, they all felt a connection to show business and knew they belonged in casting. Here are some stories from several acclaimed casting directors about the moment they knew this unique career was tailor-made for them.

Jessica Kelly: Well, I was very fortunate because I went to an acting school in Bellport, Long Island, and a teacher there had previously been a casting director. She’d worked with Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson, so she would tell us all these stories about casting some great movies like When Harry Met Sally. I was about 12 years old at the time and remember hearing her describe what the work of casting entailed. I thought, “Well that sounds like exactly what I want to do.” I knew I didn’t really want to act, and directing felt too overwhelming. But thinking about actors and their potential and the way they could all fit together to form something interesting — that just appealed to me right away. So, I kind of knew from a very early age that casting was what I was going to do.

Douglas Aibel: That’s an interesting question. As a kid growing up around New York, I would go to see plays in the city. And from a young age, I’d memorize everything I could about the actors in each show — to a rather excessive extent. [Laughs] Later on, I began my career in New York as an aspiring theater director and theater producer. I was a young artistic director of a young theater company, which meant that — for financial reasons — I was also casting all my own projects and workshops. That was back in the pre-internet days, so I had this sort of encyclopedia in my head of all the different actors I knew of all shapes and sizes. I discovered I had a knack for the casting side of things, so this career started off on a sort of parallel track with my role as a producer of theater in New York. As I began to get to know filmmakers, they started inviting me to cast features and then later TV series, so my way into casting sort of happened organically rather than with a sudden, light bulb moment.

Jennifer Venditti: I’m a person who is more about the journey than the destination. Casting started as a desire to expand the faces that we see in the media. I previously worked in fashion and wanted to broaden the idea of what is seen as beautiful, which I felt was limited at the time. I was motivated to contribute to the conversation, but all the iterations of what I considered beauty weren’t available at the talent agencies at the time. So, I started street scouting, which allowed me to travel around the world and approach strangers to tell them that they are beautiful. I would get to hear their stories and take their photographs. That was the initial impetus for me to get into casting: the opportunity to study people, explore humanity, and celebrate beauty. And my work now is just a continuation of that. Casting allows me to explore for myself what it means to be human, as well as contribute to stories that help others understand what it means to be human for themselves.

Gohar Gazazyan: It happened when I was an undergrad at UCLA studying history and mass communication. I was always very academically inclined, and the plan was for me to be an attorney, which was the perfect choice for my immigrant family. It’s a stable job, which is the type of career path they wanted me to pursue. But, I really loved film. Since I was young, I had a particular fascination with actors and their performances. Even as a small child, I had this bizarre interest in all the different projects each actor would do — I’d want to know all about their various credits and would sort of catalog them. I didn’t know that casting was a profession, though, until I was at UCLA.

These interviews were conducted and compiled from articles on our sister site, Casting Networks.

Want to get your acting career started? Sign up or login to Casting Frontier and start auditioning today!

You may also like: