Acting Pictures

Head of Casting for Paramount Pictures Gives Advice to NYFA

Joseph MiddletonTuesday night, Producer Tova Laiter brought us Casting Director Joseph Middleton to Warner Bros Theater 4 and we had yet another full house of New York Film Academy students. Middleton is one of the most celebrated and established casting directors in the United States. He began his career casting for ensembles, so that the films he worked on would garner more attention. He was an independent Casting Director for years after starting out in the business and is currently the Executive of Casting at Paramount Pictures. Middleton is always on the look out for undiscovered talent, and has an uncanny ability to spot the next big thing. Some of his most recognized credits include Old School, American Pie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Bring It On and Legally Blonde.

Joseph says casting is often about looking for organic, truthful and talented performances. He also talked about the “3rd eye” — a gift that you likely either have or you don’t have when it comes to spotting talent.

He playfully compared casting to the culinary arts, saying it’s like looking at different flavors and styles. He admitted he had had some luck with his career and how one project leads to another, but stressed that one must really stay on top of their game in order to stay relevant. You need to be constantly looking for talent, watching films and plays, seeing what is out there.

Joseph accidentally fell into casting. He went to American University to study International Relations and had a dream of going into the service as a secret agent. He came out during his college years and admitted that being gay wasn’t exactly conducive to the culture of the service at the time. Someone suggested he take a gig as an assistant accountant on the film Mississippi Burning and off he went. One day he found himself telling the Director Alan Parker that he thought someone looked “too contemporary” for a scene in the film. Parker told him he had “a keen eye.” From there, the career of a Casting Director was born.

So what is it that Joseph is looking for?

“I may be looking for something specific, but if the actor can make me pick their view or vision, then that might be it. Guide yourself toward the Casting Director’s tone, and if you have done your homework, you know what that is.”

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