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Nicole Schmied

Nicole Schmied began as an assistant director for film and television, between the years 1979-1999. In 1999, she started working as casting director and in 2005, she founded her own company, Nicole Schmied Casting, where she continues to cast for Austrian and international co-productions. This year, Nicole was part of the Shooting Stars Jury. 

Tara Karajica caught up with her at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.                        

 

 

Can you talk about your background and how you got into casting?

Nicole Schmied: I started as an assistant director. I did television and theatrical films. I did very good movies in Austria. I’ve done it for twenty years. And then, standing always on set and doing all these things, I was asking myself if I wanted to change and the opportunity to become a casting director presented itself…It’s been nineteen years now that I am a casting director. When I started in this profession, it was very new, even in the U.S.

How does one, actually, become casting director?

N.S.: Either you are coming from the set, from filming and therefore really practicing the job or you’re coming from an agency. So, my way was the practicing one and I’ve come to know actors very well, so I tried it and ended up doing it.

How familiar do you have to be with a director’s work, an actor’s work to be able to find the perfect chemistry?

N.S.: Very familiar. I have to watch films – TV movies, theatrical films… You have to watch all of it. You don’t have to know them personally or in private, but you have to watch their films. It is very, very, very important to be always up-to-date.

Do you watch theater plays, TV series, short films as well?

N.S.: Yes…All of it… And, you know, in Vienna, theater has also a great tradition. You can watch the very best of it in Vienna.

How do you find the feeling, the click between actors and the directors and the actors between them? Sometimes, there’s a feud going on between them, a bad relationship. How do you avoid this? How do you work around the problems?

N.S.: It’s a feeling, and it’s also experience. If you’ve been doing it for many years as I have, you get a lot of experience knowing who works with who very well, who can do it together… Also, if you know the directors in person, you will see who fits together and who doesn’t and this is also a practical reason for proposals. If you know these two actors don’t get along very well, you don’t cast them together. But, it’s practice and feeling and memory – always knowing what has happened in the last five years.

According to you, how much of the magic of a film is thanks to a casting director – because a film would’ve been different were it another casting? How much of your work goes into this?

N.S.: A lot of work, because we are the first ones to get the script – there is the production, the director and us and the casting director is the first ones to read the script. It’s very exciting to do this, and I think that the profession of casting director must get noticed more in the world because we are doing so much for the film. The director has the final decision, sure, but we are doing so much too. We are underappreciated and I am trying my best to get this job more exposure, because I think we are very important for the film.

What is the difference between the American system of casting and the European one?

N.S.: Not much. We have the ICDN (International Casting Directors Network) and we meet casting directors from the States and South America and there isn’t much difference. They are underappreciated as well. They are doing the same. Debbie McWilliams, the great casting director from the UK, was in Vienna for some little roles for the last James Bond film with me and when I watched her talk with the actors I proposed, it was the same way I do it. So, we’re doing it all the same way.

Talking about the under-appreciation of casting directors, in Locarno there is the European Casting Director Award now, and it’s the first and only festival that does that and it’s in partnership with the ICDN. Are there other initiatives?

N.S.: It’s a start, and when you see the credits of a film, we are in the opening credits now, not at the end of the film anymore. It’s changing little by little, but there is no Oscar for casting directors yet…

When you do co-productions, how many do you get a year and how is to work on a co-production in Austria? What is the difference between working on purely Austrian films and on co-productions with other countries?

N.S.: We do not make so many theatrical films in Austria, but we make very good films. If we are doing co-productions, the difference is just working together with another casting director, so you have to share actors and experiences. But, I am doing the same work for television, for Film, for co-productions… My work is always the same, always the same feeling, always the same thinking.

I believe you are not the only one in Austria. How many more active female casting directors are there in Austria right now?

N.S.: I think there are six more. There are seven of us and there is one man in total.

Do you work together sometimes? Is there competition?

N.S.: No. We are eight and the film market is just right for us eight. Each one of us is doing their own thing, so we are not competing with each other. I’m doing a lot, but others are doing OK as well.

What is the film you are proudest of for your work as a casting director?

N.S.: The Dark Vally (Das finstere Tal). It’s a film by Andreas Prochaska with Sam Riley, released about four years ago, that won all the prizes at the Deutscher Filmpreis. It’s an Austro-Western. I am very, very proud of it. There is also Breathing (Atmen) by Karl Markovics that screened in Cannes. It’s a really Austrian film, with an Austrian cast. Thomas Schubert won the Best Actor Award in Sarajevo in 2011. There are many…

The situation of women in the film industry is a very hot topic today. What is your take on it and what is the situation in Austria?

N.S.: You know, for me, it’s a little bit hard because when I worked as assistant director, I was a woman and it was OK. And, now that I work as casting director, it’s also OK. I see my profession not as female or male. And, I think that in Austria we have this lucky situation. A woman can do a lot. Austria is a very good country for both. Casting directors are mostly female in Europe and I am very proud I can work there.

What is the next film you are working on?

N.S.: I am doing a lot of television at the moment and then there are two Austrian films. But, this year is great in Austria. We have a blooming film industry, so there is a lot to do.

 

This interview was conducted at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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