Norwegian Kjersti Paulsen wins Semiramis Award for Excellence in Casting for “The Innocents” and beats “CODA”

Kjersti Paulsen was named the winner of the Semiramis Award for Excellence in Casting for her work on The Innocents, directed by Norwegian director Eskil Vogt, at a ceremony on Saturday at the Torino Film Festival.

The psychological thriller about four kids who suddenly discover their hidden powers celebrated its world premiere in Cannes diversity‘s Jessica Kiang praises her “extraordinary child actors”.

“The producer, director and I all agreed on the importance of finding the right children and made it our top priority. All the other characters had to wait,” Paulsen said ahead of her win.

“My job is to create an environment where the children feel safe and can participate in the role play we are putting them in. Then I need to assess the children’s empathy, listening ability, imagination and self-confidence.”

Established in 2016 by the International Casting Directors Network (ICDN), the awards are presented to both members and non-members, with the award ceremony held in a different country each year. Next up is London, in association with the Casting Directors’ Guild of Great Britain & Ireland.

“Having young protagonists is a special challenge. Each of my colleagues must have their own way of working with children or very young actors,” said ICDN President Timka Grin, who recently co-wrote Bosnian drama series The Hollow.

“Once I was looking for a young teenager to play a young warrior in a historical film. One day someone flew past me and my husband on the skateboard on the street. As it turned out, it was a girl. Who else was perfect for the role!”

Deborah Aquila, Lisa Zagoria, Tricia Wood, Lisa Lobel and Angela Peri behind the Oscar-winning “CODA” were also among the all-female nominees. As well as An Dorthe Braker (“Fabian – Going to the Dogs”), Constance Demontoy (“Rise”) and Catrin Wideryd, known for “Comedy Queen”.

Last year, Lucy Pardee took home the trophy for Sarah Gavron’s “Rocks.” Sara Törrkvist (“Border”) and Francesco Vedovati (“Dogman”) are also among the recipients.

“In my view, we’re still one of the most underrated departments in the industry,” said ICDN member Piotr Bartuszek, who is in charge of casting High Life alongside Des Hamilton.

“I’m kidding, but we’ve decided that we’re going to do it ourselves since nobody gives us these awards. We will celebrate exceptional films and the exceptional achievements of casting directors.”

As Bartuszek noted, a lot has changed over the years, with BAFTA adding an award for casting and American casting director David Rubin becoming president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. However, there is still no Oscar for the best cast.

“The idea is to recognize the work of our colleagues. I think this is very beneficial for the community as we learn a lot from and about each other,” added Grin, with Bartuszek comparing ICDN to a “spy network”.

“We have 120 members on five continents and this allows us to share experiences and knowledge about the specifics of working in each country. It is a friendly collaboration.”

According to Grin, a love of cinema, theater and acting are key to succeeding as a casting director, as well as “a good eye for the script”.

“Another important thing is to be passionate but patient because people are sensitive. Casting means dealing with and working with many different types of human souls, characters and personalities,” she noted.

It’s also important not to miss out on discovering new talent.

“Juliet Taylor once spoke about the time when there was this new actor in New York. Her name was Meryl Streep,” Bartuszek said, laughing.

Taylor cast Streep in Julia in 1977, her first feature film.

“Everyone knew she was an exceptional talent, it was no secret. The question was: who would give her the first role that would make her a star? When you ‘discover’ an actor it usually means you give them the right role at the right time.” Norwegian Kjersti Paulsen wins Semiramis Award for Excellence in Casting for “The Innocents” and beats “CODA”

Charles Jones

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