By Elyse Roth with additional reporting by Hannah Marie Williams | Posted Nov. 30, 2017, 8:30 a.m.
While Americans were celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday last week, 82 casting directors, 51 actors, agents, and more descended on Kilkenny, Ireland for the Subtitle Film Festival, an industry event unlike any other.
At its core, Subtitle is exactly what it’s called—a film festival. It’s a collection of non-English language films (hence the name) from all across Europe, featuring actors and casting directors from more than 10 countries. They’re not films that will be breaking box office records or making the awards show rounds, necessarily. They are carefully chosen, and their inclusion in the festival ensures that casting directors get to see work from actors, directors, and other casting directors that isn’t given the worldwide press attention bigger budget films receive.
Although the festival ends with an awards ceremony, the focus is less on winning or competition and much less on films than other festivals. There are no sales agents, and no deals looking to be made. Instead, attendees, who are brought in on the dime of festival creator and coordinator Richard Cook (who is also an agent in Ireland), are treated to a social atmosphere and encouraged to mix and mingle. It’s an audience made up of more casting directors than actors, with some agents thrown into the mix, and one of the most unique features built in comes in the form of a type of actor-casting director speed dating.
A few hours are set aside on Friday through Sunday for small groups of casting directors to sit down with actors individually for 10 minutes at a time. This gives casting directors from all over the world the opportunity to meet each other and see how other professionals work while getting to know an actor on a personal level without the pressure of an audition or an agent-organized meeting. “Our “industry” is comprised of European actors meeting casting directors from all over the world in an informal, relaxed setting,” Cook told Backstage via email. “This year, we set 1,056 meetings making it the biggest casting event in the world. There were 51 actors and 82 casting directors, so it was a big step up for us.”
Many of these actors are stars of art house–type films that don’t focus on the structure and tidy conclusions so often found in American box office hits. They’re stories that prove filmmaking and film, in general, is a global business and craft—and that different countries approach cinema in different ways. Cook selects the films featured in the festival, and invites the actors involved, and at times not involved in the selections to take part in a week of networking.
What started with 12 casting directors six years ago has grown to 82 from 12 countries. Twenty of those this year were American casting directors in attendance to meet with these international actors to expand their networks and learn about them beyond their acting resume. Especially now that Casting Society of America has an official European presence with their London headquarters, U.K. and European actors and casting directors have the opportunity to be part of a larger network. Meeting people through events like Subtitle help them grow that and discover talent they wouldn’t on a typical workday. “I’m really thrilled with the evolution of Subtitle as a festival and this year we sold over 3,000 tickets to subtitled European films, including 14 Irish premieres,” says Cook.
Overall it was an opportunity for actors and casting directors from countries of all sizes to enjoy the work of others in their field while getting to meet the faces behind that work. It was a chance for smaller scale actors and the casting directors who cast them to raise their profile and celebrate their work amongst others who can appreciate what they do. And the festival ended with Cook’s seal of approval, “I couldn’t be happier or prouder of how the 2017 edition unfolded.”