Nicole Hilliard-Forde is a force to be reckoned with. Nicole’s portfolio includes film favourites such as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Traitor, The Other Half, and many more. For more than 20 years, the Emmy-nominated, Toronto-based casting director, talent development programmer and producer has worked behind-the-scenes to bring forth the stories we love. Her company, Motel Pictures Inc., is highly regarded for their workplace inclusivity, uncovering unconscious bias, and leveraging opportunities for underrepresented people. Nicole’s ability to intertwine her artistic creativity and exceptional entrepreneurial skills have earned her a spot as one of the Canadian screen industry’s leading and most trusted casting directors.
After completing the Film Program (Producers’ Lab) and the Short Dramatic Film Program at the CFC in 2006, CFC recently caught up with Nicole to discuss her career journey and the future of casting. Learn more in the spotlight below.
YOU COMPLETED THE PRODUCERS’ LAB AT THE CFC. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PIVOT FROM PRODUCING TO CASTING. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A CASTING DIRECTOR?
I started out in casting. I pivoted from casting to producing. My interest in producing came from wanting to see stories told that I didn’t feel were being given space.
WHAT FACTORS DO YOU CONSIDER TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY OF AN ACTOR?
I am looking for authenticity in performance. And I want to feel something.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE CASTING FOR ROLES WITH RESPECT TO DIVERSITY AND GENDER EQUALITY? AS A CASTING DIRECTOR, HOW CAN YOU LEVERAGE OPPORTUNITIES TO INCREASE VISIBILITY FOR SYSTEMICALLY MARGINALIZED AND UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS?
You took the words right out of my mouth and off my website. That’s my mantra. The decisions I have made to enter casting, film producing and talent programming have been about leveraging opportunities to bring about awareness or create visibility for underrepresented people.
WHAT ARE SOME NEW TRENDS, IF ANY, YOU SEE EMERGING IN CASTING?
Acknowledging unconscious bias and seeking greater authenticity.
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE FUTURE OF CASTING?
Visibility matters. Organizations are having to do a lot of soul-searching right now. I currently sit on The CSA Alliance of The Casting Society of America. The CSA Alliance was formed to aid and assist Black, Indigenous, and casting professionals of colour, and their visibility in the industry. It is focusing on the greatest needs of our community and the organization, to address the issues in-house and shine a light and elevate underrepresented casting professionals and their contribution to the craft of casting.
RECENTLY IN THE NEWS, WE’RE SEEING WELL-KNOWN CASTING DIRECTORS LIKE ELLEN LEWIS & FIONA WEIR SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE LACK OF RECOGNITION FOR CASTING DIRECTORS, SPECIFICALLY AT THE OSCARS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?
I think it is outrageous that casting directors have not been acknowledged for their enduring contributions to filmmaking.
WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR TAKEAWAYS FROM YOUR TIME AT THE CFC THAT INFLUENCE YOUR CREATIVE AND CASTING PROCESS?
Film and television is a collaborative process. It takes teamwork. Who you partner with matters. Shared values go a long way when creating.
WHEN YOU AUDITION ACTORS, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE QUALITIES THAT YOU LOOK FOR?
Professionalism, confidence, risk-taking, a point of view on the work.
DO YOU HAVE ANY AUDITIONING TIPS OR WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ASPIRING ACTORS?
Your bravery is infectious, thank you for daring to be vulnerable. Self-care, self-care, self-care. Tell us your story.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
Currently, I am casting a series for Apple Studios. And next up, I will be producing the feature film, We Forgot to Break Up, with director Knox.
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