Lois Siegel, well known
for her photography, has returned to her
movie roots this summer, working as casting
director for an National Film Board
East end photographer puts out
Lois Siegel is known in
Orléans and across the city for her skills as a
photographer. Now she's going back to the big
screen and she's looking for a few good
"non-actors" to join her.
Siegel got her big break in
the movie biz about 20 years ago in Montreal
when she landed a job as casting director for a
"docu-drama" being made by the National Film
Board (NFB). She was a casting director there
for 10 years, often working around the clock and
sometimes juggling two feature films at once.
This summer, she's returned to her movie roots.
She's working as casting director for Family
Motel, another docu-drama. This one is being
co-produced by the NFB and Instinct Films, a
company based in Montreal.
A docu-drama is a film that blends documentary
and fictional elements. Generally, the setting
or story being told is fictional, but the actors
involved are "real" -- meaning they're
non-actors representing their own views and
values through a fictional setting and story.
For example, one of the many "characters" Siegel
needs to cast is a social worker. "So I have to
find a real social worker," says Siegel. "I ask
everyone I know, 'Do you know any social
workers?' It's challenging . . . You've gotta
concentrate on it all the time."
Actors won't be required to memorize any lines
but will be improvising scenes and, to a large
extent, representing their own opinions and
reactions to what happens in the scene and the
actions of other characters.
Family Motel is a speculative drama set in a
world where hundreds of Canadian families have
been evicted from their homes because of soaring
rents and lack of affordable housing. With
shelters filled to bursting, city governments
are forced to rent out cheap motels to
accommodate homeless families.
The result is an uncomfortable assortment of the
working poor, new homeowners caught unable to
make mortgage payments and others with troubled
pasts caught in precarious circumstances.
The main characters are a family from Somalia,
new to the country and Ottawa. The family is
being cast by the producers (in consultation
with the Somali community), but all other
speaking roles will be cast by Siegel.
The momentum of the drama will depend heavily on
the mix of characters, meaning Siegel's job is
Ina Fichman, producer of Family Motel, chose
Siegel based on her experiences working with her
"The casting director is extremely important in
this process because we're not using actors,"
says Fichman, who runs Montreal-based Instinct
Films. "We're using people from the community.
Yes, it has a dramatic structure but really
we're counting on the people in your community "
The cast for Family Motel includes management at
the federal immigration department, middle class
homeowners, lower class landlords, tenants and a
motel owner. Siegel is also seeking a wide range
of everyday folks of all ages and cultural
backgrounds, including an "eastern European"
grandfather and grandmother.
Anyone interested in receiving a casting form
and applying to become an actor in Family Motel
can contact Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Siegel says she's enjoying getting back into the
challenges involved in casting a docu-drama.
For her first job in the mid 1980s, Siegel was
called on to recruit real juvenile delinquents
for the movie Train of Dreams -- Welcome to
Canada. So she recruited the West Island Rebels,
a real youth gang in Montreal.
For another film, she had to recruit a group of
Sri Lankans, audition them, teach them basic
improv skills and then see them off on a plane
to Newfoundland during a major winter storm
"It was like my family taking off for this
foreign country, Newfoundland," she recalls.
"But they were wonderful people . . . all of
these people you meet are just so interesting."
Lois Siegel, well known for
her photography, has returned to her movie roots
this summer, working as casting director for an
National Film Board docu-drama.