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Image courtesy of the AACTA Awards

Meet AACTA Award-Winning Casting Director Anousha Zarkesh

Casting Networks

Casting Networks was thrilled to be part of the 11th annual AACTA Industry Awards this month. For the last four years, we have sponsored the award for Best Casting to honor the incredible work of casting directors in Australia. This year’s ceremony was held virtually on December 5th, 2021, and it honored exceptional Australian talent, including actors, casting directors, filmmakers and more.

The nominees in the category of Best Casting included Nikki Barrett, Kate Leonard and Alison Telford for “Nitram,” Marianne Jade for “Wakefield,” Jane Norris for “The Dry,” Anousha Zarkesh for “High Ground” and Nathan Lloyd for “The Newsreader.” The 2021 AACTA Award for Best Casting presented by Casting Networks went to Anousha Zarkesh, and we were lucky to speak with her about winning the award, the process of casting and filming “High Ground” and what she’s working on next.


Congratulations on your AACTA win for Best Casting for “High Ground.” What does winning this award mean to you?

Winning the award for “High Ground” was wonderful, as the experience of casting this film was so special. I spent two months in Arnhem Land on and off visiting many remote communities with the director, Stephen Johnson, and producer, Witiyana Marika, looking for our special cast. We went to numerous communities in East and West Arnhem Land in search of people wanting to take part in the film and specifically looking for our lead indigenous cast. So, winning this award is just icing on the cake on such a terrific journey with this project. To make it authentic and moving and to be acknowledged by our peers is wonderful.


How was the process for casting this film under the difficult circumstances of the COVID pandemic?

We were lucky to cast the film just prior to COVID. We managed to be able to fly into NT [Northern Territory] and various communities without any issues. 


From your perspective, what made this film so impactful, so important and so special?

I think people responded well to the film because it’s authentic for so many reasons. Shooting in the country with the Yolngu and Binnij countrymen and women with their traditional languages grounded the film. Stephen spent a lot of time making sure every aspect of the film was as authentic as possible. 


What are you working on next, or what projects currently excite you?

I’ve had a wonderful year working on a variety of projects – “Firebite,” “The Unknown Man,” “Mystery Road 3,” “True Colours,” “Class of 07,” “Darby and Joan,” the Bali project and now going on to a few TV and film projects for 2022. 


How do you feel the Australian entertainment industry has handled the challenges of the last couple of years?

I think the film and television industry have handled the challenges of COVID amazingly well. It has been very difficult to navigate this year but we are persistent, resilient and always do our best throughout this madness. We have met the challenges with new strategies and looked after one another. With border closures, COVID outbreaks and financial issues, we have proceeded well. It has not been a lot of fun, encountering incredibly stressful situations and lots of disappointments along the way, but we are working as best we can under the circumstances. I’m now looking forward to a little break before 2022 production begins again!


Congratulations to Anousha and to all of the 2021 AACTA nominees and winners!