Patrick Baca is a casting director known for his work in a variety of genres that range from the family-friendly feature The Little Rascals Save the Day to the horror film Halloween: Resurrection. He also has a number of holiday titles to his name, and considering the season, Baca was an easy choice for this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director. He virtually sat down with Casting Networks to provide a window into the person behind all the credits.
It’s nice to virtually see you, Patrick, and I’d love to kick things off with the moment you knew that casting was the job for you. How’d you arrive at that conclusion?
It started when a good friend who was a casting director in New York, Jordan Beswick, asked me if I would cast a play in L.A. that he had written. The offer came at a critical time in my life back when I was a talent manager. I worked in that role for nine years but had become disenchanted with it. As a manager, I was both a confidante and cheerleader to my actors, but I got burned by several of them more than once. I would help them get to the point of landing a big role, and then they’d give me the axe.
Wow. I see how that would be frustrating — after sticking with your talent through all the ups and downs, they’d drop you after booking a big gig that you helped them get.
It was counterintuitive — and after the third time I experienced it, I realized it was a psychological pattern with how some actors relate to their managers. So when Jordan asked me to cast his play, it saved me. I started in the industry as an actor, and being a casting director allowed me to once again be part of the storytelling process in a creative way. It gave me the chance to fall in love with actors again — but from a safe distance. I was no longer financially or emotionally entangled with them. I could just enjoy the process of working with them to tell a story. I won a Drama-Logue Award for casting that first production, which was nice affirmation. I cast play after play, focusing on theater for two years before getting into film and TV.
It sounds like a serendipitous moment in your career, and at this point, you’ve cast an impressive number of holiday films. What can you tell us about casting that particular genre?
I fell into it with my casting partner at the time, Shana Landsburg. The first holiday film we cast was A Christmas Melody for Hallmark, which was Mariah Carey’s directorial debut. It was a lot of fun — who doesn’t like a good Christmas movie? The stories are warm, and a lot of actors are receptive to them. They can be formulaic, and different movies in the genre can start to sound similar to one another. It’s exciting when you are part of projects that break the mold, though. The genre as a whole is working toward better representation. I recently cast Radio Christmas which starred Keisha Knight Pulliam and Tim Reid. It was fun to watch and a good movie all around.
That’s great to hear that holiday movies are progressing toward more inclusion. And now it’s time for my favorite question to ask casting. If someone made a film about your life story, which actor would you cast to play the role of Patrick Baca?
Wow. That’s a good question. I’d probably want to do a national search and break out somebody new. Casting directors love the opportunity to do a national search because it gives us time to see as many people as we can.
I know you did one with Jeff Gerrard for The Little Rascals Save the Day.
Yes, it was a blast to be a part of that franchise, and we wound up casting young actors from all over the country for it. Kids are such a unique age group to cast because they don’t have track records that we can consider. It’s not like we can look at a resume or reel that reflects years of work like adult actors. Agents and managers will tell us about their child actors and who they think is ready, and then we try them. It’s fun because you find little diamonds in the rough who have an ability that belies their years. It can freak you out a bit. [Laughs] I mean, you’ll discover a kid who’s actually a very old soul and is a prodigy in emotional readiness, human behavior, and empathy. It’s really a wonder to experience a seven-year-old who can expertly interpret and execute the work of giving life to a fictional role. Not all child actors are at that level, but when you find one that is — that you know is going to be a star — it’s exciting.
I can imagine it would be. Now, I have to tell you I’m impressed with your forecasting abilities. You made some predictions on social media that ended up coming to fruition regarding this year’s Emmy-winning actors, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Oscar race so far in the acting categories. Any early calls on who’ll receive a nomination?
I’m just now starting to attend screenings but I can name a few from films I’ve seen. One is Jessica Chastain — I think there’s a good chance she’ll be nominated for The Eyes of Tammy Faye. She was terrific in the film and did such a great job with the role. Jennifer Hudson was fantastic in Respect and could certainly get a nod for her performance. Ruth Negga could get nominated in the supporting category for her work in Passing, which was excellent. The last one I’ll say is Kristen Stewart. She really surprised me with Spencer, which I’ve seen twice. Between the supporting cast and the landscapes and the costumes, everything in the film is so well done. And Stewart makes the role of Princess Diana completely her own. It took me a minute to relax into her dialect, but then she charmed me with her performance. She could definitely get nominated for it.
Before we wrapped, Baca noted Instagram as the best social platform on which to follow him. Those interested in getting to know more about the casting director can find him there as @castingbypatrickbacacsa.
This interview has been edited and condensed.