Briana Frapart is the casting director, artist manager, and producer behind several highly anticipated projects. Briana seamlessly steps into these roles, giving her a creative and unique perspective on the entertainment and music industry.
In this interview with ProductionHUB, we talked with Briana about her casting on the upcoming film, How to Be a Man, directed by Oscar-eligible filmmaker, Christopher Oroza. She constructed the cast in a way that reflects the diversity in audience members so that people who view the film can see themselves represented on-screen.
She also shared insights into another project, Alaska, where she looked to social media to find up and coming talent to cater to the new generation of psychological thriller fans.
PH: Hi Briana, how are you?
Briana Frapart: Hello. You know, my life is quite nonstop. So instead of saying ‘good’, let’s say I am thriving and surviving.
PH: Let’s talk about how you got into the biz. When did you first notice your passion?
Briana Frapart: To be truthful, my passion started when I was 7 years old watching movies like Singin’ in the Rain and Star Wars. My entire upbringing was focused on working hard so that I could move to Los Angeles to work in movies and music. After graduating from the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts, my first job was as a casting assistant for Lori Wyman Casting in Miami, Fl. During that time, I also worked as a part-time producer’s assistant with Rabbit Bandini Productions.
PH: Did you always think you’d work specifically in casting? How did your roles lead you to where you are today?
Briana Frapart: Yes, absolutely. One of my focuses in college was casting— I was always eager to go the extra mile to improve the process of our film school’s casting plan. Even in high school, I was unofficially casting school plays and short films. There’s something very special I’ve always rooted for and wanted to support when it comes to the unique skills of all types of actors, performers, and any on-screen talent. My roles from Hollywood Casting and Film to WV Enterprises to Venn all taught me a ton about start-up companies and their nature, as well as successful female professionals and their mindsets. Being a go-getter, I just look for places where I believe I can bring value and at the same time challenge myself.
PH: Before change can happen, it’s important to address what’s going on in the industry. What does diversity in casting look like today from your perspective?
Briana Frapart: Diversity in casting today looks a lot like how I imagined it back in college. It means representation for all types of people and characters. Audiences want to see faces on screen they can relate to and characters with hearts that they can learn from. What’s been happening in Hollywood over the last few years is truly what’s been happening inside me for over a decade. There are so many diverse types of stories we experience, on and off screen, so it only makes sense that we’d be casting diverse types of characters, too. I’m thrilled about the improvements and hope it continues to be less of an initiative and more of the usual.
PH: Diversity in casting is obviously essential, but historically it’s been a huge struggle. Can you talk about some of your work to change the narrative?
Briana Frapart: In my work, I make a conscious effort to include diverse candidates for roles. Whenever I pitch to producers and filmmakers, what some may consider the ‘minority’ is ‘majority’ for me. At least 75% of the projects I’ve either cast or produced over the years include diverse talent in leading roles. I’m currently imagining some incredible talent for the scripts I’m reading now, both known and undiscovered. Most of the music-related projects I work on are typically for artists of minority backgrounds. One of the very first projects I helped cast after film school was for my friend, Hyungjik, called Banana Trip, which included a Korean-American leading man and went on to become an Academy Award nominee. A couple years later, I discovered someone named Keith Leak Jr. working at Mendocino Farms. His energy and sense of humor could light up any room, and I learned about his dreams of becoming an entertainer. Fast forward to months after meeting, I was part of the casting team for SMOSH TV series regulars and called him in to audition. Through thousands of applicants and candidates, we cast Keith and he’s been growing with SMOSH TV ever since.
PH: Let’s dive into a few of your recent projects. Can you walk us through the casting approach for Alaska?
Briana Frapart: My writer/director, Racheal Cain Stephens, wanted the film’s world to feel real and reflect the norms of today’s younger generation of Hollywood. For ‘Gemma’ (Chloe Levine) to adapt and still battle her internal fears, we wanted to find talent who accurately represented the culture she was a part of. That meant the culture in which social media presence is everything, content is king, followers depict your worth, and likes tell you how much you’re loved. Knowing this was the influence we wanted to introduce and the reality we wanted the characters to show, it only made sense to open up the opportunity to influencer-social stars who were also training to act theatrically. Talent who always wanted to get into acting, but their presence in social media fame happened to them before they had the chance. My approach from the start was to find genuine talent who were right for the parts and painted a diverse picture of what’s really happening these days. For example, Emily (Ghoul) Mei, a cosplay-foodie-entrepreneur with a large social following, was one of the first we set.
PH: What was your process for casting How to Be a Man, a film centered around gender biases?
Briana Frapart: First of all, there is nothing cooler than getting to work with director Christopher Oroza. When they brought this project to me, the first thing we did was release an open casting call. Our goal with the project is to challenge the concepts of traditional masculinity and welcome a new era of what it means to be a man for young men and boys. As Chris says, “we want to express this beautiful kaleidoscope through portraiture and personal experience.”
PH: Can you share how you’ve worked with talent such as the Korean artist Woosung?
Briana Frapart: Woosung and I crossed paths about a year ago because he had read the script for a feature film I’ve been developing and was really intrigued by it. We ended up meeting to discuss details and next steps, and from there, our collaboration naturally flowed into day-to-day teamwork on newer projects, specifically related to his music ventures. There is no one with a voice or heart like Woosung’s. He is altogether generous, inspirational, and truly cares about making an impact in this world. Since early 2021, we’ve partnered to run his company and indie label, Woolfpack. We’ve recently announced his first independently released album, which will arrive worldwide on December 9th.
PH: How have these experiences shaped you as a person—and as a working professional in an industry that has a long way to go as far as diversity and inclusion is concerned?
Briana Frapart: Any and all experiences are learning lessons. I’m just grateful to have so many and feel a sense of fulfillment by doing the work I’m fortunate enough to do every day. The most valuable thing I believe I’ve done over the last 10 years is keeping true to who I am. I haven’t abandoned my dedication to diversity and inclusion, because it’s become part of my brand and mission statement for all projects. My friend and mentor Michelle Sugihara at CAPE inspires me every day with her efforts and is a wonderful example of what happens when you’re consistent in your actions. I believe if you truly care about something and want to make a difference, time will tell, and eventually shape who you’re meant to become.
PH: In your opinion, how have you seen the casting and producing landscape change since you entered it?
Briana Frapart: The landscape has transformed into a more accepting and inviting workplace lately for any and all types of creatives— no matter your gender, ethnicity, or age. Nowadays, it seems like the major factors holding anyone back from doing what they love are self-doubt (as individuals) and of course, ‘right place right timing.’ When I first started out, there were a ton of gatekeepers and certain ‘standards’ you had to adhere to if you wanted to ‘climb’ a ladder to success. But now, it’s become more common to build your own ladder. International co-productions are becoming more and more of a standard. There isn’t a required path in the current landscape, so I hope that this generation and future generations stay fearless. There are still decision-makers in power who don’t fully grasp the idea of change and the positive outcome of it, but it’s not holding anyone back the same way it used to. Especially with the constant growth of content creators, influencers, and international celebrities. The creative processes of both casting and producing are less controlled and more attainable.
PH: What direction do you see (and hope) the industry heads in?
Briana Frapart: I hope to see more of the ‘call to actions’ become a norm. Less forcing people to adhere to certain expectations and more of people feeling like it’s the usual. Diversity initiatives are fantastic and they’ll be around for a bit, but I’d love to see this happening with or without them. The more we can inspire different types of storytellers, the more we can inspire change and kindness.