In order to be a good talent scout, it's vital to have acted at one time. And one of the better casting directors in the country, Utahn Cate Praggastis, has been an actress . . . among other things.
Praggastis has appeared in stage plays in Atlanta and performed two small roles in higher-profile productions - the television series "The Dukes of Hazzard" and the theatrical film "Carny."But she was actually working as a flight attendant 15 years ago when she applied for a job with the Utah Film Commission. Instead of being given a job with the commission, however, she was sent to the set of a film getting ready to start up production, a picture titled "Footloose."
Praggastis eventually wound up serving a brief apprenticeship under Nancy Borgenicht (now the executive producer of the Salt Lake Acting Company), who was casting hundreds of extras for the film, which was shooting in a variety of Utah County locations.
When Borgenicht had to drop out of the production 10 days later, the inexperienced Praggastis was left to do much of the difficult job of paring down the hordes of would-be actors who were trying to land bit parts in the musical-drama.
"I stayed on and finished the job," Praggastis said, "and it turns out that I had a good time doing it."
To her surprise, she also received a glowing review from the film's veteran director, Herbert Ross. Based on his recommendation, Praggastis began receiving calls from other filmmakers and executives, and for the next couple of years she split her time between the airline job and casting film and television projects that were shooting in Utah.
"Herb said I had a good eye for talent, and my phone started ringing with calls," she said. But the post-"Footloose" jingling was nothing compared to the near-constant casting requests that have followed in subsequent years.
Fortunately, Praggastis is no longer running a one-woman show. Her company, Take One Casting, has 10 full-time and two part-time employees, and when TV and film production is especially busy in Utah, she sometimes calls on free-lancers to help.
Nowadays, Take One also does all the local casting for the CBS television series "Touched by an Angel" and "Promised Land," both of which are filmed in Utah.
But casting is only part of Praggastis' job. Take One is also often called upon to help find technical crew and craftsmen for these productions. One of the most unusual requests came from the makers of "Independence Day," who needed more than 200 mobile homes for a desert sequence.
"That was a really big challenge, finding that many mobile homes," she said. "It made for quite a sight - that many of them heading across the desert in the early morning."
Of the many productions she has been involved with, Praggastis still has a soft spot for "Footloose," which "really set my career," she said.
Of course, not all of her experiences with film production companies have been positive. The star of last year's flop "A Life Less Ordinary," Ewan McGregor, had few kind things to say about Utah, though many others in the cast and crew seemed to enjoy themselves.
And Take One actually pulled out of another, unnamed large-scale production, only to wind up finishing the job - although neither Take One nor Utah received credit for their contributions.
"Some of these people just think I can twinkle my nose and extras will appear, like (the television series) `Bewitched, " she said. "But they are the small minority."
Praggastis is currently soliciting new faces for movie and TV productions. Sent a resume and photos to: Take One Casting, 3171 E. 3300 South, Box 105, Salt Lake City, UT 84109-2248. Or call the Take One offices at 1-801-299-7235.