First Round Judges 

Our casting directors from the US and Australia are the ones responsible for finding our five finalists from hundreds of applications. Meet them now!

ANN FAY (Australia)

Ann Fay is one of Australia’s leading casting agents.  As head of Maura Fay Casting she is part of a dynamic, creative and reputable company that has been established for 30 years and is responsible for casting a vast array of projects domestically and internationally 

Recent film projects include LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL, POKER FACE with Russell Crowe and Liam Hemsworth, MERCY ROAD with Luke Bracey, HOTEL MUMBAI with Dev Patel and Nazanin Boniadi, and WINCHESTER with Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke and Sarah Snook. Recent television projects include WELLMANIA with Celeste Barber, THE ARTFUL DODGER with David Thewlis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, THE TOURIST with Jamie Dornan and Danielle McDonald, JACK IRISH with Guy Pearce, THE COMMONS with Joanna Froggatt and David Lyons. THE GLOAMING with Martin Henderson, THE PREACHER with Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, SECRET CITY SERIES 2 with Anna Torv for NBC Universal, the Netflix Original series PINE GAP, RETURN TO PARADISE, GOOD COP, BAD COP, GOLD DIGGERS, LAST KING OF THE CROSS, PAPER DOLLS, NCIS SYDNEY, TEN POUND POMS,  and the upcoming INVISIBLE BOYS created by Nick Verso.  

Fay had the great privilege of auditioning and casting Heath Ledger in the series ROAR when he was only seventeen.  This introduced Heath to the American market and marked the start of his swift rise to international stardom and critical praise.  He is one of the many actors that became stars through being introduced through the company to exciting projects.  She continues to introduce upcoming talent to national and international feature films, television series and pilots through close collaborations with noted industry leaders. 

Fay is a patron of the Heath Ledger Scholarship and a returning judge. 

AMANDA MITCHELL (Australia)

Originally from Singapore, Amanda worked in the film and television industry for four years before migrating to Australia. 

 She has worked on hundreds of hours of Australian and international television, which most recently includes two seasons of Netflix’s highly acclaimed reboot of HEARTHBREAK HIGH, Stan & Sundance NOW’S TOTALLY COMPLETELY FINE (starring Thomasin McKenzie), Lingo Pictures’ PROSPER for Stan & Roku and Northern Pictures’ comedy series AUSTIN for the ABC. Internationally, she has cast three seasons of NBC’s drama LA BREA, as well as two seasons of NBC’s award-winning comedy YOUNG ROCK. 

 Amanda was the Australian casting director for Marvel’s highly successful SHANG-CHI & THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton) and THOR LOVE & THUNDER (dir. Taika Waititi) and Legendary’s GODZILLA X KONG (dir. Adam Wingard). She has just wrapped working with casting legend, Sarah Finn, on the new Shane Black film PLAY DIRTY and Frank E. Flowers’ THE BLUFF. 

Amanda also frequently performs consultancy work on international projects filming out of Australia, conducting extensive searches, most recently including: House of the Dragon (HBO), Yellowjackets (Showtime / eOne), Serpent Queen (STARZ), and Tell Me Lies (HULU). 

She is about to start working on the third season of Netflix’s Heartbreak High, and returns as a judge of the HLS. 

ALYSSA WEISBERG (US) 

Alyssa Weisberg has been passionate about all things casting for over 32 years.  

Past Feature Film projects include STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX, STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENDS, GAME OVER MAN, FUN MUM DINNER directed by AiF member Alethea Jones, STAR TREK BEYOND, SUPER 8, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, STAR TREK AND CLOVERFIELD, to name a few. Aside from casting the pilot episode of LOST, for which she won the 2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Casting for a Dramatic Series, recent TV credits include the AiF member Trent O’Donnell & Patrick Brammall series NO ACTIVITY, the Paramount+/Funny Or Die series GUILTY PARTY starring Kate Beckinsale and CHAD starring Nasim Pedrad. Current TV projects include season 3 of the Netflix series GINNY & GEORGIA and the Netflix/CBC/APTN series NORTH OF NORTH, which has just wrapped filming in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Alyssa is a returning judge to the Scholarship. 

ANOUSHA ZARKESH (Australia) 

AACTA Award and Casting Guild Award (CGA) winner, Anousha Zarkesh has been casting for over 25yrs now specialising in high quality Australian TV and film projects.   Based in Sydney, her casting agency has gained a reputation for championing diversity and inclusion and producing internationally award winning work.   Some of her recent productions include: THE NEW BOY, SHAYDA, THE STRANGER (Netflix), ONE NIGHT (Motive, Fifth Season, Paramount), FIREBITE (AMC), CLASS OF 07 (Amazon), TOTAL CONTROL 1,2, 3, MYSTERY ROAD Series 1, 2 and 3, RAKE, REDFERN NOW, CLEVERMAN, THE PRINCIPAL, INXS NEVER TEAR US APART, CATCHING MILAT, PETER BROCK TODAY, 800 WORDS, BLACK COMEDY, JASPER JONES, HOUNDS OF LOVE, MANNY LEWIS, ALEX AND EVE. 

 Anousha has been nominated and won numerous AACTA Casting Awards and Casting Guild Awards over the years for SHAYDA, THE NEW BOY, THE STRANGER, WE ARE STILL HERE, HIGH GROUND, BLCAK COMEDY, MYSTERY ROAD, TOTAL CONTROL, SWEET COUNTRY, etc.  

 She is currently Vice President of the Casting Guild of Australia (CGA),Vice President of Screen Illawarra and an active member of Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the CGA. Anousha returns as a judge for the HLS. 

BARBARA McCARTHY (US) 

McCarthy is currently the Casting Consultant for BuzzFeed Studios and previously was a Casting Executive at Paramount Pictures for nine years, along with currently being an independent Casting Director. 

During her tenure at Paramount, Barbara supervised dozens of the studio's films while also working on in-house casting credits including VANILLA SKY, ELIZABETHTOWN and HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN TEN DAYS. McCarthy left the studio to return to her indie casting roots in 2010. Her post-Paramount casting highlights include the Sundance Festival Competition Selections: THE SPECTACULAR NOW, FOR A GOOD TIME CALL…, CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER, THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT, and SUMMER OF 84. She has also cast major studio releases such as THE DUFF, BLENDED, PIXELS, MOTHER’S DAY and FIVE FEET APART.  She expanded into television with the series, TIM & ERIC’S BEDTIME STORIES, FINDING CARTER, and the Emmy winning mini-series THE KENNEDYS. She also worked with  fellow AiF member, the director, Elissa Down on the Netflix feature FEEL THE BEAT. She has done multiple movies for streaming including THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES 1& 2, THE TALL GIRL 1 & 2, and SITTING IN BARS WITH CAKE. Earlier this year, she ventured into producing on the upcoming indie SOVEREIGN starring Nick Offerman, Thomas Mann, Martha Plimpton and Jacob Tremblay. While she continues consulting on all BuzzFeed Studios features, she also is set to cast the upcoming UNTITLED CAMERON CROWE PROJECT feature later this year. McCarthy has been a long time judge of the Heath Ledger Scholarship. 

JASON WOOD (US) 

Since joining A+E Networks in 2010, Wood has been a guiding influence behind casting for A+E Studio and Lifetime Network. At Lifetime he has led the casting on over 300 original movies and mini-series with award-winning like such as Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Bassett, Queen Latifah and Niecy Nash.  On the studio side he oversaw casting on YOU which aired on Lifetime before streaming on Netflix, ROOTS which was nominated for an Emmy for Best Casting, and other popular series produced by A+E Studios.  Additionally, he cast the hit Netflix series SWEET MAGNOLIAS and consulted on VIRGIN RIVIER. He is a 5x nominee and 2x winner of the CSA’s Artios Award for Outstanding Casting as well as a member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. Jason is a long time judge for the Heath Ledger Scholarship.  

J. MCALARY (US) 

Emmy and Artios Nominee McAlary, CSA has collaborated with some of the most acclaimed directors in Hollywood, including Clint Eastwood, Mike Nichols, and Alexander Payne. McAlary gained experience as a casting executive under the tutelage of Terri Taylor, former Head of Casting at Paramount Pictures, and has worked extensively both within the studio system and independently.  

Her notable work includes Showtime's THE L WORD: GENERATION Q, Netflix’s TRINKETS from creator Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith starring Brianna Hildebrand; and Hulu's anthology series INTO THE DARK produced by Blumhouse TV. She also has a strong presence in the features world, with credits including  THEM THAT FOLLOW, an official U.S. Dramatic Competition selection at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival starring Academy Award winner Olivia Colman; Netflix's RATTLESNAKE by Aussie writer/director Zac Hilditch starring Carmen Ejogo; Logan Marshall-Green's directorial debut, ADOPT A HIGHWAY, starring Ethan Hawke;  300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE for Warner Bros.; PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION for Paramount; HARDCORE HENRY for STX and WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE, a collection of seven feature-length thrillers for Amazon/Blumhouse TV. J. returns as a judge in the 2024 Heath Ledger Scholarship 

GAIL GOLDBERG (US) 

Gail Goldberg is a renowned casting director with extensive credits across both film and television. Beginning her career as a feature casting associate at 20th Century Fox, she went on to serve as the Vice President of Feature Casting for Disney/Touchstone, casting THE PRINCESS DIARIES I and II, THE MUPPETS, and notably, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, with Heath Ledger. While at Disney Gail also oversaw the casting of over 50 films including PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 1-4, NATIONAL TREASURE, MIRACLE, and SWEET HOME ALABAMA.  

Gail’s TV work includes THE CROSSING and WHEN WE RISE for ABC. A long-time collaborator with Seth MacFarlane, Gail has cast THE ORVILLE for Fox/Hulu and is currently working on MacFarlane’s series TED for Peacock. This is Gail’s first time judging the Heath Ledger Scholarship 

DANNY LONG (Australia) 

Danny has worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years, establishing Danny Long Casting in 2010. She is known for conducting wide searches within a plethora of communities, casting film, television, and TV commercials domestically and internationally. 

Recent credits include: TENZING (upcoming), MOANA (Live Action Film), TWO UGLY PEOPLE, SOUVENIR, KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, LATECOMERS, THE BIG DOG and EDEN, to name a few. 

At the 2023 CGA awards Danny was recognised by her peers winning: Best Casting in a Short Film for WILFRID GORDON MCDONALD PARTRIDGE, Best Casting in a Community TVC for QANTAS IT FEELS LIKE HOME AGAIN, and Achievement in Casting for LATECOMERS. This is Danny’s first year judging the Scholarship.  

HLS Logo Block center