Donna Morong is a respected casting director with over 25 years in the business. She spent 15 years at The Walt Disney Company ultimately becoming Senior Vice President of Motion Picture Casting in the feature film division, where she cast films such as “PRINCESS DIARIES”, “SHANGHAI KNIGHTS”, “10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU”, “DEUCE BIGOLO”, “ANNAPOLIS”, “CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN”. In 2008, she won an Artios Award for casting Ben Affleck’s “GONE BABY GONE” for Miramax which garnered an Academy Award Nomination for Amy Ryan.
Her ability to spot talent helped launch many successful careers including Heath Ledger, Jennifer Garner, Chris Pine, Rachel McAdams, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Ms. Morong began her career in casting in New York City working on some of the most prestigious, original Broadway productions including “HURLY BURLY”, “BILOXI BLUES” and “BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS”. She cast for Yale Repertory and Second Stage while concurrently running a successful studio for young actors on Theatre Row. Prior to casting Ms. Morong trained with Bill Esper in the Meisner Technique and taught acting at Rutgers University.
After a career as a top executive at the Walt Disney Company film division, Ms. Morong decided to launch her own casting company where she has been working on independent and studio films in Europe and the U.S. More importantly, she has returned to her first love: teaching. Her dream as a teenager of building a studio of like-minded artists continues to flourish, first at the Aquila Morong Studio and now in a new venture, Donna Morong Acting Studio. is passionate about nurturing actors’ talent and uses her years as a casting director, as well as her training, to aid the actor in realizing their talents through technique and training.
Brad Barnes taught in the graduate film program at Columbia University for over 10 years. He coaches directors in the US and Europe for Adrienne Weiss Workshops and has also taught at the New School, The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, the graduate program at NYU, and the Aquila Morong Studio. Brad’s feature film debut as a director, The Locksmith (a.k.a. “Homewrecker”), won the Best of NEXT Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In addition to The Locksmith, Brad has written, produced and directed two Sundance shorts: We Todd Did and Choked, as well as a short for the Showtime Network starring Christopher Walken. Brad released his second dramatic feature, Sex Guaranteed with The Orchard. Brad has also recently directed This is Our Youth and Orphans for the Aquila Morong studio.
Paul Vaillancourt is a writer, actor, director and improvisor who has been making stuff up for nearly 20 years. He is a graduate of the Comedy Sportz Training Program in Virginia, the Second City Training Center in Chicago as well as the legendary Improv Olympic in Chicago where he had the rare opportunity to study under the legendary Del Close.
After his group, Bitter Noah, was selected to perform their signature piece, the Improvised Movie, at the US Comedy Arts festival Paul moved to Los Angeles and founded the iO West where he has been teaching, directing and performing (both written and improvised shows) ever since.
During his time in Hollywood Paul has become a sought after improv coach, producer and consultant working on such shows as Oxygen’s ‘Girls Behaving Badly’, Fox’s pilot ‘Foothooker’ (with Steve Levitan) as well as a score of shows for MTV including ‘The Janice Dickenson Show’ (pilot), ‘Tough Enough III’, ‘The Blame Game’ (which he also co-created) and a half dozen celebreality shows.
Brett Simon recently directed Monumental, a road movie starring Jeremy Irons, Analeigh Tipton and Alex Sharp, and Playdates, a pilot starring Paul Scheer and Carla Gallo that played at this year’s Sundance.
His first feature Assassination of a High School President starring Bruce Willis and Mischa Barton, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. MTV called it one of the “truly great films” of the festival, likening it to “Rushmore meets The Usual Suspects.”
Brett studied creative writing, photography and comparative literature at Princeton University, writing a novel for his thesis under Joyce Carol Oates. He went on to graduate school at UC Berkeley where he later taught film history and filmmaking.
Brett has also directed award-winning music videos for such bands as The Killers, Snow Patrol, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Damon Santostefano has directed the feature films "Pure Country, Pure Heart," and the "Cinderella" franchise for Warner Brothers. His critically-acclaimed independent cult feature, "Last Man Running", won the Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival and was selected for competition in the Sundance Film Festival. He also directed the Universal feature, "Bring It On: Again". For Warner Brothers, he directed "Three to Tango", starring Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell and Dylan McDermott. TV pilots and series include the comedies "The Consultants" and "Revenge" (Fox), "American Posse" (FX Network) and "Gearheads" (Comedy Central). He received a CableACE Award for Best Series for his direction of Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Pete & Pete". Other television credits include HBO's "The High Life" and "The War Next Door" (USA). In Manhattan, Santostefano has directed several off-Broadway stage productions including an award-winning play at The American Place Theater. For the BAM Festival (Brooklyn Academy of Music), he directed Stockhausen's contemporary opera, "Leben". Santostefano is a graduate of New York University Tisch School of the Arts, film department.