Pioneering Alumna Has Successful Casting Director Career
Brooke Franqui casts Reality Shows for Major Networks
By Joshua Encinias '12
Brooke Sabonis Franqui graduated from The King’s College in 2007, a year before the college introduced the Media, Culture, and the Arts degree. But since walking across the stage at commencement, Brooke has launched herself into a full-fledged career in television. Five years ago, Brooke joined Leftfield Productions in New York City as a Production Assistant. Today, she is a Casting Director, having worked on the History Channel show Pawn Stars and is now the Casting Director for the Science Channel show Oddities. Along the way, she married her best friend from college, Sergio Franqui, and they are expecting their first baby in December.
Brooke’s father is a blacksmith in Canton, Texas, and he trained her to continue the family business. But she wanted to attend college and did not see an opportunity for it in her small town. She prayed that God would open a door to college, and soon a mentor inspired Brooke with The King’s College vision. That same mentor paid for Brooke to visit our former Empire State Building campus in 2004.
Brooke loved her time in New York City, but soon learned that her parents could not afford the cost of tuition. Lack of funds would not stop Brooke. She loved the College’s vision, and if she finished, she would be a first generation college graduate in her family. Unfortunately, Brooke’s financial aid package did not cover all of her tuition. Once again, her generous mentor helped by supplementing Brooke’s scholarships. Brooke said since connecting with King’s, she has experienced the same kind of grace and generosity throughout the community.
Brooke was always interested in the arts, but when she entered King’s in 2004, there were few creative outlets.
"There was hardly any art on the walls of the campus, much less art classes," said Brooke.
She reached out to Sharita Hunt, former Assistant Director of Academic Services, for advice. Sharita introduced Brooke to a fellow student who launched the Artisan’s Guild, Sergio Franqui (alumnus of the House of Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
"I thought he was the most interesting person I’d ever met," said Brooke, who is an alumna of the House of Queen Elizabeth I. She joined the Artisan’s Guild and worked with Sergio on his first film. They became best friends soon after, and today the two are happily married.
Brooke and Sergio work together in the children’s program at Christ Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn, and this December they are expecting their first baby.
While at King’s, Brooke created career opportunities for herself. She worked under Duanne Moeller when he was Dean of Students, and met Ken Wales (the producer of "Amazing Grace") her senior year. She made her first film on her own, and made a second for class credit with a fellow student.
"It was a rude awaking, but I learned early on that no one cared about my dreams of changing the world or where I went to college. What mattered was having a good work ethic, keeping a positive attitude, treating people with respect no matter how low or high up they were, and being dependable." said Brooke. "These are all things I learned from working with my parents in the family business." Those values made Brooke successful while later working on a Woody Allen movie and a soap opera. And it was on the set of the soap opera where she met the owner of Leftfield Pictures.
"One day, after yet another short-term job, I received a phone call for a full-time job as a Production Assistant at Leftfield Pictures back in New York City," said Brooke. "I was promoted quickly because it was a small company. Now, we’re 120 employees, and I’m one of a handful of employees still there from five years ago."
Brooke said that she did not picture herself working in reality television while at King’s because her first dream was to work in film. "You have to go through open doors, and I know God opened the doors to where I’m supposed to be," said Brooke.
Leftfield Pictures is unique because they pioneered a new kind of reality television: item-based shows. Their programs help the audience "laugh and learn" with entertaining and informative elements not found is any other programming. "I can honestly that say the programs we make are not Jersey Shore, and they tend to have an educational bent. Yes, they are entertaining, but you learn from it."
Today, Brooke is a Casting Director at Leftfield. She finds new talent for network programs and helps with producing shows such as Pawn Stars. Her current project is lead Casting Director for the show Oddities on the Science Channel.
"Oddities is a top rated show on a small network. I started on it from Season 1, built the show with my team, and it surprised everyone and became a hit," said Brooke. She also said that Oddities is so successful that is has two spin-offs: Oddities San Francisco and Odd Folks Home.
"I love that as a Casting Director I get to talk to people I would never get a chance to talk with normally. People with interesting stories and backgrounds," said Brooke. "In casting, you need to have a real love for people and get to know who they are quickly. Learning what decisions and challenges lead them to where they are in life is the fun part of my job. And sometimes I get to help them share their story."
Joshua is a writer based in New York City. He graduated from The King's College in 2012. Follow him on Twitter.
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