Monday, November 7, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - The “and” Actor

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 11 - Casting ( part 2 )

I’ve saved the best for last. I’m going to give you a tip that may very well make your movie and significantly increase your chances of finding a distributor. Take a look at a few DVD covers for movies you are not familiar with, such as independent and low-budget features. Chances are you are going to see four names at the top of the cover. The first three names you probably never heard of. But the last name will be followed by “and”, and that name and face will be familiar. He’s probably not an A-list actor but probably someone you have seen in several major films. The “and” actor is the key to distribution. Here’s how it works. And trust me; it’s no real secret in the industry.

First, you need a movie that has a key part that requires an actor to be on set only for two or three days. The actor might appear early in the film and then later in the third act. It’s an important part, but it’s not even close to being a major supporting role.

If you can tuck away $10,000 to $20,000 from your budget, you can play this game. About two weeks out from the time you start production, you send offers to agents for actors you are interested in. It’s a risky move because you don’t know if you are going to land somebody. That’s why you need to have a backup plan with an actor you have already auditioned.

Most actors want to work, and that includes actors who have a recognizable name and face. They have a choice. Do your movie and pick up a paycheck or sit at home. What do you think they will do? I can’t believe how many big name actors are now appearing in relatively small, unknown films. And some of these movies are downright awful. So if you think you don’t have a chance to sign a named actor, you would be wrong. If you can write the check, he/she will come and play. You will also have to provide an airplane ticket, a nice hotel room, and meals to make the deal. What you get in return is a recognizable name and face. And whose face do you think will be featured on your DVD cover? Trust me, it won’t be your star or co-star. The truth is in the entertainment industry it’s the star who sells the movie—not the director, the story, or the concept. You need an “and” actor who will be your star.

This strategy will not work several weeks or months before the start of production. It has to be last minute. You have to catch a named actor between jobs and at a time he/she is willing to work at a reduced rate. Do yourself a favor. Keep this option open. Make sure your script has a part for an “and” actor.

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