Friday, November 4, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Casting

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. There is no shortage of books, videos, and online resources to help get you started. 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

Now the fun stuff starts. You need actors for your movie. But as a low-budget and independent filmmaker, where do you find actors who will work at reduced rates or for free? Considering you’re working at a fast pace, what types of discomforts will they be willing to endure? And if you get actors to sign on for free, will they commit to stay on until the film is finished?

Casting is just as important as your script. I do not think you should proceed with your movie under any circumstances unless you are thrilled with your cast. That’s why it’s important to find actors who are a perfect for their parts. As the producer, you can do the casting yourself and may have to considering your budget. But if it is at all possible, find a casting director whose sole responsibility is to find you the right actor for each part. Good casting directors have an instinctive and intuitive sense and will know if the actor is going to work.

Where do you find actors considering you don’t have the money for A-list help? The good news is there are plenty of talented actors that have not been discovered. A good place to start is to contact local theaters, talent agencies and film commissions for possible leads. Make sure you state exactly what you are looking for. Is the part with or without pay? Let them know what part, what genders, what ages and what the first and last day of shooting is. Ask for resumes for the level and type of experience for each actor. Don’t just settle for anyone you can get.

The actors you are looking for that you can afford are called type actors. These are less experience actors that have the same wants and needs of the character in the script. Essentially, the actor is playing a version of himself or herself. Professional actors who have a wide range of experience are called chop actors. They understand the techniques that are necessary to access character traits alien to their own personality or character. In other words, they can act.

Either you or the casting director will conduct auditions by giving your actors lines in advance and time to prepare for a reading. At the read through or audition, give them any specific directions they ask for but don’t offer any in advance. This gives you a chance to see if they approach the part the way you had envisioned the character. For those actors you like, do callbacks. Make sure you tape all auditions. At the callback, have your actors improvise to see if they understand his or her character. Now give directions to test the range of their acting skills. If you find a good actor, do whatever you have to do to get him or her in your film.

Most first-time and low-budget filmmakers struggle with the decision to register with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Should you do it or not? The truth is you’re going to have to jump through a few more hoops and deal with some constraints. But I think it makes sense to apply for an ultra-low-budget agreement. The agreement will give you access to SAG actors at a substantially reduced rate. A typical day rate will range from $100 to $125 for an eight-hour day.

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