For all those of you who are directors, you’ll know what I mean when I say the “casting headache”. I just recently finished casting my upcoming film The End of All Things, and I have to say “Ouch, my head hurts!” Let me explain, this film has 9-lead roles, 6 supporting roles, and the need for about 60 extras. Yes, you read that right. So what kind of insane stupid person would write nine leads into his film? Ok, well, it felt like a good idea at the time… just kidding (but there are actually 9-leads). Those of you in the world of Television will probably understand this better than most since you guys deal with larger compilation-casts than most films, but that just to say, it was a wild ride! I was lucky enough to pre-cast a few people that I’ve worked with before and I wanted in the film ahead of time, but the rest of the cast came from two open casting sessions which were, as they always are, long, tedious, and slightly crazy. Let me explain in a little more detail here. This film requires a large cast of young, unknowns to play the entire range of acting scale (no stock, or character actors here) from comedy to dark, emotional drama. This is not the easiest thing to find in actors out here in Podunk Ohio (though, we did still have several fly-in from Los Angeles and Chicago to audition). Now, this doesn’t always happen, but to be honest with you, in the end I have to say I am very pleased with the cast we’ve chosen for the film, and I’m not just tooting my own horn here, we’ve got some incredible new people that are going to go far, and I have to say that I’m truly excited to work with each and every one of them – there’s just something about the freshness and excitement about working with new talent that is just hard to find in established actors these days – it’s not about the money or the trailers or even the exposure, they’re just excited to be a part of it and ready to give it their all, and that is something you just can’t fake.
Reader Question: I’ve had a few people ask me what it is that I look for when casting for film, and if I have any tips for new actors or directors.
We’ll, first off, keep in mind that I am by no means an authority on casting here, but when it comes to my own tips, here are a few—
For ACTORS: First and foremost, COME PREPARED! I don’t know how many times I’ve had people come to an open audition without actually reading the details about what to prepare before-hand. If you’re supposed to have a monologue, you better have it! I don’t care what kind of car accident you were in or where you came from, you’re basically applying for a job, if you come without a ‘resume’ what are you really giving me to work with? Also, most of you have done this a billion times, the least you can do is fake something to make us happy, but you have no excuse to not read-up on the specifics of the audition before arriving. I’ve had people fly 1000 miles just to audition and still come un-prepared! All of my projects that have public auditions generally have the complete details posted on the website about 2-weeks prior to the audition, with the link in all cast-call announcements. That is my single biggest pet peeve when it comes to actors and casting. Secondly, I’ve had a lot of actors mention that they really don’t understand what a director is looking for when it comes to an audition, or what goes on after they leave the room (as if this is some kind of huge secret). First off, a casting team/director is looking at EVERYTHING from your physical appearance, build, eye color, to your tone of voice, speech patterns and accent, and all that on top of your actual acting talent. Directors are looking for people that fit their mental picture of who they want for a specific role. Keep in mind that just because you’re not cast doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got no talent, or that you’re ugly. In most cases it just means that there was someone who fit the specific role better than you did; but also keep in mind, if you blow the socks off a Director during casting, you’ll most likely be cast somewhere. As a writer/director I have actually gone back and completely re-written scripts to adapt to actors who blew me away and I really wanted in the film (this is rare, but it does happen). Ok, next thing here, how important is the resume? We’ll to be honest, I try not to look at the resume until after the person has had a chance to audition. I think their ability should speak for itself since that’s what really matters to me for my film. Now, keep in mind though, not all casting teams do this, quite often people are cast with little or no talent (or even without an audition) just because they’ve got a great resume that will help sell the film. I don’t do this, but don’t be surprised when you see that happen. Also, note that often if I’m looking at two different people for the same role who have very similar acting talents, I will often look at the résumé’s to see who will bring the most clout to the production, and that’s who gets it. You still have to be able to sell the thing. Last, but not least, what happens after the actor leaves the audition room? What is discussed? We’ll that really varies based on what kind of production it is and whose doing the casting, but generally I write myself notes about each person, and get everyone’s opinions about the person. I then rate them on my own little scale to help remind myself what I liked and didn’t like about the performance and go from there. Though some people just stand out at the audition as incredible, usually the final choices are made after the auditions when I’m alone and can take the time to think about each detail clearly. I’ll often review the audition tapes and resumes and make my final choices (this is where the tough decisions are made).
For DIRECTORS: Ok, a couple things here, and this first one won’t be news to you seasoned people, but I’m going to say this anyways for the first-timers out there who might stumble on this site by accident. Directors, CAST YOUR OWN FILM. I can’t tell you how many first-timers I’ve run into that are under the impression that the casting director or producer is the one that picks the cast. It’s your film, it’s your vision, if you let someone else cast it, you might as well call it a day right off the bat. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have people help you with the details, but at the end of the day, one of the single most important elements of directing is CHOOSING YOU CAST! Ok, secondly, and this is for everyone now, surround yourself with people you trust, and people who know the characters and material to help you cast the film. I generally have at least two or three other people in the room with me during auditions. These tend to be people who I know are knowledgeable when it comes to production, but are also people who have very out-spoken opinions (it’s no help to anyone if they are wishy-washy about everyone). Generally the people I have in the room with me are the Writer, the Casting Director, Producer, and often another director friend of mine whose opinions I respect. Now, when it comes to casting, in the end the choice is completely up to me, but I love getting immediate feedback from other people who have different viewpoints, as it helps me to better decide if there is something that I may not have seen or considered in a performance. Ironically, I’d have to say that some of the best comments I’ve had during an audition came from the camera operator who was filming them for me – he had a different perspective, and that made all the difference. I’ve also been asked to sit-in on a number of auditions with other director/producer friends of mine for their films, because I’m a very opinionated individual, and I find it beneficial to myself, as a director, to see how others run things, and meet some great new talent in the process. Most people don’t know this, but I actually cast my entire film Freedomland, from sitting in on another colleague’s auditions. Anyhow, I hope that helps.The Full Cast for my next film is posted online at:
Web Link: www.starcomproductions.net/theendmovie