Casting Forever’s End

Lili Reinhart in JC Schroder's Forever's End

(Lili Reinhart in Forever’s End)

Every time someone asks me “How did you find your cast?” or “Who was your Casting Director?” on a project I directed my response is always, “That’d be me.” There seems to be a few misconceptions for those who work outside the entertainment industry about how most films are cast and what, exactly, a Casting Director actually does. To be fair, this may vary a bit based on the project and the size of the role, but in general the one who makes all the final casting decisions on a film is the Director, not a Casting Director.

While Casting Directors have their merits (their -much abbreviated job description- is to help facilitate the casting process, not actually select a cast), I’ve found I rarely, if ever, use them. I generally prefer to handle the casting process myself and while I will often have an assistant or two help with the logistics, I usually review nearly all the submissions on my own regardless of if it’s for a commercial, music video or in the case of Forever’s End, an indie feature.

When looking to cast “unknowns” (IE: a public casting call) my process usually starts online, I use a variety of casting websites and services depending on the location of the shoot (LAcasting, for example, is a fantastic way to get a ton of submissions quickly, but not ideal if you’re not shooting in Los Angeles and hoping to find a ‘local’ elsewhere), as well as posting initial casting notices on public boards like Craigslist. In addition, since we were shooting Forever’s End in Ohio, (where Star Com, my production company was based) I also contacted the major local talent agencies directly, many of which I’ve have long-standing relationships, and had them also send over a number of potentials. It was from one of these agencies, Katalyst, that we ended up finding our leading man, Warren Bryson.

That process was still not a simple one and actually spanned a public casting call on both coasts. To start with though, we have to step back a year or two to auditions for a completely different, significantly larger feature film of mine previously titled “40 Miles”. Back in 2010 we were in the midst of pre-production on “40 Miles” and held a massive public regional casting call, specifically looking for one of the female leads who I wanted to be an unknown. Within two days of getting the word out, we had more than 3,000 submissions (just locally) and throughout that month-long casting process, I ended up whittling them down to two finalists: Charity Farrell and Lili Reinhart. After much discussion, the role finally went to Lili, but I knew I still wanted to work with Charity as well at some point, so when at the last minute the financing for “40 Miles” fell through (literally just weeks out from principal photography… which is another long, frustrating story for another time), I was left with some fantastic actors and no movie to put them in.

Warren Bryson in Forever's End

(Warren Bryson in Forever’s End)

In the wake of “40 Miles”, which was a huge hit to me, I decided to go ahead and shoot a small short-film to fill the time, a film titled “For Today”, which was a family-friendly story about two sisters in foster-care and starred, you guessed it: Charity Farrell and Lili Reinhart.

The two of them worked together so well that in the months that followed, with still no real movement on getting “40 Miles” started back up again, I ended up conceiving a new feature, Forever’s End. This time around, the film was developed specifically with Lili and Charity in mind, and designed to be made on a much more manageable budget I knew I could get. They would once again be playing sisters, though this time around very different characters and a wildly different dynamic. I get asked quite often how I chose which actress for which role, oddly enough, while I had written the film with them in mind, I had not specifically decided who would play which role until later. I knew either actress was capable of either role, but in the end it really just came down to age and availability -Lili was much younger and also very busy, we had to work-in our shooting schedule with her between two other features she was shooting and a family vacation all slated for that same summer, and since the Lily role required less overall shoot-time, the decision all but made itself. After shooting a short promo for the project, which subsequently succeeded in getting the project funded, two of my three leads were conveniently already in place.

Actors repeatedly working with the same directors is actually a very common occurrence in the movie biz (the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp relationship may be one of the most famous) just like any other relationship, once you’ve worked with someone you like, you understand, and get along with you have a tendency to want to work with those same people again.

With two of my three leads set, the last main role was that of Ryan, part mysteriously creepy dude, part hunky loveable boyfriend type (not the official description), I underestimated how difficult the role might be to fill. One key thing to keep in mind is that there are a total of FOUR roles in the entire film, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, yes there are only four actors in the whole movie, one of which is only seen briefly. What that means is that the entire weight of the film has to be carried on the shoulders of the three leads, one misstep, one unconvincing moment and we could risk loosing the audience and the film with it. That’s a tall order for any actor, even more-so for someone new.

We did an initial search for potentials in Los Angeles, just because I felt there would be a much broader talent pool to pick from and by the time we were casting we only had a few weeks before production started. It was also extremely important that whomever I cast was convincing playing opposite Charity, as her would-be romance, so even on a small budget I spent the time and money to fly Charity out to LA to read with a number of potential finalists for the role. After a week of auditions and chemistry reads, still none of them clicked for me (or her), and with less than a month left before the start of production, I was getting concerned.

(Charity Farrell in Forever’s End)

I flew out to Ohio (where there film was shot) the next week to begin full-on pre-production, finalizing locations, production design, the works – while simultaneously setting up another full casting session locally, it was at this set of auditions that I first met Warren, and within 10 minutes of his first audition (reading with Charity) I knew immediately that he was our Ryan. It’s a weird thing from a Director’s point of view, you see so many talented actors that you wish you could cast, but they just don’t fit the specific role(s) you’re casting for, then at some point one walks into the room and wows you, they just click- you don’t see them as an actor, they simply disappear into a role, they ARE that character. That’s what happened with Warren, as with Lili and Charity before him and thus with the final addition of the wonderful Dave Wetzel (with whom I’d also worked before) in a small role, the cast was set.

There’s a phrase I like to use when talking about the relationship between Directing and Casting, “80% of your job is done by casting the right actors”. If you cast the right actors, they disappear into their roles, they become those characters with little extra work or guidance from the director. With a few rehearsals and one-on-one discussions with each actor about their specific roles (and how to best fine-tune them to their specific strengths and preferences) by the time we got on set filming, I had to do little more than arrange blocking and just sit back and watch my actors act. This isn’t always the case, and there are still opportunities for changes, ideas and improvements on set from all involved (which I encourage), but when the stars align, as a Director it’s wonderful to have the time to focus on the details and leave the acting to the actors.

–I’ll be posting new behind-the-scenes blogs every week from now until the release, don’t forget to subscribe to the feed and follow Forever’s End on Facebook for all the latest updates!

Forever’s End is feature Apocalyptic Psychological Drama available worldwide November 25th, 2014 on Video On Demand, DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming and Digital Download. For complete details visit

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