7 Critical Secrets to Indie Film Casting
I'm climbing up on my chair now so you will pay attention to what I'm about to say.
Okay...I'm up here...waiting for you to listen.
Don't cast less than great actors in your film!
It seems to me that casting is often times a second thought to Indie filmmakers. Then guess what happens? We are subjected to films that are difficult to watch. Even if the script is great, bad actors can absolutely ruin your film. I have seen this occur time and time again.
And so have you.
Don't cast Cousin Betty because she said she'd love to be in your film or Uncle George because he did some acting back in high school. Just don't. Instead make casting your film with the best actors you can possibly find an absolute priority.
But how do you do that?
First, recognize what you can't do. You can't direct a second-rate actor to be good. You just can't. I don't care if you think you're Sofia Coppola, Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino. You can't do it. Which brings me to Secret #1:
Secret #1: Casting outstanding actors in your film will make your job easier.
It's true. With 3 OF A KIND (now on Amazon Prime) which I directed, seldom did I have to say anything to my actors. They studied the script, arrived prepared and brought an interpretation to my words that I didn't know were there. It was magic to behold. They commanded the screen. They made my film work.
Don't get me wrong. I stepped in when needed to adjust a performance, but that was all. Hiring excellent actors allowed me to concentrate on my job instead of trying to direct a moderately adequate actor to be good (a losing proposition, believe me).
Secret #2: Hire a great casting director.
No budget for a casting director? I don't want to hear this! Find the dollars. The money you spend on hiring a terrific casting director will be the best investment you'll ever make for your film. Here's why. The casting director knows professional actors that are potentially perfect for your roles. They will conduct a preliminary casting call - then cull the list to the very best before you step in.
Secret #3: Attend the casting session.
At this point, the casting director will set up a casting session for you to attend.
And you MUST attend.
Don't worry. This will be exciting and a real education for you. You will be seeing the best of the best for each role you're casting. But be prepared. You'll be auditioning anywhere from 10 to 30 people per role.
Secret #4: Don't tell the auditioning actor what you want.
Why not? Because the person before you is a pro. Treat them as such. See what they bring to the party before you open your mouth.
If you like their first 'read' and you think this actor is a real possibility for you, then ask for an adjustment. â€œTry it a bit more contained,â€� for example.
Why do you do this? To see how they react. This test will give you insight. Are they indignant or compliant at the request? Do you think they will be easy or difficult to work with? Do they have range? Valuable information for you.
Secret #5: Video the casting session.
Watching the casting videos after the fact is amazingly helpful. Often times the casting director will video the sessions automatically, then post the individual videos on a website for you. But if this doesn't come up, make sure you request this service. It will be an essential tool for you.
Here's why. I was convinced I had my final picks after attending the two day casting session for 3 OF A KIND. But after review of the videos, I changed my mind on one major role. Sometimes seeing 100 people in a day can be a bit mind-numbing. Watching the videos a day or two later gave me perspective.
Secret #6: On set, don't talk to your actors about what you want unless they ask.
I've been on sets where the director will tell an actor exactly what they want before the actor has a chance to say anything. It's the same as walking up to an artist painting a canvas and telling them that their sky should have more clouds, etc. Don't do it! This is disrespectful to your actor and will ultimately undermine your film.
Instead see what your actor brings to the party first before you say a word. See what their interpretation is. Their performance may pleasantly surprise you as it did me for 3 OF A KIND. In fact, this happened over and over again with my actors. We would block a scene, then I would shoot the rehearsal (just in case). A lot of times, the first take was the one I used! The performances were THAT good because the actors were amazing in their roles.
Secret #7: Treat your actors with the utmost respect.
Treat them as the professionals they are. They are responsible in part for the success of your film. On set, make sure your crew knows this too.
Tell your crew to stay out of the actor's eye-line before, during and after a take. Obvious stuff, but you'd be surprised how clueless some folks are.
As the director, call for quiet thirty seconds before and after each take. Allow your actors to focus and concentrate. After all, they are baring their soul for you. They don't need to hear the camera person talking to the prop guy about how their night went, right?
Remember - don't cast less than great actors for your film! Put forth the effort now to find the best cast you can.
The importance of a great cast cannot be overstated. Even one bad performance can pull the whole film down. It could make the difference between a bad film and a great film.
About the Author
Gregory Green is an award-winning producer, director and screenwriter. He won BEST PICTURE and BEST DIRECTOR at the Houston Int'l Film Festival for his psychological thriller, 3 OF A KIND now on Amazon Prime (http://bit.ly/3ofaKindonAmazon). Greg is currently in pre-production for his next feature,...