Kay Ross suggested, following a thread post I put up, that I write a bit more on our current casting process and progress. This may not have been what she intended or expected, but this is where I find my thoughts at present...
My production company is early in the casting process for a 2021-scheduled independent New Media Series. We posted a casting notice on a single service on 09 December 2020. For the 11 roles that we listed, we have received, in a little over a month's time, 11,454 actor expressions of interest in one or more roles (and we had already cast the male lead, so we did not post it in the notice — we can't fathom the number if that role had been in the listing as well).
(For the record, I do not provide that number in boast or self-congratulations. I am well aware that with the pandemic, most actors do not have a project booked for 2021 and are hungry to work and create, as we all are. They are likely submitting for anything and everything for which they might be a potential fit. The only credit I would take for the tsunami of interest was that we took the time and to write an engaging thumbnail of the story and of each of the characters (we abhor listings of nothing more than: Female, 20-30). Other than that minimal effort, we just let the forces play out.)
I love actors. I always have. If you want to know the breadth of meaning in words like "optimism," "belief," "resilience," and "pluck," make some actor friends. They can be nutty, sure, but we need them to be. We count on them to be. I often teach, and when I am telling aspiring producers and directors and all the rest about working with actors (a notion that unnecessarily leaves so many of them pale and sweaty), I describe actors as about a 50-50 blend of a thoroughbred horse and a three year-old child — and both of those are meant very much as compliments. Actors have presence and carriage, like a proud steed that demands attention and gaze just by crossing a room. Actors have also, God bless them, somehow managed a feat that we would all be better served by: namely, being able to return to the imaginative play and discarded self-awareness of a young child. God help any production that does not cast actors with those traits.
Yes, when I worked as an executive at a couple of Los Angeles film studios, actors sometimes had me pulling or chewing my hair. Though I may have had trouble remembering it at those moments, they were, in the end, worth every follicle. (And more often, it was their agent, manager or attorney who was the origin of my anguished cries.)
Actors. I do not envy them their lot. Self-recorded auditions have begun to roll in for the first four roles I have to cast (and no, 11,400+ actors were not all invited to submit auditions — we are only human over here — but still the invite numbers are towering), and it has become heart-wrenchingly apparent that I am going to have to say "no" to at least a dozen outstanding actors for each role — creative professionals who, from early indications, could not only do the characters justice but likely deliver noteworthy, career advancing performances. How much must one love his or her craft to operate where superior is most often still not good enough?
So, I am at my desk on this Saturday morning, steaming cup at hand, going through recorded auditions and making hard decisions on who moves forward in consideration. The communal joy of telling an actor that he or she has a role never makes much of a dent in the shared disappointment of conveying a part they have possibly come to covet is not going to be theirs. But I do not mean that as complaint. If one wants to sit in the chairs labeled "director" and "producer," having those hard conversations is the price of admission. But I know full well that I could make a dozen different versions of our first season, each with a completely different cast, and each ultimately appealing to an audience. "Spoilt for choice," I am, as the Brits like to say, with full meaning that it is a two-sided coin.
But I took this moment and thread real estate to celebrate actors. They are the life blood of every single project, and not a single one should ever be diminshed for the fact that there are so many who seek to contribute their craft and training and sweet souls to the oldest art: storytelling. Some of my closest and oldest friends are actors, and the number of rich collaborations I have experienced with actors is beyond what can be counted.
For all the actors who have read to this point, I say a thank you for all your contributions of truth and meaning. Try never to feel unneeded or unappreciated (though you might be). You are taken for granted at every stage of your work, but the rest of us are nothing with out you. No audience is ever going to pay to watch a writer write, a director direct, or a producer do whatever it is we are supposed to be doing at any given point. And we writers, directors, and producers lose sight of that fact at an embarrassingly high frequency. Shame on us.
And for those production team members who have read to here (likely a lesser percentage), do better. Reply to actor emails, messages and texts, even if you are not going to cast them. They are worth your time. I for one know that an actor I do not have a place for at present might very well be the spot-on choice for next season or another project. Build bridges; don't burn them. Every single time an actor thinks highly enough of one of our projects to expend the time and energy to prepare, record and submit an audition, it is an implicit compliment. And I try to have my Submissions Team thank them every time. They are the faces of our stories; the delivery systems for connecting all that follows, "Once upon a time..." with the people for whom it is intended. They are not a necessary evil, as I have seen them treated throughout the years. They are... life blood — for our stories as well as for us.
So, kisses to all who trod the boards, whether on stage, screen or street corner. The world and the business is a better place for your eccentric beuaty being in it. Now, I have to press <PLAY> again if I am going to find my co-conspirators for telling our next story...