by Michael Neel & Greg Ansin
Know the characters in your story. The right actors will make your film. They will also make your life as a director much easier.
Casting is an important step in making your film.
Using your roommate or close buddy might work out but most people with little to no acting experience end up being really bad and hurting your movie. Acting is more than just saying the lines – what the actors do when they aren’t speaking are often the most important aspects of a role. So you have to buckle down and do some casting…
SAG versus NON-SAG. Using a Screen Actor Guild actor is not as hard as it seems but it does involve some paper work and tax withholdings. So if this scares you, you might want to use non-union actors or have someone help you. The SAG people who deal with indie filmmakers are really nice, and they want to see your project get made. The quality of SAG actors is fantastic — that is the big benefit of using them. Also, any named actor is most likely part of SAG.
Define the roles you are looking for. Make a listing for the characters needed. Start spreading the word, either through web posting, word of mouth, or a casting agency. Make your side scripts (sample scenes from the script) for the readings. When you are choosing side scripts, pick one or two scenes that show the emotional range of the character – you want to make sure that the actor can do every emotion the part asks for, not just one element.
If the part includes a lot of fx makeup (which can be time consuming and uncomfortable) or difficult physical acting (i.e. action/chase scenes), make sure the actors know about it ahead of time.
Pick an audition date(s). Email each actor side scripts and directions at least 48 before shoot.
On casting days, make sure to schedule different times for each audition. Don’t have everyone show up at one time. A good actor will be on time or five minutes early to an audition. Have enough crew on hand so they can handle early arrivals if you are conducting an audition.
Take a still picture (or 2) of the talent with ID card. So you know who they are. Seems basic?
We forgot a bunch and it sucks going back through old contact info.
Have a casting notebook – for all contact info, head shot and notes. As always give all actors your contact info (business card).
A business card with your contant information is a must.
Video tape the audition (not for public airing). You never know when you’ll be looking for a good actor, even someone you liked but didn’t give a part.
Take a few still photos with slate for ID the audition. After the auditions, this will help you remember what each actor looks like.
For all the actors you aren’t going to cast, it is important to call them and tell them. Its a small world out there and you never know when you are going to need someone for a future project. Many indie films don’t contact anyone they aren’t going to use, and actors always appreciate the effort (even if they didn’t get the part).
You’ll know the best actors right away.