The Producer Log #2: Casting Call
“The whole movie is going to rest on their shoulders, so you have to set aside time and wait for the perfect people to appear.”
~ Wes Anderson
This is chapter 2 of The Producer Log, a journal written by writer/director/producer Alison Kathleen Kelly as she advances on her journey producing a micro-budget film. You can find all the installments on the Make a Film page.
Handling Casting on a Micro-Budget
STEP 1: SPECS
If like us, you can’t afford a casting director, then the producer and director will probably organize the casting.
You need specs for each character: Let’s take a female, early 20s, all ethnicities. Take these specs and put them out on a breakdown —which is where you might see them on websites such as Casting Call Pro or Star Now. There are many other websites you can use though. You will get submissions from actors and agents, and then it’s decision time.
STEP 2: SHORT LIST
Firstly, we schedule in the actors we already know are great with copy.
Then, we like to give new talent or talent we don’t know an opportunity. You need to see a video reel of the person’s work. CV’s are helpful but you want to see VIDEO FOOTAGE of them in action. Then you send out the invitations…
STEP 3: AUDITION INVITATIONS
You should also send the actors the scenes you want them to rehearse and act on the day in the form of SIDES. Pick one or two scenes that are different, one could be a simple dialogue scene, the other should be something that shows a little more range, like a murder scene or an argument, something that needs a strong emotion.
STEP 4: AUDITIONS
We asked the actors/actresses to come in in blocks. Instead of giving everyone a specific time (because someone may be late and throw the whole line-up off) we told five people to come in between say 9am-10am, that way whoever comes in first auditions first, and so on. It makes it easier for you and lessens the likelihood of delays.
We had a simple set up in the room, the director and myself sat at a table, we had a camera which our PA was operating in the corner (plus a back-up camera), and lots of back up batteries, a macbook, and a chair for the people coming in. I was at a casting once, and we ran out of batteries and hard drives, this meant a lot of unnecessary juggling and wasting time so Be Prepared.
When the actor arrives, the director will usually give them a bit of info about the film and the role, and then the actor will speak their name and telephone number into the camera and act out the scene the way they prepared it. The director then gives his notes/instructions and the actor does it all again bearing those notes in mind.
We didn’t have a lot of time so usually, each person had just two takes, most of them were really good but a couple of the actors would do their version and then when the director gave them a note they would ignore what he said and do the exact same thing they did the first time – this is NOT a good idea. It means you can’t show range or take direction, which are big things a director bears in mind when picking their cast: Will this person be easy to work with? Can they take direction? Do they have range?
By the end of the day we were happy with most of the people we’d seen, we took notes after each person and had our SHORT LIST.
Note: Also, don’t give too much information away, you can tell us where you’ve trained, but we’ll have seen your CV/resume, now is the time for you to shine 🙂
WHAT I LEARNT:
– I would say to any actors about to go into an audition, leave everything behind, just bring yourself and the character. One man came in and kept his coat on, he also had his shopping bags with him. I don’t mind as long as he does a good job but the man didn’t really get into the role, it felt awkward and rushed, and so when the director gave his notes we suggested he remove his coat, push his bags away, and instantly he perked up. It almost felt like the audition was a bit of a hassle for him.
– Something that is also very important to mention is that during our casting we didn’t have a reader so guess who got the job… me. I will be totally honest with you, I’m not an actress, and I felt awkward and don’t like hearing the sound of my voice out loud. I also felt like it was distracting for the actors to have me reading with them, they needed someone good enough to play opposite them, to help them step up and really get into the scene and their character. So I would highly recommend you definitely have someone professional designated for this job.
“Casting sometimes is fate and destiny more than skill and talent, from a director’s point of view.”
~ Steven Spielberg
STEP 5: CALL BACKS
For the next stage you will probably need to hire a larger room. You will bring back the actors you liked best and, if there are still some roles to be filled fit in a few new people too.
In the next Phase I will discuss what happened at our CALL BACKS…
Alison Kathleen Kelly is an award winning writer/director/producer from London. Alison studied directing at UCLA Extension and went on to produce several successful short films, she is now producing a horror feature film in France and preparing to direct her first feature, a gangster film set in London. You can contact Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org