1.3. Casting

Hollywood movies with big budgets can attract big stars. It’s unlikely, however, that you have that type of budget if you are reading this. It’s more likely that you’ll be asking people to act in your film for free . This doesn’t mean that you’ve to settle for the first person you can get. Film holds a fascination for many people and there are plenty of ‘would be’ actors who will jump at the chance to be in a film. To maximise your chances of getting the best actors, there are certain things you can do.

1. Make sure you have a great script
2. Make sure that you have a great pitch, synopsis and treatment
3. Have a good plan for distributing your film once it’s finished so that those who agree to get involved know that they are going to get exposure
4. Be clever in getting the word out to as many people as possible that you are looking for actors so that you maximise the number of actors you have to choose from
5. Be organised and professional to inspire confidence from potential actors

Casting administration

When I was casting ‘Whatever Turns You On’ – a four minute short film – I had over 300 actors apply. You must be prepared to deal with whatever response you get but the first step is to try to ensure that the responses are from appropriate people. In your advertisement or, as we say “casting call” , be specific about the things you know you want. If the part is for a Chinese grandmother then make sure you state clearly that the part is for someone who is Chinese – or with the look to pass for Chinese, sufficiently elderly and female. If possible, set up a separate email address for the project so that it’ s easy to manage the responses. Ask people to include the following:

1. Details of any acting experience they might have
2. At least one current photograph
3. A link to any showreel material where you can see them acting, if they have it
4. Details of their availability

Make sure to put a ‘cut-off’ date by which people must apply so that you can schedule your auditions. Also, if you are asking people to act in your film for free, let them know this in your advertisement.

Auditions arrangements

Auditions are generally quite nerve-wracking for actors. From a film makers point of view, this is a good thing. If an actor can be convincing under the pressure of an audition then they are unlikely to be overcome with nerves when you go to shoot the film. Therefore, set up your audition in a way that resembles a film set. Put a camera on a tripod facing the actor and use this to record the auditions so that you can look back over them if you want to see certain actors again to help in your decision making. If you have lights, shine the lights on them too. It is best to have a casting panel rather than just one person making the casting decisions. Each person on the panel should have pen and paper to make notes. Allow about 15 minutes per audition and remember to schedule in breaks so that your casting panel can discuss those they’ve seen while they are fresh in their minds or so that you can ‘catch up’ if auditions are running overtime. Have a waiting area for actors with a ‘meet and greet’ person to bring them into the audition room and to take note of who shows up and who doesn’t.

The audition

Most actors will have a prepared monologue for auditions. However, it is very useful to see actors work with other actors. It is advisable, therefore, to find an actor who can work with those who are auditioning on a scene in your film for the benefit of your casting panel. Failing that, one of the casting panel can read the other character ’s lines for the actor who is auditioning. When assessing an actor’s audition don’t focus on whether or not they are getting their lines right but on whether or not they are being convincing in the role of the character they are auditioning for. You are not looking for someone who can memorise lines – you’re looking for someone who can make your film as convincing as possible. Quite often I won’t bother using the script in an audition. Instead, I will use the time to chat to the actor – asking him or her to respond as the character they are auditioning for. In this way, not only do you get a good sense of whether or not the actor is convincing in the role but, by asking appropriate questions, you also get an idea of how much the actor understands the role.

After the audition

Make your casting decisions quickly while the auditions are still fresh in the minds of your casting panel. Then prepare two emails – one thanking the actors who weren’t chosen for their time and informing them that they did not get the part and the other either informing the successful actors that they have been chosen or – if you are undecided – asking the remaining choices back for a second audition. Finally, ensure that you have all the necessary contact details for your actors, that they are available for the dates you are shooting and that they are prepared to sign Talent Release Contracts (see legal documents) to say that they are prepared to appear in your film for whatever your budget allows (often a nominal fee such as €1 in the case of a ‘no budget’ film).

Sample casting call:

Actors wanted for short film

Anyname Films are currently casting three roles for their new
short film “Great Titled Film”.

1. Anna
This character is female, aged in her
mid twenties and Spanish-looking.

2. John
This character is about 30 years old, is very thin
and looks northern european.

3. David
This character is an African American
of about 20-25 years.

This is a ‘no budget’ production so neither actors nor crew are being paid. However, we have confidence that the finished film will be of a very high standard and we are committed to entering it into a large number of film festivals around the world to ensure maximum exposure for all involved.

Actors wishing to be considered for audition should email or send
a headshot, cv and link to online showreel, if available
- along with details of their availabiliity - to:

John Casting,
Anyname Films, Any Street, Any Town, Any Country
Telephone: 000 0000
Email: johncasting@anynamefilms.com

All submissions must be received no later than 5pm on 00/00/0000

Written and Practical Assignment
Complete the casting process for your project. For your assessment you must submit the following:

1. Details of how you found actors for your audition

2. Details of how you went about the casting process

3. Short video samples of actors auditioning

4. Details of why you decided upon the actors you chose