Monday, 17 March 2014

CHOOSING YOUR VICTIMS : CASTING A LOW BUDGET MOVIE

When casting its true that I usually make the final decision on who we go with, but most of the leg work in regards to dealing actors and their auditions before we start shooting come down to my Producer, Business Partner and Better Half, Anna. Who not only gets the talent there, but spends most of her time dealing with them on set. It only made sense that she shared her wisdom when it come to the delicate and yet deadly world of... Casting.

As a low budget production company we rely heavily on recommendations and professional contacts when casting. You need a cast that will power through a difficult shoot with the end goal in sight: the finished film which everyone has put their heart into and everyone can be proud of. The last thing you need on a low budget film set when everyone's knackered, starving and freezing is constant demands for brown M&Ms and a bloody great Bengal tiger.


The most important thing for us when casting, much more important than experience, is that we can work with the actor to get the best out of them, us and the film itself.


Jade Came recommended by another filmmaker
The process we have found works best is to have a mixture of casting within our extended circle, people we know or people who have worked with people we know, and using casting sites to find our cast. We shortlist the applicants down to the people who have the right look for the role and ask them for a video audition to save them the expense of travelling to us. We give them a portion of the script to read to camera and send to us which gives us a good idea of their commitment and acting ability.


From the start, in the casting call itself, it's always best to make what you want from them very clear - if you want nudity in your film (as we almost always do making low budget horror) tell them exactly what you'll need so nothing is ambiguous. If you do require nudity, be respectful and put the actor at ease. 'Get your boobs out and I'll make you a star, baby' was never the best chat up line and I'm guessing they've heard it before. What one person could see as harmless flirting may be extremely off putting to an actor when you're asking them to take their clothes off. You might mean it playfully enough, but a lot of models and actors have had bad experiences with perverts with cameras who pretend they're making a film. Just be professional. Tell them you'll have a closed set and, in the case of actresses, you'll keep the male presence on set for that scene down to a minimum. That said, if they do show any reluctance to do nudity in a scene that requires it, don't cast them. You don't want to make anyone scared or uncomfortable and it could lead to you having an actress on set on the day who won't do the scene or may not show up at all. Be respectful and be completely up front. Also, put chastity belts and/or shock collars on your crew as necessary. You know which ones I mean, yeah those guys.


Let them know how tough it will be, they probably won't believe you but tell them anyway. Tell them it will be long hours, very little sleep and difficult conditions if you don't, you can't really blame them for complaining when they get on set, especially if they have never done a long shoot away from home before. But tell them it's worth it, because the end result will make you all proud. We use the very helpful mantra 'pain is temporary, film is forever', good old Troma!


Paris was an actor in our extended social networks
If someone's taken the time to apply for your project, take the time to respond to them even if they're not successful and to thank them for showing some interest. It's a tough world for actors at the moment with so much competition for paid work that it's difficult to put the time into applying for something they may not earn any money from. It may take a while to respond to everyone, but it's worth doing to show them some gratitude. Casting sites sometimes make this a bit difficult but when people apply by email it's no problem.


If you can only pay expenses (which again is usually the position with us in our collaborative projects) make that very clear too. If you can't pay an actor up front, explain that but tell them that if the film goes into profit then that will be split between everyone involved, just don't make any promises you won't be able to keep. It's very difficult to make money out of an independent film so make sure they know that. There are things you can do for them like provide them with references, recommend them for future work and help them along in their career with head shots, help with showreels, etc. You have skills that are worth money too.


I can normally tell whether we'll be able to work with someone from my initial communication. If they seem disinterested or unhelpful at that early stage, it's unlikely to get better. If I have to constantly chase them for a response or their audition it may be that their heart isn't in it. If they're way too over the top and are 'poking' me on Facebook every other day, I might end up killing them on a hectic film set. People are busy and sometimes life gets in the way but just use your best judgment of how well you think you can work together and make sure the relationship can be a productive one for all involved.


Also, like I said at the beginning, the independent film network is usually a fantastic and supportive place to be. I've been more than happy to recommend actors I've worked with to other filmmakers and I've also asked for references off filmmakers as well. This way, the people who are great to work with will be pushed forward and the people who aren't won't be. It's invaluable when working within low budget constraints to get some kind of vibe about how they are to work with from other people. If someone was a no show on someone else's film for no good reason then you don't want to take the risk with them on yours. Ask questions you feel would be the most important for your project: Did they perform well and were they respectful to the set and the other cast and crew? Did they throw a massive diva strop and murder anyone? Well...that they weren't supposed to murder.


Craig and Jane were cast in Legacy based on their Previous work and their auditions

It's worth bearing in mind that actors speak to each other too and will compare their experiences in dealing with you as well. They're your family for the duration of the project, just treat them like that. Unless you hate your family, in which case maybe treat them like your therapist's family, I guess.

Anna

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