Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Casting Tips


And now, a few secrets of indie filmmaking that focus on casting this week.


TIP: Don’t cast your friends, unless your friends are really good actors. Going to state that again. Don’t cast your friends, unless your friends are really good actors.

TIP: There are loads of good actors out there who would really like the opportunity to work on a movie.  But you’re going to have to find them. Even if you don’t have the money to hire union actors, don’t despair…

TIP: … But don’t be lazy either. Put up casting notices in local acting schools. Go to small theatre.
(In fact you should be going to small theatre and screenings all the time, to see who is out there in your local theatre and film scene.)

TIP: If you’re really brave, put an ad in the local paper for an open casting call. If you cast a wide net like this, a lot of freaks will show up for an open call, sure. But we met one wonderful actor that we have continued to work with for 15 years as a result of our first and only open casting call.  One out of fifty.  But he showed up.  And we were really pleased with another five actors that we also ended up casting in our first original theatrical production.

TIP: At the audition, try to find the best actor, not just the actor who looks most like the picture you have in your head of the character.

Seems obvious I know, but we’re amazed at how often we hear independent film casting horror stories – that are the fault of the director or producer. Cast the best person at the audition, not the best picture of what you had in your head.

We’re begging you, keep your mind as open as possible, because someone who doesn’t look exactly “right” may bring qualities you never imagined to the part, potentially great stuff.

How many times have you heard people say “I can’t imagine anyone else in that part”? That’s fine for audience members of finished films, not directors or producers in pre-production. You think Judy Garland is Dorothy, right? The studio wanted Shirley Temple.

Think about how brilliant Al Pacino was in ‘The Godfather’. The director had to convince the studio to cast Pacino, who wanted Robert Redford. Pacino was different. Pacino was what no one knew they were looking for, until they saw it.

Being an indie filmmaker without money is liberating. You don’t have to answer to a studio or deal with the politics of agencies packaging their clients all together in one film. You can find actors who are dedicated to their craft as you are to yours, because you’re working together on a film you really want to make.

Because God knows, if you’re independent, you aren’t doing it for the money.

We’ll come back to casting again in subsequent posts, so for now I’ll leave you with this:
The character of Ripley in ‘Alien’ was originally written for a man, but Ridley Scott instead cast Sigourney Weaver.  I doubt the ‘Alien’ series would have been nearly as successful or memorable with a male actor.

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