CASTING DIRECTOR BLOG

Insider Tips for Casting Your Low Budget Feature Film – Part 1

19 Aug 2016, Posted by Nicci in Casting Tips

As part of my mission to de-mystify the casting process, today’s blog is part one in a series of blogs focused on helping  filmmakers cast low budget feature films.

I hope to be able to pass on hints and tips across the whole process from identifying cast, to running casting sessions, maximizing auditions and working with agents.

To kick the series off the first blog is about…

Keeping it Real

Are you sitting down? Good because I have some bad news for you.

leo KeiraAlthough you might have a passion for your project that is hotter than the surface of the sun, I’m sorry to say, the chances that Leo and Keira will be equally excited and jump on your sub £1m project are infintesimally small. There I said it.

Sorry to be shatter your dreams, but If I had a tenner for every time I had been approached by the producers or directors of low budget movies with unrealistic casting aspirations then I’m sure I could have financed my dream low budget feature “The Full Blair Juno Monty Witch Dynamite Activity IV.”

Going after such talent is rarely successful and the only thing you attach to your project is shovelfuls of frustration, and not only that it also wastes time. Although time might not mean money in a low budget film where everybody is investing ‘sweat equity’, the constant rejection can sap your motivation.

Yes ‘A listers’ will sometimes board low budget independent movies ( Spoiler alert: Bear in mind that not all people have the same definition for low budget!), but they usually will do it with established directing and producing talent and the project will usually ALWAYS have distribution in place and be #gongfodder.

I don’t want to labour a point (actually I do) but film is a risky business so why would their agent even send their “Special One” a script for a project that is so embryonic and unlikely to happen never mind recommend it. Also they are well aware that you probably need their “Special One” to even finance the thing.

Pierce Brosnan’s Hairdresser

pierce brosnanAgents are getting approached ALL the time regarding their A and B List clients and so often move into gatekeeper mode protecting their clients from less solidly packaged projects. And even if you have an “in” to the talent directly and try to bypass the agent (I was once casting a project where the director had an in to Pierce Brosnan through his HAIRDRESSER in LA!!) all roads will lead back to the agent anyhow to ‘do the deal’and if you have pissed off the agent in the process by trying to get round them, well good luck!

If you do have a solid “in” to the talent, then at least let the agent know that you have been discussing the project with them. It’s only courtesy.

The agent needs to TRUST the producer that the project will happen and there is a good chance it will be a success (nobody wants a failure obviously) and the actor has to TRUST the director that they will provide a secure space for them to weave their magic and help them deliver their best performance – after all that is why you want them on your project isn’t it… isn’t it? It’s not to try and help finance your film surely?

 

Money Talks… Talent Shouts

Obviously I am being glib and one shouldn’t underestimate the industry’s need for names to help with your pre-sales and marketability (especially with sales agents), but all I am saying is that it is not the be-all-and-end-all and focussing on trying to attach household star names can ruin many a fantastic project – I know I have been there.

So what do you do then? Well, if you are a really low budget project where there is little chance of pre-sales or distribution ahead of completion then your best chance of success is investing in the BEST possible actors for your roles. I can vouch for the fact that there are SO many incredibly talented actors out there – I know I audition them day in and day out – so why not take a different approach…

CAST. INCREDIBLE. ACTORS.

They might not be household names yet, but a project that crackles with superb grounded performances will probably have more chance of success than somebody who was once “somebody in this town” who is phoning it in.

And the project with Pierce’s hairdresser? Sadly there was more chance of him having a bubble perm than taking the role.

 

Read Part Two

Further Tips on Casting a Low Budget Feature Pt 2

 

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  • Tariq Wahr

    Spot on advice and insight Nicci. As a packaging agent myself the amount of times I’ve had to slap a client some sense, after asking me to send their script to a A List actors agent, because they wrote the script for them is untrue and naive. Love this new site good luck with everything xx

    Reply
    • Nicci

      Thanks Tariq. Got loads of ideas in the pipeline and hope to get in guest bloggers as well as doing some guest blogging on other industry sites too. xx

      Reply

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