Insider Tips for Casting Your Low Budget Feature Film – Part 2

09 Sep 2016, Posted by webdev_t6z8ug9s in Casting Tips

Today’s blog is part two in a series of blogs focused on helping filmmakers cast low budget feature films.

In the first post about Casting Low Budget Feature Films  I talked about keeping it real. Today I am going to elaborate with 6 more tips that will ensure you don’t have to use hair technicians as casting directors on your film!


1. Are you Gong Fodder…?

Gong FodderFirstly I am going to issue a “License to Ignore”  –  kind of like a License to Kill, but with less car chases and no Timothy Dalton.

So, please ignore my last post  about keeping it real if your last low budget feature film blew everyone away at last year’s Sundance and you had Harvey salivating over his cheque book. Also ignore me if you just had a sell out run at the Royal Court?

If so then you should probably go straight to the conference call with Leo Fassbinder’s agent and Mira-versal Pictures. You could well be what everyone is looking for, you could be the next “annointed one.”

Everybody in the industry wants to be associated with the next new SUCCESSFUL thing and theatre directors…? Well there is a well trodden path from British stage to screen and with good reason. Although the acting process is often different, theatre directors have a reputation for understanding how to help actors really get under the skin of characters.

When stars do lower budget movies it is often on projects that could position them for awards – Gong Fodder if you will. Being seen as a “proper actor” often means that it gives them kudos, credibility and PR and ironically give them more firepower in bigger studio movies.


2. Without great actors you have nothing.

Bear in mind that actors are not commodities – they perform jobs that many of us just cannot do. They put themselves out there and expose raw emotions and go to places that literally make grown men cry. And they do it take after take after take.

Show some respect for their craft and process – they are not just names to use as a marketing tool with a drunken sales agent in the Carlton Hotel bar at the Cannes Film Marche. I meet SOOOO many incredibly talented actors day in and day out many of whom would act not just their socks off, but some of their most loved body parts too. so if in doubt…


Just because they have not had the lucky break yet does not mean that an unknown actor is any less capable than many stars who have been fortunate. Some of them are… incredible. You should also consider TV actors. The pressure of TV production often means that TV actors are capable and very quick to pick up parts and deliver flawless lines and might give you some degree of the “knowability” that your financiers might need.


3. Think Locally

cast low budget feature films mapIf you are a regional filmmaker then the temptation again might be to use bigger names many of whom could be living in that there London, but before you do you should do a Geography Test.

Whereabouts are the actors based? Can your casting director help you source local talent? In addition to great regional locations there are also great regional actors – and remember not everybody in the North speaks with a Geordie, Scouse or Yorkshire accent. Also with less to spend on hotels and train fares your budget can go further.


4. Arrested Development.

When budgets are tight there is often either temptation or pressure to expedite the development process and “get on with it.” I would argue that this is the LAST thing you should do.

The more time you can spend honing the script during the development process the better. Sometimes I receive scripts that definitely need more work, and it might sound obvious, but it’s vital that the script is ready before you go out to cast. There are a lot of projects out there vieing for attention – make yours stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The better the script with credible realistic dialogue and interesting character arcs then the better the cast you will get. Simples. Pixar’s development philosophy is legendary in the industry and should be emulated. So sayeth Nicci.


5. Are you Preppy?

Make sure you have enough time to workshop the project during prep. When you are on set is not the time to be talking to the actor about what his motivation is in this scene. Again give the actor some respect for the process and the time this takes to get right.

Workshopping will allow your director time to work with the cast so you are all on the same page and therefore save valuable time and money on set. This then allows both your director and cast to try different nuanced approaches in different takes when the camera is rolling.


6. Employ a Casting Director

nicci_topping_smI would argue (well I would wouldn’t I!) that one of your important investments is in a Casting Director. Yes you might want to spend all your budget on hiring an Arri Alexa and the latest gimbal-less stabiliser, but don’t be a gear junkie, your films will be NOTHING without a great cast.

Keep some budget to employ a PROFESSIONAL casting director. I am of course available (see… tee hee!), but my colleagues at the CDA will also do you a fantastic job. A professional casting director will be invaluable: their experience and on-going relationships with agents will help you get to the talent you want quickly and with integrity and they will be able to advise you on up and coming talent that you would never have known about. They will also help you…



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    • peter owen

      Fabulous insight as always Nicci lots to take on board its not always the finished article but the process to get there (many hands make light work)

    • David Bowles

      Brilliant advice Nicci. So many people out there don’t appreciate what goes on behind the scenes to get the best talent possible at the price your project can afford… and for that you need a Pro Casting Director. – Being both Actor and Producer myself (you and I have met a couple of times 🙂 I can appreciate both sides…Thank you. David Bowles.(Article referred by Agent: Alexis Tuttle – Pride In Performance)


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