Week 4: Poor Kitty – Casting

We arrived to our first month of filming, and boy are we getting good! Hiccups are limited to only our conversations going off track, and the narrow setting unable to accommodate the equipment. It was Rosemary’s first time on set and she left everybody speechless (sorry guys no spoilers here). For a person who hasn’t acted since her childhood, her first whim at her lines would throw a few Hollywood ‘stars’ into the unemployment line – but that’s just opinion. This week’s topic is choosing your cast, and how to not fall for the hidden traps.

On low (or no) budgeted films you tend to choose people even before you ask them if they’re interested. Even more interestingly, you even base part of their character on their real life self hoping it makes it easier for them to say yes – and really you’re only going to ask people who will say yes because neither of you will handle the rejection. But sometimes your actor(s) drop out and you have to find somebody who either is an imitation of the initial actor, or somebody who can morph into that scripted character seamlessly. Both are not impossible but you probably have better chance at the casino – unless you have the money for professional actors.

We just got lucky. Neil and Rosemary both have been longtime friends with the director, Matt Sherwell, while Mario was an eager person who stumbled upon the idea at university one day. But the funny thing with luck is that most people won’t gel together as well as a group of friends, or family. Again, we were lucky and everybody was there to make a film.

We all seemed to bond despite the vast age differences, and during both our lunch conversations and equipment setups we share our knowledge of past methods compared to new age digitalised methods. However, not every crew will be as well moulded as ours (at present) and there will always be tempers randomly boiling beyond controllable level – it’s a given – but remember there is no point letting everything fall apart because of one little thing.

Quick Tips on Successful Filmmaking

Friends aren’t always best actors
Sure you and your best friends want to make a film, and you’re sitting on the same wavelength – it’s why you’re friends – but don’t fall into the trap that you know how they’ll respond to long, strenuous, and multi-climatic days. Thinking you know that they’ll eventually get round to the job means you’re just not ready to put your foot down and tell them you have a deadline. But if you push them too far, well you can very well say goodbye to the friendship – well not that drastic but things for the remainder of the shoot won’t be the same. I tend to choose the people who are between good friends and really good friends because you both tend to be a little more cautious and more often than not want to get the job done instead of wasting time and potential money. And an added bonus to the production process is that you both come out closer friends than the beginning.

Write with a persona in mind, not a person
As I said above, when scriptwriting you tend to think of a person ad write about them with solely another name. This is okay if you know the person can pull off the mentality of acting as themselves – especially in front of a camera! First off strip the person away from what makes them quirky. Delete the facial features, hair colour, height, everything until you are left with the bare minimum. Now build upon the story with that persona and things like name, hair colour, and other features will develop as motifs in the storyline(s) and potentially lead you to another person for the role.

Perfect is not always that
If you decide to cast a few people for a particular role and somebody walks in reading the lines as if they had watched it out from in your head, tell them to do it again – differently. Chances are they can, but if they can’t tell them you’ll let them know. If an actor cannot manipulate their mind in a few minutes from happy to sad to forgetful to anything, and churn out the same persona over and over, you are looking at an undeveloped seed. I’m not saying they are a bad actor, no, but they need time to practice their characters, have a memory bank of people they know from varying extravagances. Don’t shut them down completely when you tell them they aren’t what you’re looking for, but let them know why and when the next auditions are up you expect them to try again – noting whether they applied your advice or not.

Even though your budget may not be in the millions of dollars, or even the thousands, you still want acting that is believable to the best of your casting abilities. Don’t start off expecting Academy Award winning performances, but I’m sure you don’t enjoy when the casting is just unbearable so don’t become the hated. Remember to offer a return casting position for your next film, it gives them confidence and may be the push that allows them to break their personal barrier. Keep in contact with actors that you find to be rare, and maintain a contact book, or mobile phone listing of them all. If they’re close friends maintain their interests, and if they are random pickups send them birthday wishes.