We recently ran a guest post from indie filmmaker Noam Kroll about what you need to know before casting your film. Not surprisingly, a number of casting directors objected to the fact that the story never suggested the obvious solution: hire a casting director. Casting director Nicole Arbusto responded with her own guest post about why it’s not a good idea to try to cast your film on your own without the help of a paid professional.
Let’s assume you’re doing this for the first time. You may not have the best sense of the pluses and minuses of the roles in your film and how to pitch your project to agents and managers. The way a director sees the script they’re shooting is different than the way a CD sees the project. We read a lot of scripts, and we have a sense of how agents see a script. A CD might have a better sense of which roles will be more challenging and need more time, which might be a good cameo etc.
As a general rule agents don’t cover films under 2 million in the way they cover bigger budgeted films. If you hire a CD who works a lot in this marketplace you are also buying their expertise in getting attention on your project. And again, if they work in low budget they’ll know who is within the reach of your project in terms of talent – and who is too hard to get, or needs a money gig or just got divorced and needs to stay close to home etc.
If you’re a writer/director, the experience of hearing your work aloud in all these different voices often for the first time, can be a little weird and overwhelming. Having someone else guide you, help you process what works and what doesn’t work can be enormously helpful. And in a situation where the material is challenging — maybe it’s very dark, emotional or sexual — having another person there can be really crucial in getting the best work from the actors. We know how to figure out who is comfortable putting themselves out there, we can create a safe space for them, and we can help you process what are sometimes very intense or awkward auditions.
If you’ve got kids in your film, the audition process is going to be a great rehearsal for you if you’ve never worked with kids before. You’ll have the opportunity to try out different ways of explaining your material and to direct kids of various ages and levels of experience. This is invaluable pre-production work and really applies to ALL the roles you’re auditioning. Auditions give you a shot at trying some things without the pressures of being on set. Finding kids is all leg work and prep, – a lot of work happens before any auditions take place. Agents who handle kids are amazing (because really can you imagine how hard that job is?!) and a great resource. But you don’t have the time to talk to all of them. And if you’re doing a search, it’s even more work. Often when casting kids – the vision of who the kid is, the age, the look etc. can change a bit during casting too, so you really don’t want to have to rush this process.
Just because you’re making a low budget film and the rate is flat don’t assume the deals will be a walk in the park. They’re often quite complex because there’s no money. People end up really digging in their heels about billing, photo approvals, points, net profit definition etc. It can be disappointing after the excitement of figuring out who you’re casting, to then deal with the details of someone’s trailer – or lack of a trailer.