I have cast every actor and even extras in all of my films. As I am in the process of casting for a feature film (BODY HARVEST) I thought it would be a great time to discuss the process I take and my pet peeves in hopes that it could help you in casting or if you are an actor it may help you land your next film.
So first off, I am not a professional casting director, i.e., I don’t get paid as a casting director. I am merely a filmmaker who likes the casting process as this is the first opportunity to hear your script being read by different actors and the first chance to discover issues in the script. Not to mention find great talent.
I suppose if I was doing a big film I would let casting directors or agents do the process of locating talent. Certainly it is a difficult task. But, having done smaller films I find that the casting process is just a great way to find the right combination of actors.
In my castings I have used SAG/AFTRA actors as well as Non-Union. Generally, the SAG/AFTRA actors tend to have more experience and polish. Their reels are more professional. Their gift and talents are more easily recognizable. Simply put, they have done lots and lots of auditions and been on many film projects. But that does not mean that there are no really great raw talent in the Non-Union actors.
When I cast for a film I usually get anywhere from hundreds to sometimes thousands of resumes and headshots (thank God I use Actors Access/Breakdown Express services and not my email). That’s a lot of talent to go through.
Once you narrow down a group of actors you should schedule a read and send the “sides” or a short scene to rehearse at the audition. There are different goals in the first audition. If the actor has no online reel this is a good chance to see and hear them. Also, it is a great opportunity to see how well they can interpret the scene and perform it, as well as take directions from you. I keep these brief to about 10-15 minutes, go over the scene once or twice, and provide direction as needed, keeping the whole process low stress.
It could help to videotape the audition so that you can view it later if you cannot remember a specific performance. But I have found that just writing notes will help. One casting audition I held required the actress to cry. One actress nailed it at the audition, yet did terrible on set. Go with your gut instinct. If anything seems like it’s not working, the performance, pacing, memorization of lines, delivery or even the tone of voice, that’s your cue to move on to the next actor.
All of my casting calls ask for very specific actor types because I am the writer and know exactly what I want visually. I may typically ask for an age range, say a 50-ish clean cut man to play a doctor or a certain look, or even hair color (fiery redhead to play a rogue secret agent). It amazes me how many wrong types I receive.
I get that it’s a numbers game and maybe… just maybe… the casting director might have another gig for you. So actors send their resume/head shots to every production out there. I wonder how many of them actually do their homework (like I do when I review their information) and check that the casting director is in fact THE director or that this is a NON-UNION project.
When I get hundreds of these resumes I generally will look at the headshot. If it doesn’t match the character I have carefully described in the casting call, the actor is eliminated from the running. Next, I check for a reel. If the actor has a reel that is great because I can see them “acting” and get an idea of their performance, but also their mannerisms and even their accent or voice (very important to me). Sometimes the reel is so bad that I just eliminate that actor. A bad reel is worse than no reel. You are sadly fooling yourself if you can record an impassionate monologue and upload that as your reel.
Now, I have seen a lot of self-made reels and some are really good, but the vast majority are not. If you spend money on a professional head shot you should consider a professional reel made by someone with the right equipment, or a professional reel videographer. It could land you your next gig.
Many resumes sent do not make sense to me. I have clearly stated production is in Texas and I get resumes from someone in Wyoming with no ties to Texas and expecting a free ticket here. Again, I am very clear in my casting calls and upfront that this is a local only casting. Still, the resumes pour in from as far away as… SINGAPORE? That’s another story.
Lastly, I want to read resumes with information I can verify. It helps if you have an IMDB information there (I know I know, some people feel IMDB has become a huge waste and scam). The fact is there is no other easy method to verify credits and verify how active you have been as an actor.
I hope that helps you in your next casting call regardless of which side of the interview you are on.