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What you need to know before casting your next film

Posted on: January 14th, 2016 by Ken Lazer 3 Comments

Astoundingly, many budding new directors don’t place an appropriate emphasis on the importance of casting and merely see it as a pre-production task. So for you new directors out there, you can follow this post as it will assist you and explain how casting the right talent will impact your next film project.

The Casting Call.
The casting process can be frustrating. There are many talented actors on the industry landscape eager to land roles, it can still a challenge to find the perfect fit for an originally written character. Sometimes, when a producer or director attempts to do their own casting, many talented actors (and some not talented actors) can walk in and out and still none of them are a right fit for the role, no matter their caliber of talent. Often the right look, and not just talent are factors in choosing the right actor matching the directors outline for the role. This type of struggle is very common in all casting calls when a producer or director attempts to do their own casting. From my experience over the past 23 years, I have learned that if you are extremely selective early on you will increase drastically to find the right fit for any role. You can’t cut corners in the casting process, you must find a candidate so perfectly suited you couldn’t imagine the film without their presence.

My process
First, we get the specs required from our client. Let’s take a female and male, age 20s-30s, all ethnicities, attractive, sweet, wholesome girl/boy next-door as an example. We take these specs and put them out on a breakdown.

After the breakdown goes out, there are many submissions from the agents and from the actors—Then, it’s decision time. Who gets an audition time?

Important to remember in the casting process…
When casting a film that has a small amount of roles needed, make sure not to bring 200 people in a cattle call style without reviewing their heads shots and resumes. You’re going to be dissapointed when you discover both yours and their time has been just wasted. Instead, make sure to take ample time early on to hand-pick a dozen or so candidates for each key role. Make sure to fully research who they are, watch all their demo reels, discover their full background and who they’ve worked for. This will give you a leg up on finding the most suitable talent for any role desired.

For example, when casting for a commercial you may hold auditions every 5 – 7 minutes depending upon how much copy/action is involved in the audition, in my experience, film casting is a different process where you have the advantage of slotting in your actor auditions every 10-15 minutes or so, to allow for ample review, give appropriate direction, in order to fully evaluate how your talent performs best. Hopefully, by the first week of the casting process you will have selected some great candidates, but don’t rush the process, take the right amount of time to be sure you have made all the right decisions. It’s not worth settling for actors that are not quite the right fit, so your film production has the best chance for better success.

Here is exactly what I do.
First, I schedule the actors I already know are great with copy. I always like to give new talent or talent I don’t know an opportunity. However, I need to see some kind of video reel of the person’s work. Resumes don’t mean a thing since anyone can make up credits on a resume. I want to see video footage. However, there are rare occasions that I will schedule someone I don’t know based on their headshot and resume—it does happen.

Then, there is the audition. You come in, do your best, and you leave. At the end of the day, I send the session link to my clients to review. Actors have always asked me, “Do you take actors off your session?” The answer is: Yes, sometimes. I have to. If someone comes in that I’m giving a chance to and gives a poor performance and just cannot take the direction I give them, I have to take them off. My clients are hiring me for my knowledge and eye for the best talent for their project. But for the most part, it is rare that I have to take someone off from my session. Since I only bring in the best talent, there are those rare occasions one of those actors was having a bad day and couldn’t give a great audition.

Final Note.
If you plan do to your own casting, hopefully, you will get some great talent on day one or two of your casting process. But if need be, take another day or another month to cast your film if that’s what it takes. It’s better to spend as much time as you need to up front to ensure that you find the right actors to tell your story, otherwise your film will suffer later on. Or save yourself the time, energy and frustration and hire a casting director that already knows the exact actors to present in the first day. You need to find the best matching talent for your film/project, you have to be 100% sure so much so you couldn’t imagine the project without them. When this feeling transpires, you’ll know you’re ready to begin your film and take the next steps.

If you are a new director or producer, seeking further casting advice and want to work with me, please email me at ken@kenlazercasting.com

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