I asked a director once how the hell I go about becoming a director. He told me what I have henceforth been told a million times, ‘just fucking do it’. There was another comment he gave me that most look over: if you’ve casted properly, most of your job is done. Well, I’m not about to say a director of 30 years is wrong, and while I believe there’s a lot more to it all, he definitely has a point. Getting a good cast is supremely important (duh).
So hey, my name is Mik. I’ve been in the arts for some time but I’ve only just begun my adventure into filmmaking. Here’s the thing: If you’re a shit like me, you probably think you know everything before actually doing anything. !!!FACT!!! You’ll quickly realize you’re wrong. A humbling (and horrible) experience, and important lesson that will only sink in once you go fuck shit up a couple times.
While I’m no expert (yet) about the whole casting process, filmmaking, or life (what am I doing and why, sob), I’ve been in a casting sessions enough to have picked up on some important notes. If you don’t have the cashflow to get a casting director, here’s what you’ll need.
1. More than one day notice
Come. On. You’re probably working with new actors. If you give them a few days with the script and they can’t audition off book, you’ve learned something: either they aren’t dedicated enough to the project or they aren’t good.
Tip: Book actors that intimidate you as the Director. If actors don’t intimidate you, they should.
2. A full day for auditions
Seriously, because you’re probably casting from somewhere like Craigslist or Mandy and while you can get some incredible talent from those sites you can also get some flavourful characters, let’s just say. Take a full day to see as many people as possible.
Tip: Those “flavourful characters” you get are excellent source material for future films. Embrace the weird, just don’t hire it (unless it’s suitable).
3. A Secured Space
With lots of space. You’ll need a table and chairs and you’ll need decent room for the actors to act, and act in frame. Acting in frame is a good thing. Also, bets are you have a tripod and that takes space too.
Tip: DO NOT USE YOUR BASEMENT, AUGH!! If you’re in London, Raindance has a Studio Space for ridiculously cheap prices.
4. A Detailed Spreadsheet
With actors’ details and time of their audition. Print multiple copies. If you have an assistant, give one to them. Have them take notes on the actors in the waiting room. Don’t let your actors come in whenever they want. It takes more time to assign each actor with a time but it’s worth it. It also keeps you on track.
Tip: Quarter hours work well. You shouldn’t need more than 15 minutes for the first round.
5. The Director, the Producer, a reader, and maybe an assistant
The director talks to the Actors. The Producer takes notes. The Reader reads lines. An assistant is nice to have but not terribly necessary. If you do get one, have them brings in the next actor, introduce the Director and Producer, and then leave the room until the actor comes out again.
Tip: Your Assistant can take notes about how the actors act during the wait, which can be useful. Also, it’s good to have the reader be an actor themselves.
6. A Camera
With backup batteries! Mucho Importante. You definitely want to record the auditions for review, and you absolutely want back up batteries (depending on what kind of camera you are using). Also, a tripod helps. You’d be amazed how easy it is to forget this shit when you don’t do it constantly.
Tip: Bring a fucking camera. Not your computer. Not a webcam hooked up to your computer. A camera, a smartphone works too, but sound. SOUND. Think about the sound quality.
7. A Waiting Area
Have you ever been to an audition? Here’s a fact: they’re horrible. Have a seated waiting area, and try to offer bottled water or have access to a water cooler. It helps so much. You want your actors to want to impress you and do their best.
Tip: Also, washrooms near by helps significantly.
8. Callback dates
In the event that someone comes in and completely steals the show, you want to already have callback dates in mind so you can inform your superstar of when you’d want them back. Plus, it makes you seem super organized and that’s a good thing. People like it when they can trust that someone’s in charge and knows what the hell they’re doing, or seems to.
Tip: This also makes you look super organized. One can assume this to be a good thing.
There’s likely a million do’s and don’t about Casting. If you google what to do in a casting room you’ll probably be overwhelmed with lists from the perspective of the Actor, Director, and Producer alike.
The best tip in all this, though? Be forthcoming with everyone. Let them know you’re just starting out before you even come in to the session. Still, run your shit like you have millions of dollars. The effort is worth it and you’ll learn more.