Welcome to Going Bionic, #222. Should you be in the Unites States, I hope you had a happy Fourth of July. If you’re reading this from abroad, I hope your weekend was relaxing. Mine was lazier than usual, which was a welcome change for me. Today we’re reaching into to our mailbag and answering a handful of questions on casting an indie film. Casting is hard enough when you have a healthy budget, but it’s especially challenging when you’re not flush with cash. So, without further ado, here are the answers to some of your questions that will hopefully assist you during the casting of your film.
What’s the best way for a small, broke indie film to land a name actor?
Script, script, script; that’s what you need to rely on if you can’t offer a small mountain of money. While many actors would entertain a slightly above average script that’s attached to a healthy payday, very few will say, “yes” to the same script with an anemic payday. So, if your script isn’t fantastic, you need to take the time needed to make it so. You need to rewrite more times than you want to, get professional coverage and even hold a stage reading or two before you submit your script to the actors you want. Remember, if you don’t have actual currency to offer the action you’re dying to wrangle, your written words have to serve as your currency. Thus, they better bounce off the page.
Aside from your killer script, actors may also respond to roles that cast them as characters they’ve never had the opportunity to play before, i.e. casting a comedy actor in a dramatic role, or casting an actor whose brimming with bravado into a passive and or subtle role. Of course, offering the actor(s) an executive producer credit, an opportunity to direct, and or an ownership stake in your film are also good ways to get them to sign on.
How do I get the agent for the actor I want to take my film seriously?
Agents are contractually bound to take offers to clients, but they won’t deem your offer to be credible unless you can prove you have money. You’ll have to have verifiable money sitting in an escrow account that’s specifically dedicated for your film. Having a firm shoot date will help your situation as well. Remember, if you don’t have a successful track record as a filmmaker, there’s very little chance an agent will entertain your offer unless you prove you have money ready to spend.
Should you not have money in place, don’t even bother reaching out to the actor’s agent. Try going to their manager, or their production company first. Make no mistake, you’ll need the agent to be on board before a deal happens, but agents are only interested in fielding funded offers while managers and the actor’s production company are more likely to be open to development projects. Should you wonder why this is, it’s because managers and the actor owned production company execs would attach themselves as producers if they help you develop and fund your film.
How important is it to hire a casting director early on?
Great casting directors bring tremendous value, but they probably can’t convince A-list stars to be in your film (if they can, give them producer credit ASAP). So, if you’re fully funded, hiring a good casting director early is one of the smartest moves you can make. However, hiring them on a partially funded film in hopes of them landing you a star big enough to get you the rest of your funding, is probably not a good use of your money – nor it is a good use of your casting agent’s time.
SAG-AFTRA can be a pain. Do I need to deal with them?
In a word, yes. Of course you need to “deal” with them. More importantly, you should want to be in business with them. SAG-AFTRA is highly respected, deeply rooted and supremely powerful in the film and television industry. So, why wouldn’t you want to deal with them? This is the industry you want to be in, right? So, why wouldn’t you focus on building a positive working relationship with SAG-AFTRA, instead of finding ways to skate their system? Remember, if you want to “break-in” to the industry as a well-paid professional, you should want to forge relationships with the powers-that-be (like SAG-AFTRA), not run away from them.
Okay, filmmakers, that’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a productive week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.