I have an idea for a short film. I have a camera, I have a story, and I have a job, so filming and money aren’t a problem. My problem is that I have no idea where to find a cast that can make the film what I want it to be.
Any advice on where to find actual actors/actresses who will take my project seriously and listen to what I tell them?
The way to get actors to take your project seriously is to present them with a serious project. That may seem simplistic, but it really isn’t.
One of the truths about the film business is that there are way more projects out there than will ever be made. That’s true whether you’re in an undergraduate film club or a major studio– there’ll be 50 ideas on your desk for every one worth making. The way we choose projects is by judging for ourselves how likely they are to succeed. That is, how “serious” are they? The more serious the project, the more talent you will attract.
Nobody likes to waste time, and this is especially true for actors, who waste more time than most working with lame casting directors, desperately trying to land 3-line parts in uninteresting projects. Get them excited about your film and you’ll need to hire a full-time bodyguard to keep them from camping on your lawn.
For an actor “serious” means:
- You have a great script or shooting plan. The first place most actors look to determine the seriousness of a project is the script. Well written stories that are unusual, emotional, appealing, and smart attract actors. If you are going unscripted (improvisation, perhaps, or some kind of stunt) you’ll need to be able to pitch it so that they get it and love it.
- You’re a director they can trust. Actors put themselves in your hands. They want their performance to be good, but they don’t build the sets, or shoot, or edit. They have to trust you, and you need to be worthy of that trust. If you’re new at directing, say so. You don’t have to know everything– everyone is new once. But you do have to be smart about how you’re handling your inexperience: asking questions and listening well go a long way toward making actors comfortable.
- You have a great team attached. Great team members attract other great team members. Can you get people with more experience to help you out?
- You have enough money to get made. You may not need much money, but if you’re proposing a film with car crashes, actors want to know you have the bucks to pull it off.
- It looks like your project can hit its goals. If it’s a Superbowl spec ad, is it a good one? Is there a plan to enter it in contests? If it’s a funny short video, do you have a plan for promoting it? If it’s an indie film, what’s the marketing plan?
Once you’ve got a serious project, finding actors to audition is easy. Big productions usually use casting directors and list casting calls in Backstage or other casting website. Small productions might post audition notices wherever actors are found– local college theater departments, community theaters, or coffee shops next door to theaters. For your first production, you might audition friends and family.
As a bonus, making your project more serious to attract better actors also helps attract crew, money, and favors. Everyone likes to work with someone who does great work.
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