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Dealing with Lousy Actors

I got your book for Christmas and I LOVE it !! :)  I’m 15 years old and this coming summer I am gonna be shooting my first HUGE movie!! (I have made many movies before but never one so planned and big)

So I made a huge mistake: I told my best friend that all her cousins could be in the movie as actors!! Problem is some I have never even met and the ones I have met I have no clue if they can act!! So my question is what to do now? What if they can’t act?? I cant just force them out, but I don’t want my movie to suck because no one can act!!

Thanks for the advice. And I will not make that mistake ever again!! I am a girl and I have always wanted to be a director! :) btw!! lol


You say “I can’t just force them out”, but if that’s what the film requires, you can.  In fact, you have to.  If the film sucks because you picked bad actors, nobody is going to watch it.  Including your lousy actors, who will be so embarrassed by their performances that they will hate you more than they would have if you had cut them.

Pros know this, which is why the metaphorical cutting room floor is littered with the bodies of actors completely cut from films.  I deleted a character from Two Weeks in the edit room.  Eric Stoltz was famously fired after shooting on Back to the Future began, and was replaced by Michael J. Fox (wikipedia the story, then see the film if you haven’t).  And in news from your actual lifetime, Spike Jonze canned Samantha Morton as the lead voice in his movie Her (see it!), and gave the gig to Scarlett Johansson.  All hard choices to make for their directors.  All of whom did the right thing for the film.

But I think you know this, or you wouldn’t have asked for help. And here it is:  Your help is called an audition.

Let your friend know that you can give everyone a role in the film but you have to find the right role for them.  After all, you want them to look great, right? People who are miscast look awkward, even pros.

Invite them to audition — to read a scene with you. In person is best, but video conference works.  Some won’t want to bother.  That makes the decision easy– they’re out.  Some will suck, in which case the right place will be a silent role in the back, filling a seat in a restaurant while you shoot your leads in the foreground.  The good ones get the parts you choose for them.

One final thing, Brooke.  You want to direct.  That’s a good thing.  When you put “LOL” after that statement, you seem to be belittling yourself and your choice.  If you want to be a director, own it. Be definite.  The Director’s job is to make choices, and the first choice is to have the balls to be a director.  You do, so stand behind that choice without apology.

Good luck!


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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.


  • Brooke says:

    Hey guys!! Thank you so much for your advice but sadly my movie had to be canceled do to looooooots of friendship struggles!! I am very sad because I was really looking forward to it but sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do!!!

  • adamg says:

    Submission is a hard thing. Some one always answers to someone else . A good actor sees and some times talent gets in the way of submission to said director and producer…hope all goes better..Weed then out appropriately with that audition process. Tests are val

  • Brooke says:

    Thank you so much for your advice:) I will definitely use it:D and Yes i am going to be a director!:D

  • Let me tell you a terrible story.

    I grew up in theater and television, the son of a Producer. One of my father's stage productions was set in the 1800s American West. It was cowboys and indians.

    One of the main actors, who played the part of a Native American, put the Costume department through hell about his damn shoes. They made over twenty pairs of moccasins for him, custom, and he didn't like them.

    So it comes around to opening night and this guy says he wants to wear his sneakers. He's playing a Native American, in the 1800s, and he wants to wear his sneakers on stage.

    My father says he can wear his sneakers if we paint them brown and we will buy him new sneakers. For some reason this idiot's sneakers are irreplaceable, he wont do it, and there is no understudy.

    This moron wore his damn sneakers on stage, and made the entire crew and cast look like idiots.

    Same production, my father hired and fired four directors. It was a living nightmare.

    Never be afraid to let someone go if keeping them makes everyone look bad.

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