Monday, 19 May 2014

How To Write A Bloody Casting Call

You’ve got an idea and, by hook or by crook, you’re going to get it seen. Now, you just need to get hold of some pesky actors and then you can set off on a wild, film-making adventure together. The world of actors and casting calls can be a tricky one and, if you’re not careful, you’ll be rifling through applications with one eye while getting to grips with a court order with the other. So here are a few tips to make the whole ordeal as easy as a Sunday morning.

All these quotes are taken from real-life casting calls. These other people have made the mistakes so you don’t have to. So sit down and have a little look at these handy tips…

“We’re looking for three male rolls.”
When writing a casting call, it doesn’t matter how amazing the experience will be or how wonderful the characters are if your spelling requires its own translator. Remember, the casting call is often where you make your first impression with actors and if you’ve got spelling mistakes all over the shop then it doesn’t fill us with much hope for the script. I know we’ve all got very used to auto-correct doing all the work for us but the difference between roll and role is a huge one. I'm a massive fan of both so, please, don't get my hopes up thinking up I'm getting a ham roll when actually it's a hammy role. The same goes for the difference between femme fatale, femme fetal and femme foetus. I’ve seen them all and it instantly makes a shoot look amateur.  

‘Due to the director and producer both being broke and a bunch of tight arses, you won’t be paid.’
The argument over unpaid work is for another day but if you’re not paying your actors, at least explain why (and no, just being tight isn't a valid excuse.)  Actors need to eat and pay bills just like everyone else so if they’re going to give up their time for free, they need to know it’s for a good cause. And if you are asking actors to work for free then look at what else you can offer them instead. Maybe offer a new show reel edit or to film some extra scenes for them to include.

'This will start shooting AS EARLY AS 7AM.'
It might seem obvious but when putting out a casting call, but put when you're planning on shooting the damn thing. I've honestly seen casting calls that have requested 'No Timewasters Please' and then not given what damn dates they want to shoot. Actors may be pretty damn spectacular but we're not mind readers. Unfortunately. 

“Please eat before coming on set.”
If you’re not even providing food or expenses for your actor then I suggest you go back to the drawing board and hit yourself over the head with it. Actors aren’t expecting you to pay for taxis (unless you’re asking them to work particularly unsociable hours or your shoot is in the middle of nowhere. If that's the case then you MUST ensure your actors can get home) or lay on Michelin-starred spreads, but if actors are actually paying to work or getting up an hour earlier to make themselves a packed lunch for your film then something has gone horribly wrong. And that thing is you.

‘I’m seeking an impersonator who can act as my mum when me and my mum can’t meet up.’
Again, like with spelling, a casting call is your opportunity to appeal to actors. At this point they have no idea who you are so your best bet would be to put them at ease and reassure them that your film won’t be their last. And if you’re argument is that you’re just being honest with actors from the start then now might be the time to rethink your project before the police come knocking.
Also, don't confuse what actors are for. Just because a lot of us are loudmouths and not afraid to make a fool of ourselves, that doesn't mean you can use us as escorts, fake girlfriends or someone to set up a fake wedding with (again, I've seen all of these.)

Now, when it comes to writing the character description, you’ll find yourself treading an extremely fine line. Give too much detail and you’ll terrify the actor but say too little and you risk the actor either not bothering or every single actor out there applying. The key is to give actors enough information so they know whether it’s worth applying (if the character needs to be 6’ tall with ginger hair then say that) but at the same time, don’t come up with a list of adjectives for the sake of it as you then risk alienating every actor reading it.

‘She is painted silver (nude), wears an elephant mask and is coated in gravy.’
Although we may be brave, actors are easily terrified too. Yes, you want your work to break boundaries but do spare a thought for the actor who will end up acting out these thoughts of yours. I’m not saying don’t include them in your work but maybe include what your plans are for the film once you’ve completed it. A job is a lot more appealing when I realise that shots of my gravy-coated bits aren’t going to just be passed around your mates.

‘To avoid time-wasting, the director’s requested full-frontal nudity in the audition.’
Once you’ve written your casting, it’s a good idea to organise where you’re going to hold auditions. If at all possible, don’t hold them at your house, or, if you are, make sure you mention this in the advert and say that you’re happy for actors to bring someone with them for safety. Actors have learned over the years to be pretty savvy but the casting call is another opportunity to put their minds at ease. However, I would always advise trying to find somewhere other than a house to hold a casting. Even if everything is entirely above board, holding the casting elsewhere will look a lot more professional. I've attended auditions held in someone's basement, a park, a rooftop and the Notting Hill branch of McDonalds. Not only did they come across as unprofessional but getting an actor to perform a harrowing scene in a fast food restaurant is not going to help them give their best. 

‘Nudity isn’t essential to get the part but it is encouraged.’
Nudity. Some actors will do it, some won’t. However, you’re unlikely to get anyone to do it if the atmosphere on set sounds like it’ll be about as comfortable as a barbed wire scarf. Firstly, look at whether you really need nudity in your film. If you don’t, get rid of it. If you really do need it then be sure to mention that it’ll be a closed set and that you’ll be using minimal crew. It might not seem like much to you but a small gesture like this can make the whole world of difference for an actor and ensure that you get the best possible performance.

‘We need eye candy for the men.’

If your casting call contains something like this then either stop being a dick or go to the person who wrote it and tell them to stop being a dick. End of.

I hope this has helped, even in the slightest. Sorry if it's come across as patronising. Sadly, as my Casting Call Woe Tumblr shows ( the world of casting calls can still be a pretty grim and murky place so let's all try and make it a little bit brighter. 

No comments:

Post a Comment