Casting is an essential element in finding good actors to play the right parts in your short film. This is often overlooked because a first time filmmaker wants the production to look great, and have the professional touch. A casting call can change all that.
Actors live your characters, and when it comes to finding the right ones, you need to know what it is you want.
Casting is a delicate process, but it can be a lot of fun, and it will also help you learn about yourself as a director and a writer (depending if you do both). The first step you need to take is to create a list of the actors you need. What defining features should they have, do they need an accent, a special haircut, or a particular skill?
Once you have a list of qualities that you want each of your actors to have, create a list and save this, as you will be able to refer to it when doing your research.
How do I find actors? Thinking out of the box can help in no budget situations. If you don’t have money to pay your actors, think about contacting your local acting school, theatre, placing ads on casting websites or even telling your friends about it.
Being organized is important, and typically a casting director will take care of the casting process for you and highlight strong actors matching your needs. If you are doing the casting yourself, be prepared to dedicate a few weeks of time finding your actors and then auditioning them.
When it comes to auditions, here are several techniques that can help you test the skill of the actor:
Get your actors to do a 2-minute improvisation. This can be based on any situation. Put them in space which forces them to react, and start talking (or moving)
If an actor tells you he/she doesn’t know how to improvise, then you are almost guaranteed that this is not what you will want. Improvisation is a natural skill every actor should have, as a film is never a straightforward ordeal. Some of the best memorable on screen moments were improvisations. One such example is Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, Are you talkin’ to me?.
Find out what your actor understands about the character? If he/she is way off, and doesn’t understand the character as you see it, this will help you find a better one.
Can your actors do accents? If your script specifies that you need someone who can do a French accent, it has to be what you are looking for. Authentic accents are important particularly in comedy genres where they are used as a character within the story.
Read two scenes with your actor. If your script is heavy on dialogue your actor needs to flow with the words. Has he/she learned your lines? Are they passionate about your film, or do they just want the fame? Is he/she breathing life into your character, or does it sound like it is the first time they have read your script or for that matter any script?
With all these in mind, you can create a point system, and attribute your pros and cons to each interviewee. At the end of your casting sessions, you can decide which actor is best matched for your film. If you haven t found the right actor, try to do another casting session.
Sometimes it can take 10 or more people before you find the right person for the role. Don’t feel guilty about rejecting your actors. It is a learning process for them, and it is a natural part of how our industry works. Competition is tough!