Thursday, October 21, 2010

Casting Actors

"Casting is 90% of what happens with acting. If you cast wrong you're in a lot of trouble." 
                                                                                  - Paul Mazursky

"I think 80% of what you contribute to the film is the selection of actors."
                                                                                  - Stephen Spielberg

Tomorrow, Friday, I will be casting 4 actors for a reading of my screenplay, The Casualties of Love, about three middle-aged men who once had a rock band called by the title of the screenplay. 

While it's not casting for actually filming the screenplay, it does play an important part in the development of the film, which I hope to make before the end of the year. And it is likely that the actors I choose will play the characters in the film.

So why am I doing a full reading?

Normally a reading is usually done once the production is going ahead, sometimes a few weeks before production and sometimes the day of the production, depending on the financing. Many independent films are often rushed into production as their source of money comes or goes.

Since I have time and, at this point, no investors, what I want at this stage is to find actors to do a script reading which would allow me to "hear" the screenplay as performed by real, live actors.

Having them sit around in a comfortable atmosphere, I can listen to the words and make notes on what works and what doesn't. Naturally no screenplay is perfect and this way I can measure the pacing and look for oddities, lines of dialog that don't work. And there are plenty of those. I will use my notes to do another rewrite of the screenplay.

It's kind of like a rehearsal for the rehearsal and the movie.

Another reason is to video the entire reading and afterwards, cut some of the better scenes out for what could be called a "trailer" or demo for the movie itself. Then I can take it in the form of a DVD to investors along with a hard copy of a proposal for possible investment. I will also offer an email version of the above, with a pdf of the proposal and a Youtube address for the video. I'll also give all of you the Youtube URL to watch if you want to.

This isn't anything new, I learned about this while doing commercials years ago, we'd often do an animated version of the commercial before we got the job, showing our ideas. It worked half the time, but half is better than nothing.

There's only one outstanding issue that I will face.

I really don't like casting all that much.

I find it often uncomfortable to talk to a dozen or more actors over the period of a few hours, knowing that only one will get the job. Rejection is part of this business and one has to learn to be tough and deal with it. I think actors have the most rejection, followed by writers, and then maybe directors.

But the difference with actors is this; they are judged mostly on how they look. Sure talent and acting ability is always considered, but all you  have to do is watch an evening of the  CW network's shows to see that acting is not really a priority.

It's one thing to be judged by your screenplay, but it's another to be judged by the way you look. One type of look can make you a star, another type can make you a "character actor". The irony is, it's not always your choice.

And even as I talk to the actors tomorrow, I know that most of them are hoping to get the part. Some won't really care and others might not like the script. But any credit is a credit to actors and the ones we're getting obviously aren't big stars. They're mostly not even recognizable to the average person. They're who 90% of the actors in SAG are, the average occasionally-working actor whose yearly income from acting is somewhere between $5000 and $15,000.

Other income comes from various jobs; waiter/waitress of course, limo driver, phone soliciting, anything that offers part time work to allow actors to go to auditions or acting classes. It's a tough life.

A lot of people say that actors made that choice, so they have to live with it. I agree, but the same goes for me and most writers, and I don't complain. And most actors don't, at least the most passionate ones.

So this is what I'm going to face tomorrow; actors who right now, today, are excited they have an audition, some will tell their friends, some will be cynical and expect to not be chosen, and some will just be ready to expose their hearts to a complete stranger.

So maybe now you can see why I don't always like casting, I guess because I know their pain, so to speak, yeah, it's a simple and corny comparison, but it's real.

nd even though we're dealing with "less-famous" actors, rejection doesn't affect only them. Stars get rejected all the time as well, big ones too. The difference is that they just retreat and feel a failure in their $5 million home off Mulholland while some of our actors go back to their waitress gig and wait for the next break, that they know will be theirs.

So tomorrow, I will arrive early to the little theater we rented just off Sunset Boulevard and Chris and I will prepare to meet them. We will say pleasant hellos, thank them for coming and then let them read off Chris (who will play the opposite parts).

They have already read the "sides", which are 2-4 page segments of the screenplay in which the actor's dialog is long enough to give us an idea of the actor's abilities.  They were emailed the sides and have had a few days to read and memorize the lines. Then I might ask them to change it a bit and see how they handle direction.

And I know I will see some mediocre performances, some good ones and hopefully some performances that will totally make me think they are the characters. All of this in 15 minutes for each of them.

Sometimes I know from the start that they are wrong for the part, yet I will thank them again for coming and wish them luck, knowing that I can only choose four. But sometimes they will be great and I can't quite explain why; I think it's because their acting is honest, maybe, and that shines. And what works for me might not work for you.

There probably is nowhere where directors differ than in casting; each has their own method, some cold and uncaring, others jaded, some insecure and some warm and comforting.

And most of them are also unsure.

You'll never know if your choices of actors work until you begin the movie, and then, you realize you'll never really know until it's been edited, scored and ready to show an audience who will ultimately decide if you were right or wrong.

(Mon: Casting Results)