Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why that Actor and not the other...

This is often the most mysterious aspect of casting; why do you pick one person over the other. My earliest experiences in casting were for commercials which I directed as well as writing a few also. This was mostly local commercials and a handful of nationals.

Once, I had the dream assignment for a commercial I was directing.  My assignment was to find a beautiful blonde woman for a newspaper commercial. I was ready for this and when I arrived at the casting, I learned there would be 35 blonde women around the 25 year old range. 

As it turned out, it wasn't fun, it was harder than anything I'd done till then. Why? Because I was really trying to find the right actress, the one with that extra bit of personality or, as we like to say; "presence".

Presence is what MarilynMonroe had. I had read that if Marilyn was in a room, she wouldn't be noticed that much, but put her on the big screen and she shouted presence. Or "Star quality", as others might call it.

But after about the 23rd blonde actress, I honestly didn't have any idea of whom to cast. And when the 24th blonde actress entered, I actually couldn't speak. She sat down and I just stared at her.  Not because she was pretty, but because I had seen so many in the last 2  hours that I had overdosed on blonde.

Yeah, I know, sure Jim, it's tough job. My reaction was to laugh, not at her, but at the absurdity of what I was doing. The poor girl wasn't sure what to do, and I tried my best to explain that I wasn't laughing at her. I always do my best for actors and actresses to make them feel comfortable, wanted and needed. But after 23 of them, they all began to look the same.

And that's where the casting for Casualties of Love comes in. We had to cast 3 male leads, around 40 years old and a female lead around 21. We videotaped all 12 people that we had narrowed down from about 50. One great thing is the website I mentioned, "Now Casting" as it not only has head sheets but also video clips of some of the actors.

I decided to read the male actors with the same sides, a few pages of dialog. From this Chris and I could decide who the better actors were and thus, we could make the different parts work for whichever actor was best suited.

Now there are as many ways to cast as there are directors and casting directors. Since we are on a low budget, we were also the casting directors. The actors came in, they read for the parts and they left.

Usually Chris and I exchanged opinions right after an actor would leave and there would be 10 minutes before the next actor entered. But evaluating an actor's live performance and how they come across on video are sometimes two different things.

We had 4 girls for the 21-year old role and both Chris and I settled on one particular girl who had good reactions in her reading, very subtle rather than over-the-top. The men were different, each one had their method of acting, some memorized the pages, others never even looked at the script until they arrived.

Some were more forceful than others, some quiet, some flat. I always find it curious how 8 actors can say the same lines and yet be so different. I tend to go with honesty, by that I mean which performance sounds real and honest. Think Robert Duvall, who continues to be so subtle that sometimes you don't know he's acting.

But a few days later, after I cut the video into clips and shared it with several friends, all of whom were directors or writers or even actors. And a whole new list appeared. The 21-year old role seemed to work better by a girl who used motions, rather than the subtle one.

And the men came across as almost exactly as they did live, except for an exception or two. And after two weeks, and more comments from my film friends (male and female), I reconsidered some of the choices again.

As of now, I'm going to look at the casting dvd again, this time with the distance I had by going to Toronto for 10 days. Since the reading will take place in the next week or so we need to solidify our choices.

And even then, nobody knows exactly how these 5 actors will work with each other, which ones will shine and which will not. Or maybe they all will. Wouldn't that be nice.

(Mon: Mars)