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In San Francisco, casting for an independent film, I went hunting around town for actors to invite to auditions. I do this because I like to discover interesting characters in addition to — or instead of — doing formal casting.
I’m not one of those producers who say they always cast “real people,” not actors, or who say that “anybody can act if you find the right look.” I don’t care how famous the producer is or how successful their movies have been (Jodie Foster has been quoted saying something similar about “Little Man Tate,” but I think she’s wrong.) So, I’m not looking for “real people” with the right look; I’m looking for a skilled actor with the right internal psychology to play a particular character.
In pursuit of my characters’ interpreters, I dropped in on a film criticism class. After observing people interacting with the teacher, sitting in their chairs, smoking on break, and in the hallways with other students, I left a stack of my business cards with the teacher, asking him to invite any actors who happened to be in his class to email me a headshot and résumé. (My production company uses a special email address that is only for receiving headshots.)
DON’T DO THIS. An actor from the class took the email address and put us on a mailing list. We got her newsletter with (boring, truly) chat about her projects and photos of her in various headgear: hats, veils or wigs. The newsletter even included snapshots of her trip to Italy with her husband. Puh-leeze. After having my assistant opt out multiple times, we are still getting her newsletters.
DO THIS. I was at a Screenwriters Guild meeting. Before the main event — speaker, workshop, reading, whatever — everyone is sucked into the bountiful vortex of the snack and drinks table. With our mouths full and our hands reaching out for more cheese-n-crackies (that’s me: my vice is food; but, as we know, most screenwriters are notoriously either heavy drinkers or recovering alcoholics, so the snack table is airy while the drinks table at these events is … well … sardines) we all gab about what we’re working on.
Most of these folks are simply (not simple, by any means) writers, though there also are always a few members, like me, who are currently producing what we’ve already written or producing someone else’s film. I mumbled through my cambozola about the film I was working on that was in pre-production. The story is about a woman who runs a wolf refuge and finds herself forced to work in a dotcom to raise money in a hurry to keep her refuge from being sold to land developers. (I think it’s a great story.)
Some members of the guild are screenwriters slash actors. One of these hyphenate souls grabbed me during a break in the evening and told me how much fun he thought the story was and how he’d love to see it shot in town. He asked me about the story and about the production. After we chatted, he gave me his card — a tiny headshot with his email and phone. I will remember him as someone who was interested in my story; not simply in getting a role, any role.
Next week, shall I talk about getting cast in voice work, or shall I talk about formal auditions? Let me know in the comments below.Tags: actors, auditioning, casting, independent films, indie films, jodie foster, little man tate, networking, producers, producing, screenwriters, wolves