There’s More To Your Part Than The Character

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October 08, 2009

 There’s More To Your Part Than The Character…

Thinking about working on an indie-film with an extremely low or no budget?

You’ve gone through your check list, right?

-Don’t expect the world even though the filmmakers expect the world from you.
Let’s face it, you’ll be giving a lot more than you’ll be getting. Most indie-filmmakers want to conserve what little resources they have to enhance the production value on a technical level, rather than paying an appropriate fee to their actors up front. Some will offer deferred pay, others will offer no pay or low flat rates. Know what the deal is before signing on because whether or not your getting paid, if you agree to finish the film either by signing your name on paper or with a handshake, you’re locked in.

-Pack your own lunch as a precautionary measure.
The likelihood that you may not like the food the filmmakers have to offer (if they offer anything at all) is slim. The best food for being on set: hummus and crackers, it’s light yet keeps hunger down plus extremely cost effective.

-Keep your schedule “open” regardless of the shoot schedule.
Let’s face it, if you’re spending all of your time on a film of any scale, then there’s not point in not finishing it the way it should be finish. A lot of independent films don’t go through the development process that major studio projects are provided, so re-shooting scenes or shooting additional scenes can happen a lot more often. Keep your schedule open to these “pick up” days, because you don’t want to have wasted your time on an incomplete film.

-Be prepared to do some marketing work.
Wait, what was that last one? Oh… you didn’t know? You’re not just an actor anymore there friend, you’re also working uncredited in the marketing department. You see, the tragedy of independent film is that it requires that everyone working on the project to participate on the marketing front in some form or another. So you can understand why there’s often bad blood after a film has wrapped. It’s not usually what has happened on set, it is usually what is not happening after the film is shot. When you have actors who refuse to post still images of the film on their social networking sites or are untagging themselves because they think they look fat (Facebookians know what that means), relationships can become very sticky. 2 out of 8 actors working on a film will send out a mass e-mail to their contacts whenever a new clip goes online or a premier announcement is made. The majority however, have participated strictly for the credit and copy and many have admitted that they never wanted to see the project go anywhere. They went into the audition seeking footage for their speed reel.

So with that, I have a few tips for filmmakers auditioning talents for their indie-films. Acquiring a great cast of talented actors is half the battle, but getting a talented cast that will help you promote thebegeezus out of this thing… well that’s another.

The first test is to interview them. Why waste your time auditioning massive amounts of people when you can hold quick interviews and get to know people first? Get to know their intentions? Interview them as if this were a quality job with high pay. After that, call or don’t call for an audition. It’s just as important that you know who you’re dealing with as is the person’s talent. Take the time to gauge what the person knows about their past projects. How much they contributed on developing their characters and making the production run smoother. If they helped condense six scenes into four in an effort to help the producers make their film better, great. If they helped to condense those scenes because they didn’t want to work the extra two days it would take to shoot, that’s a different story. When scheduling the interview, get their resume/credits and go through the titles. Get relevant info on each film and find out if they contributed to any of the online chatter (if any). The internet is an amazing tool, use it to your advantage.

The second test is always necessary, have them sign an audition release form. It’s a great test because there’s really no reason for it unless you plan on publishing the auditions (which you wouldn’t need to unless you cast the person, who would then sign a release form anyway). An actor giving you jive about a release is the first sign that they a. don’t trust you, b. are maybe a little self-conscious andb. are in it more for themselves and not necessarily the project.

Next, bring them in for audition 2. Request that they read for another part. Most actors won’t give you jive about this, but if they do then it’s clear that they’re not looking out for the best interest of the project. I’ve had actors on an audition call that I admired very much and have offered them alternative parts on the spot. All too often they seem offended and decline without further consideration. I would explain that the film would be better served as “you” portrayingthis character rather than that character. Most of the time they would say they’ve been in the business long enough that they feel they deserve “meatier” roles. At that point I usually discontinue communication with the individual.

There’s a lot you can do to test your applicants. A film, regardless of budget, is your baby. You have to treat it like one, that means anyone surrounding it should be screened and screened and screened again… after all, would you let someone around your baby who didn’t care about it in the least?

-E