A Loophole For Finding Professional Actors

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March 01, 2011

A Loophole For Finding Professional Actors

Hey all, this installment is for the kid who wants to make his/her first movie but has no idea where to get true talent.

The worst part of making movies is of course dealing with all the legal super powers like the film commissions who issue permits, the money people (if you’re lucky enough to have money people) or worse… the unions. SAG is notorious for demanding more than most independent producers can afford. The clerical costs alone (whether your film is distributed or not) is immense because of the consistent reporting you have to do. My company Norcross Media was a SAG signatory for about three months and we couldn’t produceANYTHING.

One loophole that I’ve found to be successful in finding professionally trained actors without having to sign these terrifying agreements is to cast stage actors. These actors are union, but they’re Equity. Equity is the union for actors who perform on Broadway and film and television is waaaaay out of their jurisdiction. While some try to be SAG and Equity at the same time, there are some Equity actors who aren’t part of the Screen Actors Guild but still want to do film on the side. These are the highly talented professionals you should consider auditioning. They take direction extraordinarily well and know how to project themselves. Heck, you may even pull in a few classically trained talents and there’s no better actor than an actor who knows Shakespeare.

If you’re not living in a large city, then most smaller towns have community theater organizations. You may not find professionals but you’ll certainly find passionate people, many of whom are supportive of local “fledgling” filmmakers. Trust me when I say, casting these folks are better than giving parts out to your friends and family.

Learn more about the three main actor’s unions.

Actor’s Equity: http://www.actorsequity.org/
Screen Actor’s Guild: http://www.sag.org/
American Federation of Television & Radio Artists: http://www.aftra.org/

I hope this was useful or at least opened your mind up to new ideas.

-E

When It’s Time For A Change

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November 16, 2010

When It’s Time For A Change…

A small change can go a long way, but a big change can go hundreds of miles.

Changing your approach is a big deal. Changing your usual cast and crew: HUGE. Anyone that follows my resume of film work will see that the first bunch of films and videos I have produced and directed will notice that I’ve used most of the same cast and labor for most of these projects. Only recently did I decide to shake the tree free of those that have performed valiantly for my films in the past. This year I went on to experiment with a new cast and a new crew of behind the scenes wizards… so to speak. Some directors like to start fresh on every project and I could always see why: it is an effective measure to prevent the director’s work from going stale. It keeps the work fresh, new and different: unique from any previous works.

I had always been nervous about straying apart from the clan I had inadvertently created. I knew how everyone worked, knew their rates and found it more efficient to build the productions based on this particular knowledge. To break free and experiment with other talent I started small, beginning with Steinway Street (a film currently in post-production). For this I opted to use as little crew and talent as possible, to see if I could make a film without them. When this proved to be a success I decided to go back to my traditional style of film making with Caroline of Virginia, an extended short or short feature (depending on the festival). This time I had a cast I hadn’t worked with (or briefly worked with on previous projects) and completely new behind the scenes talent. With new talent comes a new approach, a new experimental relationship between people passionate about what they’re doing. As a result, both projects stand out among all of my previous pieces. They are fresh, they are new and I’m happier than ever that I took such a risk. Additionally the fresh faces and their drive had also inspired me to take risks in the shooting of the film, thus improving the aesthetics all around.

How do you know when it’s time to change your regulars? You’ll know. Sometimes they’ll know too. Sometimes it’s mutual, other times it isn’t. You may get bored with what they’re delivering to your projects every day, they may get bored with you and/or your projects. The key is to just move onto the next project as if it were expected by both parties, keep them in the loop with what you’re doing, but not so much so that they expect they’ll be asked to participate. In the end, if there’s no role for them, there’s no role. You have the right to work with other people and you absolutely should. The worst case scenario is you’ll break these relationships inadvertently through actions that can only result via exhaustion. I hadn’t realized it, but a couple years ago after shooting multiple shorts and a series of television pilots, I had grown tired of working with the same cast for the past few years. They were talented and dedicated, but my work was going stale and I saw no mechanism for elevating my career any further at the rate I was going. Likewise, I could see that their dependence on me and my projects were hurting their ability to get work from other filmmakers. They felt the same way but were afraid to confront this fact. With some it was subconscious and they weren’t sure how they were feeling.

At a certain point we decided to take a break to sort things out. Get our thoughts into order and figure out why things were becoming hostile between us. On my end it was meant to be a temporary break, on their end it was for good. In the end it all came as a blessing. They went back to working with the filmmakers that they had first started working with before they met me and I was able to experiment more with concepts they wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Some time ago a composer/sound designer and close friend who I had literally worked with since my first film project, decided to up and quit on me. There were a lot of reasons why, mostly because he wasn’t psychologically fit to handle a career in film. For a while I was at a loss as to who could fill his shoes. To this day I haven’t been able to replace him, but this hasn’t thwarted me in getting things done. All this has done is allowed me to find ways of networking with new crew, new talent and ultimately learn how to take on more post-production tasks myself.

With a sudden change of resources we are able to elevate ourselves in ways we cannot possibly imagine from the comfort of routine.

-E