How Do You Cast Actors in Your Independent Films?

July 25, 2019 -   Industry Tips

We can read your mind out loud: “Auditions!” But if you’ve actually been through the entire casting process at some point, then you probably realized that finding the right actors for independent films is always easier said than done. Even the most experienced casting directors endure a hectic schedule just to ensure the right faces play the roles and the director, writer, and producers are pleased. So if you’ve never held a casting session, you’ll have to do some homework prior to approaching the aspects of the entire process. It’s highly important that you know how to actually run a casting session on a basic level. 

So where exactly do you source actors from and how do you approach some of them?

How You’re Supposed to Cast Actors for Your Independent Films

casting independent films

Before you proceed, here’s an article detailing the responsibilities of a casting director.

If you’re assuming the position as casting director in your project, it is your burden to realize the characters of the story. The performance of each actor you choose can transform a film. The best actors can take words on the page, divine their meanings, and express them using the human form. All these possibilities lie in your hands.

Announcing a casting call

There’s an endless supply of talented people all over the world; it’s your job to match their profiles to the roles perfect for them. So it’s less a question of whether there are actors out here and more a matter of how you can connect with them.

It’s 2019. Design a poster for a casting notice on Photoshop or gather images related to the story then post them along with the casting call’s breakdowns on social media (personal accounts, pages, and groups). The post should include the following information:

  • The project’s title
  • The core creative team (director, producer, casting director, etc.)
  • Shooting location
  • Shoot dates (a span of days that the shoot will encompass)
  • Whether the film is a short or a feature
  • Whether the film is using a union crew and actors
  • A logline and synopsis
  • A list of all characters who are being cast, along with their ages, genders, and ethnicities where appropriate, as well as a blurb about each character, who they are, what role they play in the film overall, and whether the role is considered a lead or supporting
  • Audition venue
  • Audition dates
  • Requirements (whether they should prepare a headshot, CV, reel, monologue, song, dance routine, etc.)
  • Your contact information

You can also have this poster printed out and posted in various institutions and public places like schools, restaurants, coffee shops, and malls. Contact local theater groups and pass along a casting notice to them. Services like Backstage can assist in some cities too; currently they can post notices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, and London. On the other hand, if you are a bit old-school, you could place an ad in your local newspaper.

Conducting auditions

Look for an accessible space you could reserve for free or rent. Prepare sides and necessary forms. Some productions send the screenplay ahead so actors can decide whether or not the project overall is something they’re interested in and so they get the context about what’s happening in the sides. Other productions prescreen actors online to save time.

If you can tell right away that someone’s not right for the part, it’s still good etiquette to let them finish their audition. If an actor doesn’t nail the first take of their audition, don’t just throw them out of the audition room. More often than not, the actor in front of you is much more capable than they may seem, but just don’t ‘get the scene’. And can you really blame them? Often times they are given 2 to 3 pages of sides and expected to play the role as well as they would if they knew the script and character inside and out.

Give some direction and don’t be afraid to do 2 or 3 takes if you need to. This will also help you gauge how versatile they are.

Offering roles

The Carmarthenshire Herald

Sometimes, filmmakers and writers already have a particular actor in mind for a character. And sometimes, the actors they have in mind may already have considerable experience and an established reputation. If you think you’re being too ambitious, yes, you are, but no, it isn’t impossible to cast celebrities. There actually are actors who are eager to work on quality, inspiring independent films. Every actor is different, but sometimes, assuming there’s room in their schedule and the project is doable, a well-known actor will take on small independent films, based on the content and potential of the screenplay. This is where we pause and take a moment to emphasize the value of a well-written screenplay. The screenplay is everything, especially when you’re trying to get talent attached to your independent films. It basically constitutes a huge part of your “elevator pitch” when offering them the role.

Reach out to them or their agent/manager and let them know you have a project you’d love for them to consider. Don’t be afraid to include a line or two about why you want this specific actor to be in your film. Send them the following project details:

  • The project’s title
  • Logline and synopsis
  • Role for the actor to consider
  • Director (include a reel if you can)
  • Screenwriter
  • Producers
  • Budget
  • Shoot location
  • How many days the actor would be needed

Actors are your allies. You should want each other to succeed. Carry this truth with you for every project.