How Independent Filmmakers Can Nail the Casting Process on a Budget
Every filmmaker understands the power of actors in bringing a script to life. For big productions, it’s highly beneficial to appoint a casting director to discover the perfect talent for your film. However, if you’re an independent filmmaker working with a limited fund pool, chances are you’ll also be wearing the casting hat.
There are a number of reasons that a filmmaker should bring on board a casting director. Actors can make or break a film’s success, so hiring an expert to track down the best possible fit for your film should be a big consideration.
A good casting director will be able to interpret the script and creative direction, visualise the perfect talent and leverage their networks to help you secure the actors that will breathe life into the script.
However, when a film is being produced independently of a studio, it’s up to the producer to secure funding, which sees tight budgets stretched across all aspects of production. More often than not, indie films are created with a skeletal crew and a casting director simply may not be on the cards.
We dive into some strategies that filmmakers can implement to cast actors within budget, whilst not sacrificing star quality.
ONLINE CASTING PLATFORMS
Casting Networks and Showcast are two online casting platforms highly recommended by leading Australian casting agencies such as McGregor Castings and Mullinars Casting Consultants.
These act as a database and directory for actor profiles, showreels and headshots. Casting directors or filmmakers can browse and filter talent, post casting calls, manage submissions, schedule auditions with shortlisted talent and ultimately book a cast.
At the time of writing, Showcast charges $200 AUD for a 12-month membership, or $175 AUD for a 6-month membership for casting directors. Casting Networks allows project creators to post a casting call for free by submitting a brief for approval.
Both platforms also require talent to pay a membership fee, weeding out non-actors and ensuring you will only receive serious applications to your casting call.
USE INDUSTRY NETWORKS
Casting directors with years of experience will have strong relationships with talent agencies, actors and their representatives, which is often fundamental for securing well-known actors who are pitched hundreds of scripts a week.
Whilst having these actors attached to your film can be a great move for marketing, most independent filmmakers will be on the hunt for a fresh face looking for opportunity.
Indie filmmakers too have personal networks they should leverage, from fellow creative professionals who can refer actors they’ve worked with, to film societies and acting schools.
These scouts and talent agencies can be found all over Australia, representing actors of all backgrounds and experience levels who may be the perfect fit to audition for your film.
Sending them a clear casting call can be a big time-saver, however, take into account that any talent booked will incur agent fees (commonly starting at 10% commission) which may hike up an actor’s fee.
ASK FOR SELF TAPES
The global pandemic has seen many industries adapting to new and remote ways of working and casting is no different. Gone are the days of hundreds of actors lining up outside of a studio for their chance to audition before a table of casting directors.
Recently we are seeing more and more audition rounds being conducted online or via self tape before a shortlist is selected to audition in person.
Not only does this save costs in hiring out formal audition spaces for the day, but it opens the door for a wider pool of submissions for interstate actors or those with conflicting schedules.
Make sure to provide a clear brief for the taping along with one to two pages of material for the reading. Audition briefs and self-tape submissions can also be facilitated and received directly through Casting Networks and Showcast.
If you wish to hold virtual live auditions instead, We Audition is another great platform that allows casting directors to interact with the actor and record multiple live takes. It is completely free for both filmmakers and any actors that audition.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN…
Whilst you may be stretching an indie film budget far, it’s important to allocate sufficient funding to compensate your actors for their time.
There are minimum pay rates in Australia supported by the Media and Arts Alliance (MEAA) for both actors and extras in TV and film shoots.
See Equity Minimums set by MEAA here to make sure you have enough funds set aside for acting wages.
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