How to Cast a No Budget Indie Film with Casting Director Veronika Lee
Ahhhh casting. It’s probably the last thing a director or producer wants to think about during production. But it’s true: casting can make or break a film. A bad casting decision can be glaringly obvious at the worst possible time. So it’s important to get started thinking about your process early on.
On today’s show, we have casting director Veronika Lee from Backstage. We go into how to cast a no budget indie film, finding the right actors for the part and much more. She has worked on films like The Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-man 2, and Person of Interest.
(Note: IFH listeners can always cast for free by entering promo code HUSTLE at checkout at Backstage.com.)
Enjoy my conversation with casting director Veronika Lee from Backstage.
Here are some tips to ensure you get the best talent to make your project come to life:
1. Craft and post your breakdown
A breakdown is a description of your characters. While it’s important to provide your actors with detail at this early stage, be mindful you don’t have to reveal everything just yet. What motivates your character? What is his or her backstory? Especially when you are working on little to no budget, it’s important to entice actors to work with you and the clearer you are about your material, the better.
And by all means, don’t get hung up on physical attributes. We’ve all seen the backlash studios face when whitewashing films so don’t be married to the idea you need a 6’4” white stud unless you are casting for Magic Mike. Your breakdown is also a good place to list your call for special skills. Do you need someone with singing ability, martial arts, equestrian skills? Note it!
A great resource for posting your breakdown is backstage.com. Include as many details about the project as possible and include links to your previous work. Got an IMDb page? Throw it in. A YouTube reel? Include it. Awards? Mention them. Ask your applicants to include a headshot and resume.
A reel is great, if they have one, but not as an attachment since attachments are huge and can take a long time to download. Resumes are helpful, too. (Does the person have on camera training? Decent credits? These are helpful traits.) If there is no reel, ask for a candid photo so you can see what your actor really looks like versus what his or her headshot may show.
2. To SAG or not to SAG – that is the question
I am not going to give my preference either way but I will encourage your production to give a visit to SAG Indie Resources. Do you want to list any of the things they offer? Workshops, etc.? This gives a good idea to producers and directors about fair pay rates/industry standards. It’s always helpful to be familiar with their contracts – especially in the Lo-No Budget world.
Furthermore, utilizing a SAG actor does suggest that you are using an actor who is invested in his or her career. But also consider many fine actors remain nonunion because they do mostly commercial work which pays quite a bit and is mainly non-SAG. And don’t forget, regardless of union status, treat your actors as professionals. Give them call times as soon as possible, give them acceptable breaks, and include some kind of written contract.
3. How to Hold an Audition
Choose your location wisely. A public place will work but if you are in the bigger markets like NYC and L.A., holding an audition at a professional space goes a long way. (New Yorkers should look into Ripley-Grier, which offers rooms for $15/hr. and L.A. folks can check out Space Station Studios which start at $12/hr.) You shouldn’t need that much time so this is an affordable and very professional way to ensure your actors are in a comfortable environment to give their best audition. Be sure to decide in advance if you want them to do a cold reading versus prepped sides. (Backstage allows you to attach sides.)
Be mindful of the actor’s time – a lead role should have a chance to read for you about 3 times in one session. Make notes but be friendly and accommodating. A day player role should take a one or two passes at the scene you have for him or her.
Callbacks should include someone else from your production to get a second opinion. Be sure to take note of who paid attention to instruction, who seems to take direction well, and who seems overall decent to work with. And by all means, since you are dealing in the low to no budget realm, get a backup actor just in case! No one wants to get to set and have your lead actor MIA because he or she booked a better paying gig…
4. How to Get Extras in a No Budget Film
This is where I would say it’s ok to hire as many of your friends as possible. But you will want some diversity in there. You can also list for extra roles on Backstage but be mindful, for little or no pay, there is a strong chance “your diner scene” may seem a little sparse. So like I said, enlist who you have.
We get it – you are working with a strict budget. So being nice and giving something – a travel stipend, great catering, a beer when the day is done – is a great way to show your appreciation. And please, if you promise copy, give them the decency of providing copy for their reel. It’s the right and the nice, thing to do.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Backstage.com (EXCLUSIVE FREE Casting Package from Backstage.com Use the promo code HUSTLE at checkout)
- Casting Director Veronika Lee – Twitter
- Buy This is Meg on iTunes
- Hollywood Film & Television Directing Masterclass (EXCLUSIVE 50% OFF)
- Editing with DaVinci Resolve Course ($15 Special)
- Directing Actors Master Course – (30% OFF – CODE: HUSTLE)
- Hollywood Camera Work: Mastering High-End Blocking and Staging (30% OFF – CODE: HUSTLE)
- Werner Herzog’s Filmmaking MasterClass
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Master Class
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