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 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 a copy for their reel. It’s the right and the nice, thing to do.
Alex Ferrari 1:42
So today we have on the show Veronica Lee from backstage magazine. They are the leading resource for casting your films, your television shows, your series, your streaming series, everything and it's a topic that I've not covered very often here on the podcast. Actually, I've never covered this topic on the podcast with which is casting, which is something that a lot of filmmakers and industry people in general thinks Yeah, like, like as a side thought, like, Oh, yeah, we got to get a casting agent to do casting. And it's such an important part of the process you when you cast properly. You don't have to direct that hard. Like they said, you know, casting is 90% of directing. And it's true. I've worked with, you know, amateur and more green actors, and I've also worked with the highest and professional And trust me, when you work with these really amazing, highly, highly trained actors, it makes your life so easy as a director. So I got Veronica from backstage to come on the show and really talk about the process of casting, how you can cast for independent films, how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to casting an actor, all sorts of things we cover in this episode, it is truly kind of a masterclass in in casting and how to cast the film. And of course, as members of the indie film hustle tribe, you guys get a free casting package worth $100 on backstage comm, you can use all of their services for free $100 package. So cast your movie, for free, all you got to do is use the coupon code, hustle when you check out and get that free package, my gift to you all. Without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Veronica Lee from backstage magazine. I'd like to welcome to the show Veronica Lee from backstage. Thank you so much for doing the show
Veronika Lee 6:03
Thank you for having me. I'm so excited.
Alex Ferrari 6:05
You are the first casting person we've ever had on the show. And I can't believe I've neglected casting so long on the show. And it's something I guess happens very often in the film business people kind of forget about the casting process.
Veronika Lee 6:19
Well, casting people are like, very like secret squirrels. You know, they're, like, very clandestine and secretive. And I think they try to maintain a low profile, probably because we're being contacted by actors like all the time.
Alex Ferrari 6:34
That's, that's true. And if there's, if there's a group of people that are are eager to get into the business, more than indie filmmakers, I'm gonna throw out actors and writers probably, but actors
Veronika Lee 6:47
Have no idea. Like, I remember when I was first starting in the business, I was doing casting for m Night Shyamalan in Philadelphia. And like, literally, people were looking up. I mean, oh, my God, I'm like, giving my age away right now. But people were like, looking at my family in the phonebook. And calling them and asking if they could be in his movie. It's, it's I
Alex Ferrari 7:11
I can only imagine, imagine, like, my grandparents were like, in their 80s. And they were like, like this dude. Who's doing night? Night, it's nighttime. So yeah. That's, that's insane. And yeah, cuz I couldn't, I just couldn't imagine it's on when you're working on those kind of high level projects. That, you know, actors are just desperate to get into these because they know if they could get in a movie like that. It can launch a career. It could, it could take off. So it there's very high stakes there. But I guess you guys are one of the many gatekeepers, but as far as the casting, you are the main gatekeeper?
Veronika Lee 7:54
Well, I think it's always like, it's great to have a casting director on your project, if you can afford one, or if you have a friend that's willing to do it, because it is going to eliminate some of that, that push, you know, the actors are going to want to reach out to you as a director, directly. So it's like you kind of need the gatekeeper between you and the acting community, not to dis actors, but they can be very persistent.
Alex Ferrari 8:21
That's a really PC word you just use, they're persistent.
Veronika Lee 8:26
I don't I don't want to come off as actors, you know, it's just, um, you know, it's like I said, you know, in casting directors, we're known for being a little prickly. You know, we can be scary and intimidating. I mean, I think that's why I've done well. And
Alex Ferrari 8:46
Yeah, and I haven't even asked a question yet. We're just kind of just kind of riffing right now. But I know it's not Yes, just completely, that's excellent. But when I'm, when I cast, I generally try to be as nice as humanly possible to the actors, because it's just brutal. It's a brutal process. That's very nice of you. I try to because as as, as a director, you know, I'm just in there. And then it's a cattle call a lot of times, you know, they're just actors coming in and out for a commercial or a music video, or for a feature or something like that. And, you know, they're out there and they've been, you know, they're trying and I try to be as nice as possible. But sometimes the second they walk in the room, I you know, as a director, they're not right for the part because they're not physically what I'm looking for, for the character or for the part and has nothing to do with them or their skill. And that's brutal. That's a brutal experience for Yeah, for somebody because it has nothing to do with them as a person or their talent as an actor. I'm like, you know, you happen to be 510 and white, I'm looking for 610 and Asian.
Veronika Lee 9:51
That's one thing that I always charged. I'm trying to impose upon indie filmmakers. Now I'm a bit more is that To open your mind with casting as much as possible, a lot of times, like you'll, you know, you'll have somebody like hell bent that it's got to be like this hot, you know, 510 one dude with all these muscles, and it's like, the role doesn't really require that, you know, so I'm always like really especially like in this day and age where they're really stressing, diversity casting and things like that. And, um, you know, if you if you don't get married to an idea of the visual, I think that opens up your mind to a lot more talent. But speaking to what you were saying about being nice is like, my, my friend and a fellow casting person, Eli Cornell, we, we actually still work together. He, he just, he's amazing. Like, I he's one of the people, few people in the industry that I've met, and I admire because, you know, in the casting room, he's so kind and so accommodating. And he's like this, like six foot two dude from Michigan, like, you think he'd be like, really, like intimidating. He's just the nicest person and just so empathetic towards actors. And I think that goes such a long way. I struggle with it myself. Because after you've seen so many people, you're like, Oh, my gosh, you know, but that's a really good quality to have. Just be nice.
Alex Ferrari 11:20
You know, that's a general quality that you should have in the business because people in general want to work with nice people as opposed to asses. Right, you know, as a general statement,
Veronika Lee 11:30
Wasn't it? Conan O'Brien, who said if you work hard, and you're nice to people, you'll go far. Like I I believe that
Alex Ferrari 11:36
It's very, it's absolutely true. It's absolute. Look at Ron Howard, you know, considered one of the nice guys in the business.
Veronika Lee 11:42
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I met people that have worked with him and just have nothing but nice things to say. Like,
Alex Ferrari 11:50
No question. And being nice is a big under underestimated quality. As a filmmaker and actor, writer, whoever actors are sensitive, like we're talking. Yeah, no, no. And they're not they're not dramatic at all. No, no. stoic practically Winston Churchill's. Alright, so let's start getting let's, let's ask a couple questions. So how did you get in the business? First of all, what made you kind of jump into that? How do you get into the casting and how did you get into business in general?
Veronika Lee 12:22
Okay, I'm trying to think of a short way to say this. Um, so I actually went to college for English literature at U Penn, and I jumped into graduate school. I am like a big literature nerd, but I also was obsessed with like film, I would use it when I was a TA, teacher's assistant to teach people about writing kind of as a tool. And you know, I was really obsessed with Hitchcock, Hitchcock and tr fro and stuff when I was in college. And I don't know if you noticed, but the world out there for a writer right now isn't really that hot of a commodity. Journalism. I, my first job was working at like a small newspaper just outside Philadelphia. And believe it or not, it went under.
Alex Ferrari 13:17
No. Yeah. It's amazing. It's amazing.
Veronika Lee 13:22
So I went back to my, my college and I was like, hey, like, I really need a job. And there was an internship available for this Jamie Foxx movie. And this is so horrible. I swear. I can't even remember the name of it.
Alex Ferrari 13:37
Oh, God. It's in Philadelphia. Yes. It's Gary Gray was the director. Yes. Yes. It was a really bad I think it was like booty call. No, it wasn't booty call. Okay. It wasn't buco. Yeah. It was one of those movies in the in the in the 90s when Jamie Foxx
Veronika Lee 13:56
Was 2000. It was it was Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx law abiding citizen. Oh, okay.
Alex Ferrari 14:02
Well, okay, that one I thought it was like going far back and Jamie Oh, no. So yeah, of course. Of course. That was a good film. And
Veronika Lee 14:09
Yeah, so Okay, the first day like I got an internship in the script department. And literally, I knew nothing about film sets. Okay, so I'm like walking on the set, walking around with a copy of the script. And I'm getting in the shot and the DP like, is like, you know, what, duck down behind that? That box and I was like, excuse me, and he said duck down. I ended up having to duck down behind that box for four hours while they got the shot and he was like, that'll teach you not to walk into a film set.
Alex Ferrari 14:40
You are Fresh Off the Boat My dear. Yeah, Fresh Off the Boat. I was horrified.
Veronika Lee 14:46
So then after that long story short, I you know how it goes in film. You just end up getting hired on the next one.
Alex Ferrari 14:54
Yeah, if you're good and you weren't a complete ass and you did a competent job and they like you They're like, well, I don't want to have to deal with someone new. I know this person. Let's just keep bringing them on.
Veronika Lee 15:04
Exactly. Exactly. And um, so I got brought on to and Night Shyamalan. Oh, God forgive me The Last Airbender.
Alex Ferrari 15:14
Sorry about that. Sorry about that.
Veronika Lee 15:17
My dad liked it. You know, my dad liked it. He saw my name in the movie theater. He was like so proud.
Alex Ferrari 15:23
He's the one that saw it. He's the one that went to the theater was the one person who went to
Veronika Lee 15:27
The zoo. So I shouldn't knock it because night is actually like a really nice person. But I'm there. I just went on to to work on a Tony Danza show, which is a whole nother podcast. And I'm no offense to Tony. And then I moved to New York and got I did casting full time. And there I was just doing extras casting and de player. Yes. Maybe some stunt people sprinkled here and there. And then so began the New York chapter of my life.
Alex Ferrari 16:04
And then you started working and you worked on films like Dark Knight Rises, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, some very fairly large movies. They're a little bit
Veronika Lee 16:14
People might have heard like Marty Scorsese, or
Alex Ferrari 16:17
Yes, so you did you work with Marty. I did help with the Wolf of Wall Street. Oh, well, I mean that. I look, I would, I would, I would fetch him coffee. So
Veronika Lee 16:32
You know, it's funny because my grandfather was really excited to see that in the theater. And I was like, No, no, not this one. No, I don't think it's appropriate and watch the wolf of Wallstreet in the theme now, I don't I think you would have had a heart attack. So
Alex Ferrari 16:50
What so what is the process of you know, can you take us through what it's like to to help cast or be part of the casting team of a huge you know, $200 million movie like Dark Knight Rises or, or big tentpole like Teenage Mutant or Wolf of Wall Street?
Veronika Lee 17:06
Okay, well, maybe I guess the best. The best examples I can give are like from Ninja Turtles, or like this CBS show person of interest. Great show. I
Alex Ferrari 17:16
Missed that show. Oh, thank you. I love that show. You're not know anybody else. Watch that. Oh, I love my wife. And I was addicted to that show. We'd love
Veronika Lee 17:24
Oh, okay, we're gonna have to talk about that some some other time. So, yeah, um, what? Yeah, let's focus on person adventures, that might be the best way to describe Okay, um, so one, you will never sleep, the whole duration of the show, it just won't happen. Um, you get a breakdown of like, you know, most of what I did was extras, but on person of interest. I also did day players. And I also did some stunt, like stunt stuff, like passing on people that I thought can be good to the stunt coordinator and that kind of thing. Um, so you have these production meetings, and like, Person of Interest was like JJ Abrams, and he like, beyond the big screen up there, like, you know, talking to us, like the Wizard of Oz. And Jonathan Nolan. And just like, sitting across from me, and I like, I'm not really a starstruck person, but I love the Dark Knight. So just thinking like, Wow, cool. Um, but they kind of when the script, you know, is kind of in about to be ready, you know, they make a list of all the characters that they want and what you can expect, with day players, honestly, like, it was literally there was the principal casting office, and they would handle it to like seven or eight o'clock at night, and then I would end up getting the people that they added to the script at like, 11 o'clock at night. Oh, right. So I, you know, I basically got the last minute stuff, and it was just constantly like, like I said, you just don't sleep. And sometimes, like on a high, high paced thing like that, it just ends up being who's available.
Alex Ferrari 19:13
Um, Isn't that crazy? Like people are dying to get on the show, but let's certain point you're like, Look, can you show up tomorrow at 9am?
Veronika Lee 19:21
9am it's more like, can you be there at four o'clock? And yeah, yes, your book. I think you can act. Yeah. Can you read this line for me? Okay, cool. You're hired. You know, that's the way it works, isn't it? It is. Yeah. And I admit, like, whenever, you know, I, you know, I don't have a theater background. I mean, my theater background is like, I'm an Oscar Wilde nerd. Um, but like, I don't know a lot about acting, but I do know how people work with one another. And I do think that I have a good sense of how people can take direction, which I think okay, bring it back to the indie film scene. You know, I think it's really important. To in whoever you're auditioning to make sure that it's somebody who can follow instructions, like I'm talking 10, they get to the place where you're holding the audition on time, can they you know, bring the prepared materials, that's a good sign. Obviously, you want somebody who can demonstrate like some range for you in case you want to take a scene in a different direction. And I guess, also just somebody that can really take your direction, if you're, you know, the director, dealing directly with the person. You know, you just want to make sure that this is going to be somebody that you you can get along with, because you don't want somebody like, I always say to an indie film, have a backup. Interesting. have a backup, because especially if you're not paying people, oh, yeah. You know, like, if it's deferred payment, or, you know, you can't guarantee that there'll be anything but snacks and beer, have a backup, because actors do get called for, you know, that might be the day of your, you know, your first shoot day, and they get called for their first $800 commercial. You know, so you want to have somebody on the backburner, and I would be honest with that person, you know, I would be like, Hey, you know, I'm, I really like you. And I think you could be great for this film. You know, I'd love to have you, you know, on set in case things don't work out. Um, just be kind. And be honest. You know, um, I just think it's good to always have actors even extras in your back
Alex Ferrari 21:38
Pocket, just in case because that's true. Like, once you've you've gathered all the troops, you're spending the money to be there for the day, and all of a sudden, your main actor is not there, or even a part of it, and part of the ensemble is not there. And then now, what do you do? Like, right, you're screwed, and you lost all that money. So better to have a little bit of an insurance policy in the background, just in case.
Veronika Lee 22:01
And also, I'm gonna say right now, don't cast your friends, which, like,
Alex Ferrari 22:05
Which is the opposite of Hallmark do pluses?
Veronika Lee 22:08
Yeah. Um, I, I just, I really like it stinks. When you see like, a really good script. And, you know, like, I go to film festivals all the time. And like, I just, I see so many great scripts, but I'm like, Man, this person hired everybody that they went to middle school with, which is cool. But none of them have any acting training. And it hurts the production.
Alex Ferrari 22:32
I mean, I'll tell you, I've worked with some of the highest end minnow Oscar winning actors. And I've also worked with people straight off the boat. And, man, it's so much easier when you have a good. Yeah, it's so much it makes your job as a director, just you just sit there and go, I need you to do this. Okay. And they're done in a taker too. And we can move on, it's so wonderful to work with. Yeah, good actors. So it is and it's underestimated. by a lot of,
Veronika Lee 23:01
It's a learning experience for you, you know, if you set your sights on, on, you know, working with, you know, really talented people in the future, you want to learn how to direct an actor properly. Just with your friend from you know, your blink when you need two days or whatever, like, I can't even imagine like my friends and any of that they're like, I don't know. So
Alex Ferrari 23:27
I completely that I completely understand it. And I've worked with, I've actually never cast friends. I don't think in any of my projects then got, but I've had server no board for that I've actually never cast and if I have cast a friend, they're actors, they're real actors. So that Yeah, I've never actually cast some a non Actor in a role that I can even remember. So I knew that much.
Veronika Lee 23:49
But sometimes it works out like my friend Rob, cuz now he is a Detroit based filmmaker, and he did this project with his brother that's going to screen don't quote me where it's going to screen but um, I don't know what it was. But his brother when I watched the screener, I'm like, this guy's really got something like, I think this guy really should pursue being an actor. But that rarely happens for me. I'm rarely like, wow, you should really stick with this.
Alex Ferrari 24:18
It happens every once in a while. But yeah, but generally speaking, try to get some high end professional actors, and a lot of times they don't have to be sag actors or a lot of good actors. Oh, we're not a horse not sag. Right? I
Veronika Lee 24:30
I think that's a big misconception that you have to hire a SAG actor for them to be a quality actor. Because a lot of actors choose to say non union because they want to do commercials which are not sag. Right and commercials. That's where the money is. And also, to me the superior catering. Yes. I've been on the Wolf of Wall Street set and I've been on a committee All set for like at No, no, my room, I don't know that catering is is way better,
Alex Ferrari 25:06
Because they only have to hand have that catering for two or three days. Six months. Right, exactly. You know, some of the best some of the best catering I've had has been on on TV TV shows, I found really Yeah, I was I was on working on 24 or not working when I was visiting the set of 24 and Castle, and those kind of shows. And I was like, wow, this is really good. But mind you, I was coming from indie world, which you know, catering is generally the spinning wheels of death, which are Pete Yeah. So I like pizza. I do. I
Veronika Lee 25:41
I think I'd rather a pizza than like, you know, I hate it when you go to crappy and you see like just sandwich bread and like peanut butter and jelly. Right. That's all we got today.
Alex Ferrari 25:52
So um, so can you tell me a little bit about your work with backstage? And can you tell us a little bit about backstage?
Veronika Lee 25:58
Yeah, um, so I am kind of like a jack of all trades at backstage. Um, I really focus on helping like the indie film community tap into, you know, their casting needs. We have a platform where we have 1000s of actors who are registered with our site. And we provide casting tools for filmmakers. Obviously, we get a lot of the higher profile stuff too. Like we do, you know, like, right now we have casting notices up for like the new Al Pacino film and all that kind of stuff. But you know, we also give indie filmmakers the opportunity to, you know, just directly connect with actors. So, um, yeah, I kind of advise people on like, how to make a breakdown, you know, that kind of stuff? Because some people are just lost? Oh, well,
Alex Ferrari 26:52
That's a really good question. How do you do a breakdown? Because explain what a breakdown is? Because a lot of filmmakers have no idea.
Veronika Lee 26:59
Okay, so you have a script, and you have characters in your script. And yes, they have dialogue, but the actors auditioning for your roles, they need to know, you know, the backstory of the characters, they need to know, you know, pertinent information that's relevant relative to the project. I mean, I don't know about you how comfortable you are about sharing your scripts. Um, you know, before your project is like actually shooting. But a lot of people you know, you're not going to have an actor come in for an audition and read your entire script. You might do that for callbacks. But breakdown is really important, because I feel like they also can really, I, you know, I get it. Like in the film world, a lot of us just want to type something up and put it out and just throw it out in the universe and not care. I can't even tell you, like, I know, a breakdown that was typed on an iPhone, I know it. When I see a lack of detail on like, come on, man. Like you want some good people on your project, you got to give them some meat. So I think being descriptive, but to the point is really important. So like, for example, I'll just say like, it'll say, main character. Um, I'll just say Oscar Wilde, you know, charming, witty, clever, you know, is a closeted gay man in Victorian England.
Alex Ferrari 28:28
I don't know, fair enough. Anything. Yeah, you know, as much detail as you as much detail as you can about the character without going crazy.
Veronika Lee 28:36
Right? Without going crazy. Yeah, don't go too overboard. But that's part of my job is like, you know, like, I'll see a breakdown of like, hey, okay, we're not having the actors reread war and peace here. Okay, like, I get your vision and your passion, but let's cut it a little bit. You know,
Alex Ferrari 28:53
It's exactly. Now. I wanted to ask your opinion plus or minuses of using a casting director versus casting directly using like a service like backstage?
Veronika Lee 29:05
Well, like I mentioned before, I think, you know, a casting director, if you can afford one is great, because they are the gatekeeper. Um, I would say especially though, if you're, I don't know, I guess I I'm kind of thinking as I'm talking to more about indie filmmakers. Um, I think, you know, when it comes to shooting like a scene in a restaurant, and you need 25 extras, you really don't want to handle that yourself when you are the filmmaker or you are the producer. So, in those situations where you're going to need background, I would definitely want a casting director. Um, if you're really pushing for, like a project that you want to enter into a festival, um, man, hire a casting director who knows to help you, you know, you're lucky if you have one as a friend, right? But you don't want to do it yourself though. Like, let's say you're just at the phase where you're like, kind of making shorts. And, you know, to me, and I don't want to upset a CSA casting society in America, because I think casting directors are amazing. And they don't get enough. A shout out. But um, you know, I think you can, you can do it yourself.
Alex Ferrari 30:23
And nowadays, you can,
Veronika Lee 30:24
Yes, nowadays, you can do it yourself on the level of, you know, an indie project. But like I said, if you want really some talent, also, I should say to like a casting director, probably the biggest trait of them is like, we're a Rolodex of faces and talent, that you're constantly like, matching up to opportunities, you know, um, so maybe you don't get out to see you know, the theater all the time. And you you don't know what actors are out there and what their capabilities are. But casting directors kind of have to maintain that knowledge of who's doing what and, you know, you never know if this person can be like, you know, hey, this person is really good. I saw them in a play, they'd be perfect for this project.
Alex Ferrari 31:09
No, would you agree, though, and I've and I've worked, I've done both I've done direct and casting directors. Do you agree, though, if you're trying to find a little bit higher echelon actor, with maybe a little bit more marketability, you really should go through casting director, unless you've got you know, unless you've a filmmaker who have 20 feet features under your belt or producer has 20 features under your belt, and can call the agent directly. a casting director a lot of times has a direct relationship with these actors, and kind of cuts out the middleman so you can get to actors that are bigger, using a casting director much easier than you trying to do it yourself. Does that make sense?
Veronika Lee 31:47
Yeah, I do. I do think what you're saying, like the upper echelon and stuff, but also I wouldn't underestimate like the a bit like just the power of second and third opinions in a room when you're running auditions. I mean, you're a director or you're a producer, you're not without vision, you know, you can tell when somebody is like giving a good reading out. Yeah, absolutely. Those upper echelon actors, if that's what you're really trying to get, you know, I would get a casting director, but I also don't, you know, on the indie level, if you're trying to save time and money, I think, you know, it can be done.
Alex Ferrari 32:25
Absolutely, absolutely. Now, how can an indie filmmakers project stand out to actors when they're doing a casting call?
Veronika Lee 32:33
I think something I always hear from actors is that they are really into like MIDI roles MIDI, that is the word they use, even though most of them are vegan novice,
Alex Ferrari 32:45
Specially here in California.
Veronika Lee 32:48
But yeah, you know, if you give great material, or you you know, you've really invested a lot in this script, I think that's, that will attract actors to your project. Also, if you have goals, you know, if you have specific goals, like I'm aiming to get this into this festival, um, and that's another thing that I think like, I, you know, I always have, like, indie filmmakers talk to me that they, they film their project, but they're not really sure of what what their goals are. And I'm like, maybe you just do some research on film festivals, and where you can get this thing screened before you even you know, shoot your project, maybe. I mean, I'm coming from the casting side, but also I do a bit of promotion for these kind of projects. So I feel like if you're telling an actor, hey, our goal is to get this in the, you know, Atlanta Film Festival next year. That that gives them oh, you know, like, I might be featured in something, you know, and then that helps you negotiate kind of, you know, working for no pay and that kind of thing.
Alex Ferrari 33:57
Right, exactly. And just on a side note, what's your opinion on the whole working for pay working for no pay? His actors are concerned because I find it that actors are generally one of the more abused other than writers are one of the most abused of people in the system in the business in general. And that, you know, they're just like, Oh, look, you know, you're an actor. Do you want it on your reel or not? I'm not gonna pay you anything. You know, there's that attitude, but there's also like, Hey, you know, I can't afford to pay you something, but I'm gonna just gonna at least give you gas money. You know, so in a meal. Yeah. So what's your opinion on on how filmmakers? Should we actually work with actors sometimes, even if they have no money?
Veronika Lee 34:38
If you have no money, the least you can do is provide them with me like a meal and buy him a drink after it's over. You know, like, if they don't, you know, like, don't just end treat them really well. And like, you know, be sure I can't believe how many times I encounter filmmakers who end up now. ever even given the copy? Um, no, God, that's so come on. Yeah, I did this for nothing. Like, I always, like I talked to student filmmakers a lot. And I'm like, always give them the copy. Like, this is what they're doing it for, you know, like,
Alex Ferrari 35:17
That's their payment.
Veronika Lee 35:19
Right, exactly. But, um, you know, I think if you can respect their time, I mean, I have, I don't know, I have mixed feelings on it because I'm like, I'm not, you know, I'm, I'm from the 90s I'm not the generation where we did a lot of free internships. If you did, it was like, use your discretion. Um, I wouldn't do everything for free. Especially if you know, you know, what of the Joker say if you're good at something, don't do it for free.
Alex Ferrari 35:47
Right. Exactly. Good. That was my that was my Heath Ledger Joker impression. Yes. It was. It's It's fantastic. Actually, it's it's okay. It's uncanny. uncanny.
Veronika Lee 35:56
Thank you. Thank you. But yeah, I think, you know, use your discretion. Um, that being said, like actors, man, don't don't get stagnant. Like, it drives me nuts. When I see actors that are like on Instagram, all the time taking selfies and all this stuff, dude, go to a class, go to a workshop, do a student film, you know, keep like, because if you don't use it, you lose it. You really do. So, um, I would sprinkle in the unpaid work, you know, and also, you never know who you're gonna meet.
Alex Ferrari 36:29
Hmm. That is the biggest advice. The biggest nugget of gold there is you've never know who's gonna be on set. And right. But
Veronika Lee 36:40
Yeah, absolutely. Like, um, years ago, when backstage used to be like the industry trade publication, Brian depalma, you know, put an ad he was like, I guess he was at NYU undergrad, you know, and backstage looking for somebody to be in a student film. And this dude who just moved to New York named Bobby De Niro. Yeah, yeah, I'm not doing anything. You know, I'll go. So what you know, you never know who you're gonna meet
Alex Ferrari 37:10
The girl. And look at that. Just because they're students now doesn't mean they're gonna be students forever.
Veronika Lee 37:15
Exactly. And that's also a major thing that I think about all the time. Like, especially if you're New York and LA like, Um, hello, you have NYU, your firestein graduate school cinema on UCLA. Come on, like you think that nobody in there is going to like end up directing things in the future.
Alex Ferrari 37:36
So Exactly, exactly. I wouldn't mind being the the extra and that that little sci fi opera that Mr. George Lucas did back in the 70s. I'm sure he put out a casting nothing he's a nobody. Yeah, he's he's not doing well at all. So So let's say I'm a filmmaker now. And I want to use backstage Can Can you explain the entire process to me for like, from start to finish? And what I would do,
Veronika Lee 38:02
Okay, so you would go to WWE backstage COMM And click post a job. And it's pretty informed and you kind of just fill out your name, who you are on what you're doing, you post your breakdown, which is really easy, because it's just like ad roll type thing. And then exclusively for listeners of this show. at checkout, you can enter hustle, just hustle and you get free unlimited casting.
Alex Ferrari 38:35
Oh, that's crazy. And I'll make sure to put the promo code in the in the show notes for everybody. Yeah,
Veronika Lee 38:42
Thank you. Um, but yeah, it's it's pretty painless and you know so what happens is the the ad or the casting notice goes live immediately. And then one of our casting editors within a few hours you know, goes through it and make sure your breakdowns decent. And, you know, we have some really dedicated people on our staff that will reach out to you and say, Hey, you know what, this role is a little, you know, it's a little thing you might want to beef it up here. Because I'd say that all of us on staff like we really are advocates for indie filmmakers, so we're trying you know, to make sure that people get the most out of their casting call if that makes sense. Okay,
Alex Ferrari 39:23
So then what's what's the next step in what happens? headshots coming in videos what's what's the next process?
Veronika Lee 39:29
Yep. So we have a system where all the applicants you'll be able to see you know, their headshots, their resumes, and we have an internal messaging system. So that way you can communicate with the actors without and don't take any offense to this actors without giving them your personal Gmail account. Because you don't want that sometimes. I don't I you know, it, there's just I think, in this business, you have to have moments with your love. ones and your friends where you can shut it off. And when you have every actor under the sun having access to your Gmail account, I'm kind of hard to do that.
Alex Ferrari 40:12
Yeah, and in a lot of ways, and it's, again, I have such a deep respect for what actors do. But sometimes, you know, there are different levels of actors meaning that they, they don't understand etiquette, just straight up just straight up normal etiquette like, Hey, dude, don't just yell at me. Don't just contact me. without, you know, Who who are you, I get that I happens all the time through Facebook. You know, with me, it's like this etiquette, like you just be nice and be I
Veronika Lee 40:39
Think it's really just act i. I think it's just this generation, it's like, people don't have boundaries because of the internet. So I appreciate that backstage gives you those boundaries.
Alex Ferrari 40:52
So you have to you and it's a great that it does, it's really great that it does.
Veronika Lee 40:56
Yeah. And also, if you're like one of those people, that gets a little bit weirded out by like, people contacting you on Facebook or something, I always tell people you know, in your breakdown, include, please do not, you know, reach out via social media channels, we will get back to you through the system or something like that, because you know, you got to protect your, your creative space. And also,
Alex Ferrari 41:17
Can I just say, if any actors are listening to this podcast, please don't just blank it. Send your headshot, without anything to to me or to a director, or to a casting person who has no relationship with you. If anything, it's a turn off. And if anything, you'll hurt you if they ever see you again. Yeah, that's just a basic etiquette, just just and.
Veronika Lee 41:41
And also, it's like so many casting offices are going green now. Even agencies that they don't want the printed headshots and resume, so be sure like if you're going to submit your headshot somewhere, look up the place where you're submitting and see if they actually want a hardcopy, because a lot of people don't
Alex Ferrari 41:58
Know anymore. Again, you don't need it.
Veronika Lee 42:00
You could have it in a cloud based system, you know. So, yeah, and also I just I get very paranoid about my tone, I don't want it to sound like I am being discriminating to actors. I mean, I'm so grateful to actors, because I wouldn't have a job without them. And, you know, I couldn't take you know, the levels of rejection that they face all the time. So I really, I admire people that really stick with it.
Alex Ferrari 42:27
Now, once all these headshots are coming in, what should filmmakers look for in the kind of pre screening process?
Veronika Lee 42:34
Well, okay, um, one thing I do recommend is asking for a candid photo to be attached. Yes. Sorry. I was on a show. I'm not gonna say which show was, but I had to find like this really attractive, like bikini model, um, for like, a really feature scene. And like I had to find later at night and I had never seen this woman before. And she submitted and sadly, when she got to set she looked nothing like a photograph and they were not trying to be rude, but it was like, Wow, she's really not attractive. People do Photoshop headshots very badly. Yes. I'm so I, I like to tell filmmakers to leave a note that says Like, please include a candid photo. That can be deceiving.
Alex Ferrari 43:30
I always tell filmmakers Do not ever trust a headshot. No, never trust the headshot because it's an absolute lie. And I've just seen it I've like I've had casting come in. I'm holding the headshot. And then I look at the person referring to me I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. Like you're not even you're not even remotely close to this image. So
Veronika Lee 43:51
That can sing for everybody involved. Yes. Is there a thing Don't embarrass yourself and like I think people I don't know my experience to LA people have this really like idea of how physically attractive you need to be in films. And I think when you look at like how, how, I guess, um, how gritty filmmaking has become and how we've had such a push in seeing like real people like Steve Buscemi who has crooked teeth and you know blotchy skin, do connect. Mm hmm. You know, and I don't think there's as much discrimination that way based on you know, you have to have like everything in perfect. So, be a little more compact, more competent actors.
Alex Ferrari 44:35
Absolutely. And directors be a little bit more open to not just get into blond hair blue dye, not that there's anything wrong with them, but right. But try to open it up because it's so much more interesting. And a perfect, great casting choice that was not originally set up that way. Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman was not his guy was named red. He was supposed to be an Irish guy with red hair. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. I did not know that that was that was the route. That's why it's called Red. That's why it's these characters called Red because he was supposed to be red hair and white Irish guy. And then Morgan showed up. And and Darryl Bond said, well, you're red, you're red. And he's like, and they even make a joke about it in the movies. Like why they call you ready goes, must because I'm Irish. And they just wrote that joke and because of it, but oh, wow, he was opening up but that was their bond completely being open to the process and going obviously, Morgan Freeman is a it's a perfect, it's perfect for this role. Regardless if it was written like that or not to always be open to cat Yeah, cuz you never know what's gonna walk in the door.
Veronika Lee 45:47
And, you know, I just want to I just want to have a little bit of a plug on behalf of casting directors. You know, we've talked so much about being nice. Um, there is an indie film that is so dear to my heart called casting by
Alex Ferrari 46:01
Yeah, I saw I saw a trailer for that I want to actually watch Oh,
Veronika Lee 46:05
Please watch it. I wish that every filmmaker would watch it because honestly like, so this woman, Marian Doherty, who has since passed, she was a pioneer in casting before, like in the 1940s it was pretty much studios just hire these actors who they thought were conventionally attractive and put them in every single role, regardless of talent. And Marian Doherty was really like a big proponent of I don't want to cast this guy because he might be you know, the most attractive person I want to cast him because he's talented. And she ended up filling like these roles that were like, you know, she cast Dustin Hoffman in the graduate she discovered Jon Voight. Just she was really big.
Alex Ferrari 46:51
Yeah. lethal weapon. I mean, yeah, it's amazing what she did.
Veronika Lee 46:56
And she was never recognized you know by the academy for casting directors are still not recognized by the academy for you know, their contributions to film and you know, the DGA has a really big problem with casting directors being called directors. I think it's semantics, man, they really contribute a lot. Right? I don't care like call me a casting bunny. I don't care. Like just give me some credit, you know?
Alex Ferrari 47:25
Yeah, I'll put I'm gonna definitely put the trailer the trailer in the show notes. Because I want people to see it, because I actually want to see it. And now find out where it's available so people can watch it.
Veronika Lee 47:33
Yeah, I think you can get it on Amazon. And it's it just blows me away. And I feel like if you're a director and you treat, you're just like we said in the beginning, just try to just be nice. Be nice. And call Taylor Halford and tell him to be nice to just see very nice in that documentary, you'll say,
Alex Ferrari 47:53
Yes, I saw. So um, should feel it. Should filmmakers be picky during the pre screening process? Or should they, you know, how should they handle that?
Veronika Lee 48:03
Okay, well, if you get 1000 people, I would not reach out to 1000 people to bring them in for auditions. Um, I would ask for note, you know about why they're interested in the role. If somebody is like, cool, I think this would be fun. And you know, like, and they didn't really seem to read what you said, I might weed them out. If they have a resume, look at their resume. You know, to me, I always see any kind of, um, this might be kind of like old school, but like, I see any kind of like, formal training, that's, to me this after is been invested in their craft, they take it seriously. So be on the lookout for that. Have they been hired before? You know, are they consistently doing things? Can you see that on your resume? And I think that's a good starting point. Um, you know, I wouldn't I don't know, I don't, I wouldn't. If I were on the indie level, like, I wouldn't bring in that many people to read for you
Alex Ferrari 49:05
Be a little bit bigger. So then In other words, if you're in the indie level, depending on the scope of the of the part, you can be a little bit picky and start weeding people out if you get a large amount of headshots, which you probably will. So you should probably just like those are great things, resume training, send them a note, how do they react to that? No, it's kind of like you're almost dating. Yes, it is, like dating a guy like have to weed out like, you know, are they going to open the door for me? Are they going to you know, are they going to go? Are we going? Are we going Wednesdays are we going splitsies? You know, that says a lot about the rest of that relationship. So I think as filmmakers, we should actually do the same thing with potential actors because guess what, you know if it's a short, you might be with them for a week. If you're on a feature, you might be with them for three, four or five weeks. Yeah, really got kind of set up that date properly before you move it together for a few weeks. You know,
Veronika Lee 50:05
It's funny, like I read recently, so I am a huge I can't believe I'm saying this in public, let alone on a podcast. I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan.
Alex Ferrari 50:14
Okay, well, you're you're you're a literature nerd. So that makes sense. Yeah,
Veronika Lee 50:17
I okay. Yeah. So but I remember like when, um, you know, Lord of the Rings was first coming out and how Peter Jackson and all his interviews was like, Oh, I really stress that, you know, actors had to be nice people. Yes. Don't ask me to do a New Zealand accent. And then I just found out from Vigo or what's his name Viggo Mortensen? Like a few weeks ago, he was saying how horrible it was to work with Peter Jackson. Really? Wow. Um, yeah, I'm like, Wow, he really put a big emphasis on, you know, hiring people that were nice that he could get along with. But I guess, you know, he didn't feel that he had to reciprocate it
Alex Ferrari 51:02
Well. And also, too, you have no understanding sometimes of the kind of pressure a man like that would have been under on a lot of movies of that scope. And no one had ever done anything like that. So I'm not defending Peter Jackson. But a lot of times people like, Oh, he's an ass, or she's an ass. I'm like, I know, understanding what they're dealing with. And what's happened to them. And sometimes, you know, good people can be acids, you know, it happens to the best of us. You know, it just depends on when you get them. But that's pretty damning. testimony.
Veronika Lee 51:33
Yeah. Like he did mention, he's like, well, if you notice, like Peter Jackson, every everything he's done post Lord of the Rings, it's just been CGI the hell out? You know? And he's like, I think he's, like delusional now, which I think, you know,
Alex Ferrari 51:46
What, would you go down that rabbit hole and you're surrounded by that for a decade? Right, you kind of lose sense of reality. Yeah, you know, and I get it. Like, if you completely surrounded by the Chocolate Factory, you have no understanding that that's just not the way the world works. But it works in your world. So why wouldn't Right,
Veronika Lee 52:06
Right, like, I don't know, I guess maybe speaking to the point earlier about not hiring your friends from seventh grade still stay friends with them? Because they will keep you humble? Yes, absolutely. And remind you of who you were. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 52:19
Now, do you like video auditions? Which I know it's a thing of of the last, you know, five or 10 years? Or do you prefer in person in person? auditions instead.
Veronika Lee 52:31
Um, I prefer in person auditions. But um, you know, I know that the high profile casting directors, people like Alan Lewis, you know, really big, busy people. Um, they like this video audition thing. Um, I'm just averse to, you know, I've seen so many bad self tapes. Like, I'm just like, you know, how you have to like, turn your phone, you know, horizontally, so you don't get those black bars. You know, it's like, or you send it as an attachment, that kind of thing. Like, that drives me nuts, like, oh, indie filmmakers, and your breakdown and your submission instructions, you should say, you know, be sure to include your self tape as a YouTube link, so that you're not trying to download all of these things to your computer, because that can get really annoying.
Alex Ferrari 53:24
Yeah, especially not with one or two. But when you have 1000 Yeah, Vimeo link or YouTube link will will suffice. Yeah. Now, how long should a typical audition last?
Veronika Lee 53:37
Um, well, I guess it would depend on the role. Like, if you're just auditioning, like a day player, you know, I would say, you know, the first audition, it'll probably be the last audition, I would just do them, have them do maybe two or three versions of a read through from the scene they're going to be in. So that shouldn't take more than like, 10 minutes. I'm a lead role, you probably want to finesse that some more see their range. So I, you know, you don't want to take up too much of the actor's time either, because there's no guarantee that they're going to be hired yet. So, you know, be respectful that and I honestly, I believe that, like 10 minutes is like the sweet spot. Like I think that by that time, you should know. Got it.
Alex Ferrari 54:21
Got it. Now, can you talk a little bit about callbacks and what they are why they're so important.
Veronika Lee 54:27
Um, yeah, so callbacks are so you kind of it's process of elimination. So you have your first round of auditions, you're like, Okay, I like this person, like this person, like this person. And you know, I hope that you have your pens and pencils out and you are making notes,
Alex Ferrari 54:44
Veronika Lee 54:45
Or iPads. I'm from the 90s I'm gonna still keep plugging paper. But yeah, like especially if they end up bringing headshots and resumes that's really helpful to like, you know, scribble, your thoughts and notes. Um, Oh, this is something I really want to say though cuz I see indie filmmakers do this a lot. Dude, don't audition people in your apartment. Oh wow, it's so creepy. so creepy so creepy creepy like, Come on man like Starbucks, like find a quiet corner the library somewhere public. Like watch an episode of dateline crazy things happen in this world
Alex Ferrari 55:27
Find a professional environment of some sort an office, a conference room or rent if you're in LA or New York you can rent a casting space by the hour.
Veronika Lee 55:38
And they're like Ripley Greer. I mean, they literally have rooms available for $15 like Ripley career is a studio space in New York. Like you can get it for an hour for 15 bucks, like just be professional like, you know, brought by someone Oh, it happens all I know. I
Alex Ferrari 55:57
I know. I know. It's It's horrifying. I've never cashed my house. Never in my lmia I've always surprised who thinks this is a good idea. And that's generally on the actor side if the director is casting at their house, that's also a that's also a dating situation on the other side of the fence like this is probably not gonna go well. That says a lot about that says a lot about the production and says a lot about the filmmakers involved that they're just not there etiquette is they're just not there yet. They're they're a little too fresh. And a little too green. If you're so if an actress listening to this, and they say, Hey, we want you to look unless it's Christopher Nolan, and he wants you to come to his house. Different conversation. I don't know. Well, Christopher Nolan, maybe I don't know. I don't know. I'd go I'd go but that's just me. Yeah, I don't I don't know maybe Roman Polanski's house stealing. You know what, I didn't think about that. You know, what, just always go to a professional involved.
Veronika Lee 56:54
Yeah, always go to a party, you know, like you never know, telling you. I watch dateline every Friday, you know, keep it fresh in your mind.
Alex Ferrari 57:03
Now, what, what final tips do you have for filmmakers, auditioning actors and as a general statement?
Veronika Lee 57:09
Um, oh, well, you did ask me about callbacks. There's a brief to say, you know, that is your final. And I would absolutely, if you didn't have someone with you before, you know, have a second opinion there. That will help you really narrow down who you want for this role. And remember what I said have backups, especially if you are no budget production, because you never know if that's gonna be that actor's first day on a big budget thing. So um, yeah, that's my spiel about callbacks and backups,
Alex Ferrari 57:43
Tips for filmmakers auditioning actors as how to handle how to how to like handle an audition, if they've never auditioned anyone before. What's the process that a good audition should kind of go through?
Veronika Lee 57:55
Okay, well, I don't think that there should be too much personal back and forth. Because this is a job. You know, when you go on a job interview, you know, for a regular corporate job, you know, you don't sit there with the boss and ask them personal details about their life irrelevant. Like an actor is like someone that you're gonna have to mold for your role, um, be as professional as possible and direct, you know, maybe two minutes. Verbal because it's scary, it's scary for them, you know, like, it's intimidating, and, you know, make them comfortable. Like I said, professional space. Um, you know, you can ask in advance if you prefer them to prepare their own monologue, which I'm not really into at the indie level, because, I mean, like, let's say someone comes and they're saying, like, you know, Shakespeare for you. Yeah, they're like, yeah, you don't want that. You're not doing a period piece and you don't need to hear their British accent. You don't want somebody you know, coming with that. You could offer them suggestions in advance of monologues that might be like similar. Like, let's say, you were shooting something like Coen Brothers asks, you know, you might say, prepare a monologue from like, I don't know, The Big Lebowski. Um, so that way, they're, they're getting to the, to the point of what you're doing because, you know, they don't know they don't know what you want. You know, they're not mind reader's. So yeah, I can't,
Alex Ferrari 59:25
I personally can't stand monologues. I can't, because it's not relevant to what I'm doing as of this project. Generally speaking, as a director,
Veronika Lee 59:33
With you can provide which is great because backstage we allow you to upload the script sides, if you'd like to. And um, so you can have your own script sides up there so they can just come in, you know, have it ready, or you can do a cold read. Some people like cold reading, um, I think it makes a lot of actors nervous. But it's a skill though.
Alex Ferrari 59:59
You have to have Have it as a skill is an act of habit. So, um, I always like sending side sides is generally the way I like to do my a casting is like send aside, let the actor prepare for a night and come in. And that's it.
Veronika Lee 1:00:12
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think that's good because, um, you know, I, if I, like had my script sides, if I was writing a script and auditioning someone, I would give them like three chances in three passes at the script, and maybe give them some direction. You know, like, have them read through it the first way that the way that they would interpret it, maybe the second way, oh, can you make it? You know, could you give me a little bit more sadness? Um, you know, can you give me a little bit more anger and what you were just saying, and then do it a third way?
Alex Ferrari 1:00:45
Got it got now I have this one question. And this is this is a touchy subject. So I always wanted to hear casting directors point of view on this. If you're casting a part that has nudity in it, that has male or female, either one has some sort of nudity in it, or is an exposed part meaning like a bikini, or, you know, they're half naked in one way, shape, or form. How do you process how do you kind of approach that situation in a casting environment? Because I've, I've literally been in a casting where they were casting that we were casting a film for us with strip clubs, and literally strippers would come in and bunch of them and then you've got the horny dudes in the coma like, Dude, this is not I felt so uncomfortable.
Veronika Lee 1:01:36
You need you I absolutely in a situation like that. You need a female casting director by your side or a female producer, some other Yes, friends. Yep. female. Um, and wow, this is like one of my favorite subjects because I have done some crazy nudity casting. Like, I don't know if you saw the dictator with Sacha Baron.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:56
Oh my god, can you man, I can only imagine the casting. Yeah.
Veronika Lee 1:02:00
Like you saw, um, busty heart, you know who I'm talking about? In the movie? I do. Yes. Yes. So, um, there were some requests from Sasha, who is such a cool person to work with. But um, wow. Like, there was a lot of new to diecasting. And I really do think in that regard, you need a woman's touch around for that even just, you know, for legal purposes, man, you don't want somebody to be like, you know, accusing you of something. But, um, so what I will say in your breakdown, first of all, be totally upfront and clear about the nudity. Okay. Like, don't try to surprise anybody with that. Second, don't ask for pictures online. Though, I know. Like I told you that I helped with the Wolf of Wall Street. Oh, that was they were some Polaroids. That's what I'll say they were there. They were Polaroid pictures. That's been into Morty. That's just not what the hell? Yeah, it was something. Um, but yeah, you know, don't don't request, you know, oh, we're gonna need to see a photo of you topless. Um, at the audition, I would reiterate, you know, I just want to clarify that there is nudity required for this role, never asked someone to take their clothes off at the audition. I just don't do that. Like, I think this is like a very touchy, touchy subject. Because also, it's like, we live in the United States of America, you can pretty much get sued for anything. This is true. You know, so you don't want that to mess up your whole project. And it always comes down to, you know, he said, she said, it's a job, it's professional. So, you know, um, sometimes, like I'm saying, like, in the case of Wolf of Wall Street, you know, the director wants to know what he's getting in advance. So I recommend Polaroids for that. And I recommend a woman to handle that. I know that might sound kind of sexist, but actually casting is one of the few female dominated fields in the business. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think it's also because I just was talking to this commercial casting director, Melanie Max, she's awesome. And she was just saying how she just thinks like, because women are so inherently nurturing that, you know, we're kind of better at accommodating those spaces. But does that help you like it? Does that answer your question?
Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
It does answer my question. So and I guess a lot of that would go the same way with like, if it's a bikini shoot, you know, I guess you could ask for bikini pictures, but I don't know when you would ask for them where it became appropriate. I think a lot of the things you lay down having a female handle it makes the most sense. But a lot of
Veronika Lee 1:04:49
You know that um, you know, you can request a candid full body shot. Um, you know, I would say in in for to use respectable language. I mean, I can't tell you some of these backgrounds or these breakdowns that I see. I'm like, Oh my god, dude, are you serious? Like you have like on your Tinder profile because, like, um, but you know, like, you can get a pretty good sense of someone's, you know, figure if you say, you know, do you have professional, full body shots in form fitting clothing?
Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
That's a professional way of asking, Hey, I need to see what you look like. Yeah, yeah. Because I know that's a really touchy subject. For a lot of filmmakers, and especially early on in their career. They won't know how to handle that situation. And I wanted to kind of, you know, have someone like you say, Hey, this is the way you guys really should do this.
Veronika Lee 1:05:43
Yeah. And it really stinks. Because like, my favorite genre of film is horror. And I love indie horror. And like, you know, I like help people from trauma.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:53
I don't know if you're familiar with Lloyds, a friend of the show.
Veronika Lee 1:05:58
Um, so, uh, yeah, like, you know, I love horror filmmakers. I love the genre. But let's face it, it is like the number one genre for topless women running around screaming their heads off. Yes. Um, so I, you know, I'm always like, trying to help guys that made sure it was like that, like, dude, you can't say that. You can't, I can't even repeat the things that they you know, they say I got to I got to completely they're harmless. Dude, they're totally harmless. It's just, you know, they're used to growing up with, you know, Romeo and Juliet. And they think that's how you you know, you speak in a breakdown and it is not, it's still professional.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:43
Very cool. So I'm going to ask you, same questions, I asked all of my guests, and these are the Oprah questions, so prepare yourself. Okay, so what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to make their first feature film?
Veronika Lee 1:07:00
What advice would I give filmmaker wanting to make their first feature film feature film, so that we say, yes, um, man, you really have to love it. You really have to love what you're doing. Like, you have to be in love with it. And I say that for anything in the arts. Um, you know, you're not going to last if you don't love it. Cuz it's too brutal. It's brutal. It's hard. And you know, we talk about being nice to actors, because they face rejection, you know, you gotta, you're gonna face some rejection too. So be prepared for it. Because we all think that our projects are awesome. And, you know, our blueprint in the world, but you know, there are people that are going to slam doors in your face and just be ready for it. You know, and remember why you love it and remember why you're doing it.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:51
I mean, look, Spielberg couldn't get Lincoln off the ground. It took them forever to get Lincoln financed. So if if Spielberg's having issues chances are you and I have probably missed off the ground. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
Veronika Lee 1:08:10
What book like on my life in my career? Wow, this is like Oprah. I would probably say Oscar Wilde's deeper fundies, which is a love letter that he wrote in prison. I won't get into it, but I'll give you I'll give you the radio friendly answer. Sounders, The Catcher in the Rye. I can tie that into indie film because I really believe that you will never be able to successfully translate Salinger into a film. I truly believe that right. But also he blocked it. He He was so against movies that he was like No, like he legally set out before his death that none of his works can be made into film. Yeah, interesting.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:54
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Veronika Lee 1:09:03
Oh my gosh, good questions. I appreciate it. How did Oprah have a job for so long? lesson this is gonna sound really like trite. But like, honestly, like, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Like, just let things go. Nothing's work. You know, like, just let it go. Life is way too short, man. Like it's really short. And the things that we get upset about. It's just it's not worth it. Just let it go. You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:09:38
That's a great advice.
Veronika Lee 1:09:39
And I feel like when I was working in the film industry, more hands on than I am now. No, I was casting like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Person of Interest simultaneously. And I was so stressed. But and this is, you know, something that I really want to say to anybody, an actor or a producer or filmmaker. Whoever is in this business. Don't take it personally don't because, you know, I really internalized a lot of the stress and I didn't need to, you know, it's supposed to be fun making films is supposed to be fun. And, um, yeah, like, Don't take it too serious. Why so serious?
Alex Ferrari 1:10:19
Why is another Heath Ledger? Now what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Veronika Lee 1:10:26
Okay, I'd say probably number one until the light takes us which is a documentary about the Norwegian black metal scene. I love documentaries. I love Norwegian black metal. Um, so
Alex Ferrari 1:10:41
You're you're you're an onion. You have multiple layers?
Veronika Lee 1:10:46
Yes, I do. I'd say second is, um, let the right one in. The that's which
Alex Ferrari 1:10:53
One is that one? Swedish vampire film? Yes. You? Yes. Yes. Um, they remade it. They remade it. Yeah, they remake English, which
Veronika Lee 1:11:01
I never want to see it because it didn't need to be remade. so mad. Ah, I'm gonna say right now just because it's off the top of my head. I'm the crow. I love that bro. Oh, maybe that's tied with like The Dark Knight. Okay. Okay, surreal for me, because like I did, I worked on that scene in The Dark Knight Rises that took place on Wall Street where it was like, being fighting Batman and everything. And that was that was a really huge moment for me being like a huge fan of that franchise. Yeah, that was cool. But yeah, I think that's that and you know what? I was just thinking yesterday. I'm like, man, I got to rewatch that. Because I feel like so many themes of The Dark Knight which came out what, like 10 years ago, are like relevant now. Right? Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:11:54
Yes. They're very, very, very, very much so and the crow is, is a classic. And, you know, it's it's so good. It was so
Veronika Lee 1:12:04
Good. And just branded Lee was amazing. Johnson, his delivery of that character and just a beautiful creative film. And I just think, you know, musically, you know, I missed the days of the soundtrack. Remember when you like see movie soundtracks? anymore? No, that stinks. Cuz I really loved that.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:27
The old soundtrack. That was an awesome, amazing soundtrack to an inch nail song. So good. Now, where can where can people reach out to you online? Now your personal Gmail, but
Veronika Lee 1:12:40
Not my personal email? Okay, so um, let me say by Twitter is at clever ronique 37. I'll spell that
Alex Ferrari 1:12:52
I'll put it I'll put it in the show. You
Veronika Lee 1:12:53
Could put it up in my Instagram is a Norwegian. We're faceoff Veronique, I'll send it to you. Because I think these are very difficult things to spell. I have a difficult kind of Lady.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:05
Veronika, thank you so much for all of your your knowledge bombs you dropped on us today, I really appreciate you
Veronika Lee 1:13:11
Thanks for having me. It was really awesome.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:14
Guys, casting is such a huge part of the filmmaking process. And it's something that people really don't think about. And they just cast their friends, which is fine sometimes. But generally speaking, you want to get professional actors and actors really know what they're doing. And casting the right actor or actress, or the part is so huge. So I hope you got a lot out of this episode with Veronica from backstage. And again, if you guys want to get a free casting package, literally just use backstage is amazing resources and get bumped up higher, you get a full $100 package for free. Just go to backstage,com And when you check out use the coupon code, hustle, and you'll get the whole package for free. And if you want links to anything we talked about, in this episode, head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash 180 for the show notes. Oh, and by the way, I have been getting inundated with letters for the Steven pressfield book giveaway contest that I've been that I set up a few weeks ago. And I've been waiting to get more and more letters in and I've just been inundated with a bunch of letters. So I'm going to get the winners out and read them out in a special episode of the podcast coming up soon. And we'll ship out those books and some extra surprises to the winners. So thanks again for everybody's story. It is amazing to hear your stories of triumph and defeating resistance and that little voice in your head that says you can't do it. When you beat that voice and beat him down. Well, amazing things can happen to you. So as always guys, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- 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