Being an independent filmmaker is hard; long hours, no pay and attempting to replicate Hollywood effects on a minimal budget; all of these things weigh heavy on indie filmmakers. Another big issue (and one of the things that I find most difficult) is finding actors and actresses.
It is one thing if you have multiple investors and a decent budget for casting, but when you are first starting out or if you are trying to make a short film (or full length film for that matter) with a “shoe string” budget, casting and talent agencies are not really an option. It is also an interesting feeling and sight to proposition non-actors (that have that look that you are going for) to act in a film that you are trying to make.
Many places out there (like casting and talent agencies) will tell you that you do not want people off of the street; that you want to go after people who want to act (and who may have some experience or training). I agree with this but only up to a certain point. I understand that those agencies are there to support new and veteran actors and that they are also trying to stay in business to do so; but there are some ‘natural’ actors and actresses out there who may be interested in acting. This is one issue to try and over come, (preferably without looking like a “creeper” or those people that you’ve seen on Unsolved Mysteries or America’s Most Wanted). You can try some side methods for this such as social networks (I.e. Facebook, MySpace, and twitter), local newspapers and even Craigslist to find people who may be interested.
Another issue is (let’s face it) money. People are not really willing to ‘work for free’. Acting involves hours of time and effort in which ‘talent’ should be compensated and credited for. If you don’t have a lot of money to put into casting and paying actors/actresses daily rates you can try and follow some of those avenues. If you do have potential actors/actresses, keep them happy.
1.) Find people in your immediate filming area, the less driving time to and from set, the better.
2.) Food and drinks! Feeding your cast and crew while on set is a wonderful gesture. Something as simple as hotdogs, chips and soda can keep your cast and crew around. You can also contact local restaurants and catering services to see about getting donations or discounts.
3.) Value your talent’s time and effort. NEVER talk down to your cast and/or crew. Keep in mind that they are there to help you and that they don’t have to do that. It is one thing to try and talk or coax a certain look, feel or emotion from them, but never belittle them.
4.) Always give credit where credit is due. Make sure you list everyone’s names in the ending credits, in a special section of your web page, etc.
Keep in mind that many of your cast and crew can and/or will use this experience for their portfolio or resume. Something as small as leaving out someone’s name has a tremendous impact and effect on that person. It makes them feel unappreciated and unwanted. Also make sure that you thank any and all ‘sponsors’, investors and people that donate to your cause (filming). You can even place these people and/or companies on your website and in credits, recognizing them for their contributions and help.
5.) Put together a small demo reel or portfolio of the work that you can do. This can help convince potential cast and/or crew that donating their time is worth it. Unless it’s a comedy, your cast usually won’t want to act or have their name involved with something that will make them look silly or stupid. And let’s face it, people aren’t going to want to act for something that (they think) will be complete flop or look like a shoddy work of art. Showing them that your talent and art is not a waist of their time will help.
6.) Give your cast and crew a couple things. First, give them your time and attention (especially if you are the director), make it known that you appreciate their time and effort. Listening to them helps do that. Second, make sure that you give them copies of the final product. Whether it be a commercial, film or music video, give them a DVD of the final output; no matter how big or small their part is.
These are just a few tips that you can use to help your filming endeavors. And as a final note, if you do get big and move on to larger projects; don’t forget the people who helped you get there.