21 casting tips for directors
It’s no secret that actors are 50% of the movie and their solid performances can improve the overall film quality dramatically, even if other components fall short. So a good director always understands the importance castings, as this is where first critical choices concerning his future work are made. It’s time to share a piece of wisdom on how to make an audition go smoothly and efficiently.
Always give actors a call after receiving a confirmation from them by e-mail. Personal attitude will increase the chances of an actor actually coming to the casting, doing it on time and even learning his lines sometimes.
The side you provide for the casting shouldn’t be too long or too extreme emotionally, but it should give the actor a possibility to show what he’s capable of.
Plan the schedule in a way so that each candidate gets about 20 to 30 minutes of your attention.
Make sure to record the casting sessions on camera. First, you’ll most likely want to rewatch the tapes calmly afterwards. Second, you need to see how an actor can work on camera. More on that below.
Always take notes. Write down the first things that attract you in an actors’ performances. Be assured, you’ll forget their names, faces and performances if you have many, and you better do have as many as possible to have a wider choice.
When an actor comes in, make him feel comfortable - have water and coffee at hand, make some small talk to help him calm down - after all, castings are a huge stress.
Do not make him too comfortable, though - you have to follow the schedule and not give any kind of false hope.
After a short interview, kindly proceed with the scene. If it’s a dialogue, provide someone who can give the actor his lines, ideally - to actually act with him.
After the scene is done, tell the actor what you liked about his performance. Don’t lie or exaggerate, but try to find something positive to give him some encouragement.
Now make one, preferably two adjustments to see if the actor can take direction. For example, “do the same thing, but as if you wanted to seduce the audience” or “say the same lines, but this time make me have pity for you”, etc. This is one of the most important parts of the casting, so pay attention.
Don’t promise anything - even if you have an impression that you’ve just seen a perfect person for the part, the next one can still be better. And you don’t want to be tied up with any obligations at this stage.
Making a choice may be hard. If you’re in doubt, review the casting tapes. Choose in favor of those who are flexible, take direction, look and, more importantly, act in a convincing manner, evoking emotional response in you.
Besides, being present in the casting room can sometimes be deceiving. So trust the camera - it never lies. A good actor knows how to offer himself to it, and if he acts well but hides his face from the camera is probably not your best choice.
Also check out for the questions that an actor asks.
A good actor will have plenty questions about his character’s background and motivation.
Do a callback to see the best candidates again and this time put them in a scene in pairs to see how they act against each other. No matter how good they are separately, if they have no chemistry together, the movie will just not work out.
Have a release form at this point. When you make your final decision, give the form to the actors so that they sign it right away. You’ll be sure they won’t be against you using their image on film. Believe it or not, but it happens a lot that an actor doesn’t like how he looks and won’t sign a release form. And you don’t want it to happen after the movie is done.
Make sure to inform the actors about the days of the shoot and when you intend to do rehearsals to book their time in advance. It’s the worst thing to find out after you’ve chosen an actor and refused all the rest that he’s actually acting in a very important commercial and there’s no way he can play in your movie anymore.
Give a rough estimate of when you’re going to come up with a decision. And always have the courtesy to personally tell each actor if he’s been rejected (or make sure your casting director does it). At least write an e-mail - they deserve to know your decision.
Remember - cinema is a business of rejection, so don’t torture yourself for having said no to a good actor, and tell him not to have any hard feelings. It’s not him who was bad, it’s just he wasn’t perfectly suitable for this specific part. Keep in mind you might want him for your next project.
Have an A and B-choice for each part. When you reject your assumed B-choice, be as nice as you can with him and ask if you can count on him if the A drops out. It’s not a nicest thing to be rejected like this, but for most it’s still better than just be rejected for good.
On the other hand, a confirmation must be absolutely be accompanied by a phone call.
Respect your actors - it’s a tough job - they’ll respect you back and give you the best of their performance when it comes to the actual shoot.