Even a familiar story can feel fresh with versatile actors who bring depth and nuance to their characters. And a strong cast can outshine a low-budget film.
Below are three tips on finding actors for your indie film.
Good actors can be found anywhere. Maybe you already have your out-of-town lead actor in mind, but you can, and should, find local actors who are talented and passionate and ready to work hard if you give them the opportunity. Local actors don’t need housing or travel covered, which can ease expenses. And local actors have resources in town that a film production might not have.
Wherever you choose to film, turn to the local community as much as you can. Don’t forget that film productions can be a two-edged sword: as much as you might be boosting the local economy, you also can be very disruptive to a city’s normal flow. They are trusting you with their space and their resources, and it is important that you respect that and give back when you can. Try to utilize local businesses rather than hauling in everything.
Cast Talent over Credits . . . But Use Credits Strategically
Aiming for a credited name in every role can be dazzling in theory, but in practice will drain your resources fast. Instead, be selective about using credits strategically. Don’t assume that credited actors will always be better than relatively unknown actors. You need your actors’ acting to carry the film — and not just rely on their names. An audition is important even for trusted credited actors; based on what you see, you may even choose a different role that suits them better. Take the time to choose the right actor for the right role.
Casting a credited actor can inspire your whole team to work harder. And don’t be afraid to respectfully ask your credited actors to help your indie film get attention. Our credited actors might not be on the call sheets until Day One of the shoot, but they’ve been graciously acting on our behalf already.
Consider Hosting Open Casting Calls
For a lot of indie films, you might still be building up your contacts by the time you are ready to bring in actors. An open casting call may be a wide enough net to give you more options than just your neighbor’s kids. After hand-picking our two lead actors for “LUKE AND JO,” we turned to an open casting call in town to select the rest of the actors. Our social media posts about the event got some attention. But we were surprised and thrilled by the wide variety of actors who came to our casting call. When we asked how they found us, only a small portion had come because of a direct connection to our social media posts. If we had made this event private, we likely would not have found most of the actors that we ended up casting.
You do need to use discretion with this tip, however. If you’re getting a lot of attention about hosting an open casting call, you may need to split up the auditions into more than one session or day. Or, do some pre-screening by requesting that headshots and resumes be sent in beforehand. You don’t want your open casting call to turn into a cattle call with too many actors to screen and no energy to find the right one for the part.