Whatever type of project you are working on, the most important question you should ask yourself before casting each role is: What do I have to do to figure out who is right for this part? The answer to that question will change from project to project and role to role.
To help you take all of the important factors into consideration, here's a guide to managing the casting process effectively.
There are casting options to consider for shoots of every size, let's take a look at the options for a low-budget production.
If it needs to be done quickly and you don't have a big budget, video casting is the best choice. Every actor has a showreel with collected highlights of their work. These videos can be found on specialized websites or you can request them from an agency. By watching, you can get an impression of the talent and the physical presence of the candidates and - if the material in the showreel is strong enough – you can also get a sense of their versatility.
It's Quick, But Risky
Advantage: Casting over video can be done at short notice and does not cost you anything. In the film industry, a large proportion of roles are cast in this way. This method is well suited for the casting of smaller roles or day roles.
Disadvantage: You have to decide based on a general impression and cannot audition the candidate for the role you are looking to cast. This can be dangerous. Also, young actors often have no meaningful material to showcase at the beginning of their careers, which means you could miss out on a special talent.
Beware of theater actors: Theater acting and film acting require very different skillsets. You should always audition theater actors on camera to make sure they can work in a different environment.
Ideally, you will want to see an actor performing the role they are being considered for. If you can't audition someone in person during the preproduction process, you still have other options.
E-Casting has become increasingly important. Candidates are asked to record a video of themselves and make it available to the production for screening purposes. Usually they are provided with one or two scenes - how the candidates stage them and how they produce the video is up to them.
Lack Of Control
Advantage: You don't just get a general impression like watching showreels because the actor is actually interpreting the role they are being considered for.
Disadvantage: You have no influence over this interpretation. If he turns a dramatic text into a comedy, you have to live with it. The effect of the e-casting may also depend on the quality of the recording - not every actor has professional equipment available.
If you want to test a lot of actors quickly, there is a very useful way to figure out which performers have the skills you require.
Cold readings are the method of choice. Especially if you want to reach a decision quickly. In a cold reading, you invite candidates for an audition without giving them material in advance that they can prepare. Instead, they get the scenes on-site, and you ask them to read them - possibly together with another actor - 'cold'.
Advantage: You can get an impression if the role fits the candidate and how flexible, adaptable and creative the actor is. If the actor is interesting, you can make a few adjustments to get a sense of their versatility. And if you realize that they might be better suited for another role, you can spontaneously audition them for that role there and then.
Disadvantage: Not every actor is good at spontaneously inhabiting a text. There is a risk that you will miss out on a great talent because the actor cannot handle a cold reading and the very high pressure situation they are in. If you notice in a cold reading that an actor is having difficulties, there is almost no chance to help them because they did not have a chance to learn the text and show you what they are capable of with a little preparation.
If you have the time and money to do it, a 'traditional' casting process can allow you to really get a full picture of the talents of those you are considering.
Set Up An Audition
In a 'normal' casting you do not have this problem. You give the candidate two to three scenes of a specific role in advance, emphasizing different aspects of the character. The actor then has the opportunity to thoroughly prepare the text and role so that you can work in depth with him or her. Take enough time for each actor and always concentrate on just one candidate at a time. It is advisable to have a counterpart for the actor to interact with if it is necessary for the scenes involved.
Get A Full Picture
Advantage: With a suitable procedure, you can check out each candidate on the three most important aspects: suitability for the role, adaptability and acting talent. When you see the footage, you should focus not only on what you see in the finished result, but also how the the process unfolded.
Disadvantage: It is very time-consuming, as you have to wait until the recordings are ready before making your decision. It can be complicated to get all the candidates together, and it's not always cheap.
Now that we've looked at the different ways to cast actors, let's take a look at how to approach a classic casting session. Here's how to make the most of an opportunity to test an actor's skills and talents fully.
The Audition Process
First of all, every casting - and every cold reading - is recorded. The immediate impression can be deceiving, and an actor looks different through the camera than in reality. Therefore, never rely on your first impression. Always decide only after viewing the tapes - no matter how sure you are.
Keep It Loose, To Begin With
Do not overwhelm the candidate with your ideas. Just wait and let yourself be surprised by their interpretation. At best, they will bring in surprising ideas that you otherwise might have dismissed from the outset. You can still take corrective action if necessary. Before the first run-through begins, you need to clarify the props as well as the setup of the camera. You should only describe the room in a general way: "Here we imagine the door, there is an imaginary window and the chair over there is a tree." Which is to say, make the 'rules of the game' clear, and leave everything else to the actor to interpret in their own way.
Find Actors With Range
Some actors immediately strike the right tone, others are far from it. This has nothing to do with talent at first, but only with what they bring in as a person and with their conception of the role - especially if they only know the script in excerpts. You need to figure out how versatile they are by making adjustments that cause them to play the role differently than before. Even if their first interpretation was close to yours, it's time to test how well an actor can work out what they've done, and how creative and spontaneous they are.
If the actor masters your first adjustment immediately, you can give him or her more direction; this way you help them reach the destination you have in mind. If you realize that he or she lacks adaptability, that is usually a sign of a lack of talent.
Focus On Depth
Maybe you have already seen enough and know that the actor is not the right fit for the role. If, however, you have been convinced so far, the next step is to test the actor by giving directions just as you would if you were really about to film the scene right now.
This way you can see how well you might be able to work with the actor - if he or she understands your direction and can implement your requests. You can see if they have an understanding not only of their role, but also of the scenes in depth. Instead of intentionally making contradictory adjustments, you are now going consistently from one take to the next.
You will notice that some candidates instantly put everything that you give them into practice, while others gradually move forward. Once you have an idea of how you are progressing together, you can finish the casting; there is no need to fully finish a scene if you already have all the information you need.
Actors don't perform in isolation, and the success of a project will rest on how your entire cast interact on screen. Make sure to take account of the big picture.
Before you decide on a final cast, you have to consider another aspect - the constellation. Two great actors in their own right will not help you if they do not harmonize with each other. To test this, there are several strategies which build on the methods described earlier.
The easiest way is to invite the candidates for respective roles to a shared cold reading. This is especially useful if you are already quite sure and would like to check an already made decision.
Try Different Combinations
On the other hand, if you want to try out different combinations or find a partner for an already cast actor, the framework of a casting is suitable. In the first case, you take the liberty of flexibly combining different pairings; in the second case you have the advantage of having your already cast actor act in the casting of an actor he or she will be playing alongside.
When doing this, you focus on the role that needs to be filled, but you can also check the combination on all necessary levels: What do the partners look like next to each other? Do they work well together? Are they a good match as people? Do they speak a "similar language" when it comes to the staging? If you have found the ideal combination, nothing should stand in the way of the success of your film.
If you want to find out how to manage casting the easy way, visit Yamdu today.