Sarah Clark, CSA
A common trait in new filmmakers is the, “I can do everything myself!” attitude. It’s a foolish and reckless attitude and puts their projects at risk of being terrible. No one can do everything - that’s why there are department heads. If you wouldn’t trust your cinematography to a random stranger on Facebook, why would you trust your casting to it?
Some say a good cast and script is 90% of filmmaking. In my humble opinion, I think that’s giving us too much credit, but cast and script are a huge piece of the puzzle. Working with a casting director is the smartest way to go about the casting process. If you’re ready to approach one, here are a few things to keep in mind when reaching out:
Give us the details
Just like talent, we want to know what the project is about, to see a script, and to know the hard facts (shoot dates, rates, etc.) If you don’t have that information yet, it’s hard for us to help you. Wether you’re casting on your own, or doing it professionally, everyone needs that baseline information.
Personally, I refuse to work on any projects that don’t pay talent. It’s not something I want coming out of my office. If you don’t know the above information and you aren’t paying talent, I recommend you hold off on shoot until you can get some funds and get your shoot more established.
Gives me time or give me money
If you need casting done IMMEDIATELY that means I have to drop what I’m doing for other clients and get your project in motion. Because I’m doing that, you have to pay for my time. If you can give me some time to work some commercials and other narrative projects at the same time, you aren’t paying my full day rate and it will save you a lot of money.
I’m not a pinch hitter
If you’ve found the majority of your cast on social media/Craigslist/etc but you couldn’t find the pretty, talented girl I’m not surprised. Finding the very beautiful, the elderly, and the very specific is hard - sometimes even for us - and doing it on your own isn’t easy. Coming to me to find one role is extremely difficult for me to say yes to and here’s why:
I can’t really get credit: You found a lot of the talent if I’m only looking for one person. It would be a lie if I took credit. Additionally, I don’t want my name on anything that may not be the best possible group of talent.
I can’t assure my talent of the rest of the cast: Because I don’t know the actors you’ve cast, I can’t tell the people I’m finding that the production will be a good one because I don’t know. You could have asked your mom and your buddy Dave to be in it and that makes for a bad experience for my talent.
There’s nothing in it for me: Aside from helping out filmmakers, this model means I gain nothing. If you didn’t come to a CD at the start, you probably don’t have a budget so we don’t make our day rate. I have to take casting time away from other projects that gain me a lot more. I don’t get credit. It’s a lose lose all around.
Just talk to a casting director from the start. It will make your life - and your production - a lot better.
Good luck out there!