Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Rules of Ultra-Low Budget Casting

Submitted by Chris Watson

1) Never pay for an actor who isn't a name. For instance, don't pay your neighbor money to be in your movie unless he's been in at least one film. I paid Joe Estevez and Robert Z'Dar on my first feature. Bruce Baum and Eric Edwards worked for nothing. I had several unknowns requesting money or they wouldn't show, but Bruce Baum, who works regularly on stand-up circuit, The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? worked for nothing. If they're not a name, don't pay them.

2) Make a star out of the smallest person. For instance, we had a local blues singer do a cameo. To most people it was nothing, but to a cast and crew out to make a movie it's a big thing. We also used a local model and some other local celebrities. I mean, we're in the middle of Kansas, so these people aren't celebrities. However, it added punch to a really small movie.

3) Pursue any celebrity within your reach. Bruce Baum was doing stand-up at a local club so I dragged my co-writer to go see him. We talked to him for a bit and then convinced him to do a cameo in his free time between gigs. This goes along with rule number two, which includes even the smallest celebrity. In our case, it was a blues singer, model, and professional actor.

4) Everybody knows somebody. It's true that everybody knows somebody. My neighbor knew Gene Bicknell, a veteran of multiple movies. The newspaper lady knew some ladies who had been in Spaceballs and other movies. The photographer knew Robert Z'Dar from Tango and Cash. A friend knows a lady from Baywatch. Robert Z'Dar knew Joe Estevez. Our original assistant director knew Eric Edwards. The list goes on. Pursue them without worry of appearing desperate because YOU ARE DESPERATE. The smallest name can get your film into a festival or get it distribution.

5) Always have a back-up plan. I lost two cameo actors to another production, one to a motorcycle accident, and one to surgery during the filming of Mob Daze. I also had to recast multiple parts just weeks before and even during production. If you have a back-up plan, or just know how to scrounge, then you'll feel like a king when production is over and you've saved the film by having a plethora of actors to choose from.

6) Do not count on friends. I can't stress this enough. I cast a short with friends and neighbors and one showed up. Even your best friend will not show up. It seems to be the unwritten rule of filmmaking. Cast your film with actors who have a true heart for filmmaking. Even if you have money to pay them, tell them straight-up so you can see how much they want it. This, of course, only applies to the no name actors.

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