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'Casting Revealed: A Guide for Film Directors'

Casting-Revealed-Book-Cover-2011In her new book "Casting Revealed: A Guide for Film Directors" (published by Michael Wiese Productions), author Hester Schell explores the intricacies and importance of the casting process.

The book's primary goal is to help filmmakers navigate the casting waters, including tips and step-by-step instructions for handling union paperwork, announcing auditions, running casting sessions, contacting agents, and finding the best actors. However, actors and aspiring casting directors should find plenty of insights here as well, since the book promises "insider know-how" that will shed light on the entire casting process.

Currently a teacher at Film Acting Bay Area and the proprietor of BayAreaCasting.com, Schell's diverse range of expertise includes work as an actor, writer, director, producer, casting director, and puppeteer. She was previously a professor of theater arts at De Anza College in California and taught classes at Notre Dame de Namur University, the University of London, San Francisco's Film Arts Foundation, and the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking.

The following are some brief excerpts from "Casting Revealed," along with a video interview with the author:



Prescreening Footage

Technology has transformed the casting process and will save you money. It is now possible to pre-screen actor submissions and greatly cut down on the number of actors to meet by appointment at a script reading. Any actor who has the chops, and you don't want to work with actors who don't, all have demo-reels and websites with sample footage from their portfolios for you to pre-screen. Anyone who submits to your project can now send you a footage file, or a link to his or her footage. Any actor who stalls on this point isn't taking his career seriously and you wouldn't want him anywhere near your production. He will waste your time, and time is money. By the way, how many days do you have on that camera rental? The Headshot Submission Process Has Gone Green

No more paper printed headshots! Very few actors mail printed headshots anymore. Truly, I can't remember the last time I got a submission notice for hard copies of headshots outside theatre productions where this remains the standard. The magic of electronic headshot submissions, actor websites and demo-footage submissions means you can sit on the beach with your laptop and a beer, or at home in a bathrobe sipping coffee pre-screening hundreds of actors who are interested in auditioning for your film. It's also the sustainable way to go.





You've composed your breakdown, and posted to either regional/local or national online posting services, and the submissions are starting to come in. You created a deadline, so you can go into your account at each website and take the announcement down if you get overwhelmed. With a budget, you may even have a few agents to talk to, and things are moving along.

In the breakdown under "submission procedure" you were clear with what you wanted sent in. The standard is a headshot/resume and includes a demo reel QuickTime file or a link to where you can view their footage. The simplest and most efficient way is to request a click-through hypertext link along with the email submission so you don't have to sift through downloads and save files. Who follows instructions.

It's going to amaze you how people don't read details. So pay attention: Notice if someone has forgotten to include a link. If an actor can't follow simple submission instructions, will she be able to get to the set on time? If their headshot isn't professional to industry standards (color, face and shoulders, in focus, name and contact information on the front) do they know enough about the film industry to be on your set? See Chapter Four for more on industry standards.

On a feature film I cast, I received submissions from out of the area for a SAG Ultra Low-budget, paying $100 a day, on a Local Hires Only. Translate: we were not covering airfare or hotel. When you do the math, it makes no sense for an actor to travel from out of town when the breakdown clearly states "Local Hires Only." You will still get those submissions. Just try to be kind. Turn on your "Flake Radar."

It is your job to weed out the flakes, the prima donnas, egomaniacs, nutcases and wannabes who make mistakes and cause problems. Pay attention to your radar. If you suspect someone is a nutcase, move on. If someone can't follow directions by sending in the requested materials, get to the audition on time, etc., and you still hire them, you have yourself to blame when the same behavior shows up late on-set against the setting sun while you're about to miss your shot. Going through the casting procedures will give you ample time to evaluate work habits, reliability and consistency.

During casting, another director friend asks himself whether this is "someone I would want to go camping with. Are they fun, amiable and cooperative? After ten hours on-set, is this someone who has a sense of humor that is going to hold up? If the answer is 'No' it is unlikely I will give them a callback." Excellent advice, isn't it?


"Casting Revealed" is available for purchase on Amazon.com and directly from the publisher. The book can also be searched and previewed for free via its page on Amazon.com.

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