Casting your $0 budget film

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The script is done.  It sits there on your desk, printed out, collated and sitting in a 3-ring binder.  It has a location, characters, and a compelling plot.  You have completed the most important step in realizing your dream of seeing an idea that was formed in the back of your mind appear before your eyes in flesh and bone and film.

Congratulations. Pat yourself on the back.  Have a beer--if you're of age--and a deep breath.  Now, you need to take the next step.

No doubt, writing the script is by far the most important step in the process, nothing moves forward without it, but now you still have to move forward. Making a movie, when fully thought through, can seem like an impossibly daunting task. But people do it all the time. The key is taking one step at a time. 
Your next step is getting a cast.

You need bright shining faces to fill out your cast and bring your script closer to reality.  Something strange happens when you start casting your film, it all becomes somehow more real.  The roles in the script are no longer ideas on the page, they have actual faces and eyes and statures.  Your characters become people and that is a very awe inspiring event.

So how do you fill out your cast?  Auditions.

First you can start going through your own mental rolodex to think if you personally know anybody who might fit a part. During writing, you may have actually had a picture of what that character might look like. You may have based it loosely on somebody. Friends and family tend to be very cheap labor.
But if you?'re worried about getting the best possible performances for your film, you should hold auditions. First, you should put out postings, probably at local colleges or high schools. Most schools have theatre and drama departments and those kids have dreams. Tap into the local talent.

You can also put up postings on Craig?'slist, facebook, MySpace, exploretalent.com or countless other online sites. Actors are out there and many are very anxious to get themselves on tape, so they can build their own clip reels and fill out their own resumes, further helping them land more parts.

When potential actors respond to your postings, provide a short reading, preferably from your script for the audition. Provide a little information about your plot and how the character fits in. Disclose any information about the part that might make an actor or actress uncomfortable. Do this up front, there is no need wasting your time or theirs if they are unwilling to do or say anything that is necessary for the part and your film. It can be deadly to a scheduled shoot to have an actor/actress flake out because they don?'t want to kiss another actor/actress or say a certain line. Make sure to be able to give a ball park schedule of shooting, if possible. If your script takes place at different times of the year, make sure they will be available. Ask for headshots if they have them available.

Now that you have potential actors, a location must be acquired to hold your auditions. It is not unheard of to rent a space for auditions, but on a $0 budget, it?'s probably an unnecessary expense. You can hold auditions anywhere you can be sure to have a quiet environment where both you and the actor can truly concentrate on the audition.

It is not unprofessional to hold the auditions on the planned set--many times in a $0 budget film that might be your own home. Just make sure that you make the location as clean, quiet and professional as you can. And provide water.

Film the auditions. Every actor/actress will leave you with an impression of how they will or won?'t fit in a role. Have something to go back and look at to confirm your suspicion or possibly change your mind.
Be nice to anyone who takes the time to audition for your film, they are taking time out of their lives to potentially help you realize your dream. Make eye contact. Shake hands. Try not to be too creepy. If someone is late or has to reschedule, that?'s all part of $0 budget filmmaking. There are limits, but you?'re not paying anybody, so cut them some slack. And realize that doing an audition for someone is a stressful endeavor. Actors/actresses will stutter and need to reread. When you?'re done, make sure that they are as comfortable as possible with their performance. Time is cheap at this stage of your film, you don?'t want to miss out on somebody who will give an exceptional performance.

Get as many potential auditions as possible. It?'s good for your selection pool and it?'ll also prove invaluable when you?'re ready to do your second film.

Making a film is like a rollercoaster, especially a $0 budget one, finally being able to place the faces to your characters is one of the high points in the creation process. 

Enjoy it.

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