Thursday, April 26, 2007

Casting

A hallmark of the bad student film is bad casting choices. A 20-year-old student casts his 21-year-old roommate to play a 40-year-old father, and then he casts his 18-year-old girlfriend to play that character's daughter. What you have on your hands is a pile of crap, which makes no sense whatsoever. Trust me it happens.

We spend a lot of time searching for the right actor in casting sessions. I believe actors casts themselves in the role. Sometimes you have an idea about the type you want and someone comes into the casting session and does something that completely changes your mind. I like it when that happens.

About 10 years ago right after ER began we were hired by ABC to make a commercial essentially admitting to the viewer that we know you are watching ER on another channel, but when it’s over, please turn to our station for the local news. I wrote a spot where frantic ER doctors were working on an unseen patient. The payoff comes when the doctors hit the patient with the paddles and it comes to life. The “patient” was of course a TV set and they rescued it just in time to see the late news. Genius I know, that’s why I get paid the slightly above average dollars.

At the first round of auditions an actress (full disclosure she is my friend Kristy) came in to read wearing a white lab coat. On action, she took her coat off and put it on backwards, like a surgical gown. It was a brilliant choice on her part and even before she spoke I knew I was going to call her back. We did and sure enough she got the part. This simple move with her coat is what I mean by an actor casting themselves.

So for all of the film students that read this, please take your time casting your films. While your roommate might make an excellent father- in 20 years- look for someone else. If you are making a film about a homeless person, don’t use a real homeless person (and pay him in booze). And if your film features a person on his deathbed, cast an actor; don’t use a real dying man. It will pay off in the long run.

PeterH

1 comment:

trwilkinson79 said...

Got excited when I saw the icon of "A Star Is Cast" I just read that a few months ago.

Must say I hate casting because when you get a few good options it can be so hard to decide, but that's the job.

A lot of times if I know good people I'll create something around them, just like you might write a scene around a great location you can get, to maximize the bang for your buck.