Casting a USC film project

Pre-Production for my second USC project is underway!

Over the weekend, I posted a casting call for my second short film. The casting service I use is Breakdown Express. This is an online casting website that includes actors and their agents. There are other kinds of casting websites, but I have found that the actors from this website are very well trained and very reliable. This is most likely because agents are involved. My actress for my directing scene was actually sent to my audition by her agent. The website requires us to write "USC Film Project" on our casting call information. This will actually bring in a lot more actors because they tend to use our films to put on their reels (reel = compilation of an actor's film & tv work). By having a strong reel, an actor is more likely to get better acting jobs in the industry. This is actually a Catch 22 situation. These actors need auditions to acquire a reel of work, but auditions are hard to come by if an actor does not have a reel! I personally have chosen to audition, or not to audition, actors based on their reel, or lack there of. I am feeding into their Catch 22!

I am casting my film tomorrow morning in the Zemeckis Building on the USC Campus. I chose 18 females and 18 males for my two parts, gave each one a specific audition time, and now it is their turn to confirm if they can make it. So far, a few have confirmed. Others ask for a time change. Some decline because they cannot make the audition times. This can be a huge frustration for major productions. Sometimes a casting director (the person who casts a movie) will have a call-back (2nd round of auditions) or another audition day. Since my project is low-budget, I've decided to only have one audition day and no call-backs. This means I need to decide which actor I want based on one audition. Sometimes this is very easy, sometimes it is very hard. When I begin producing much larger productions, I will have more than one audition day and a day for call-backs.

I have an idea of the type of look I am going for to play my two characters. I chose actors who matched that look. I am also bringing in actors who do not have the look, but they have the experience I am looking for. I specifically wrote "comedic actor" on my casting call, so a lot of actors wrote "improvisational group" when they submitted for the audition. I chose people with the acting experience because they may take my character in a different direction than I had ever imagined...and most of the time, that is a good thing!

In an audition, we need to make sure an actor can take direction well. The audition begins with me introducing myself and telling the actor a bit about the role they are auditioning for. Then I look at their head-shot (picture of them and a resume) and ask them about certain projects on their resume. This is all a way to feel out an actor's personality. It's important to know how an actor will behave on set before casting them. I like to give them an improvisational exercise to see how they interact with me or the other actor auditioning with them. And then I will give them an adjustment to see how well they listen and how well they change their performance based on my direction.

There is a lot of work that goes into preparing an audition day, but it is one of my favorite parts of filmmaking. I enjoy meeting actors and watching them perform!

I will talk more about the film I am making when I show screen shots from the dailies (footage from one day of shooting) later in the weekend. Just know, it involves key chains falling in love awwwww!

1 Response

  1. Anonymous

    Hey! Thanks so much for this great resource;
    I just got admitted to SCA for Spring 2013 Film & TV Production, and I’m reading up as much as I can to make a decision quickly – (I still can’t believe it.)

    I’ve read some first-hand experiences, but from more than a few years ago – is it still the case that in some lab of first semester you (a production student) have to ACT in 2 scenes?
    I’m not an actor! I specifically sought out a program of ‘behind-the-camera’, not in front!
    Is this still an exercise in the program, or was it phased out?

    Thanks so much for your help!