Shooting Stars

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Casting for film can be a convoluted and hair-pulling experience. Bigger productions will have the benefit of assigning the task of finding the right people for a given project to a professional casting firm, but chances are that in an independent environment this sensitive process will fall into the hands of the director and his/her cohorts.

Before any thought can be vested into shaping the individual roles and creating that ideal ensemble cast that can will bring your script to life, this very crucial selection process must occur that will force you to confront important question about your project.

Is your script story-driven?

This important because it may influence the kind of actor your will choose to pass the ball to. If you’re story has a Die Hard-level dependence on the central character and demands that the camera dwell primarily on his/her face for a great deal of the film, you are going to want someone who not only looks right, but an actor with the stamina for lengthy, tight shots.

You’ll want someone who can work with the entire crew closed in on them, someone with a face that will imprint your film in just the right way, whose very presence promotes your story.

In a more story-driven context, good actors with stamina and presence are just as important, but they needn’t pierce the screen or engulf scenery. Here you’ll want avatar-like actors who can represent the various pieces on your chessboard without overriding each other or being too distracting individually.

Sometimes consistently powerful performances will work against these types of stories because they demand a kind of collective dedication to the universe of the film rather than the showcasing of high character drama.

When casting actors it is often helpful to have the screenwriter with you, as he/she clearly has a basic idea of the look and feel of the characters on the page. This is a good starting point for casting but the person in charge may of course decide to go in a completely different direction, and that’ s a perfectly valid option. The crucial thing is to really isolate your casting team with the candidates and spend quality time examining their potential before moving on.

To be continued.

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