Casting is not simply a matter of rounding up some cattle for the big push; this is perhaps the most crucial operation in the entire pre-production process that does not involve infrastructure.
Personality conflicts can develop on any film shoot at any given time, especially between actors and/or directors/producers, but with actors especially you should use the casting process to test the waters as much as possible.
This is a chance to really study your script and make informed decisions about who is going to be the face of the project. More importantly, what you want is someone who can take direction but with whom you may also develop a rapport that may lead to quality collaborative work.
You’re looking for someone who will respect your leadership but take the journey with you; someone who will go for broke when the time is right, but also help you keep the cast united during demanding times. The ideal relationship template here is a committed working-alliance, not a deep friendship (which can evolve naturally as a bonus), or a soulless employer-employee situation.
Working with actors can be a delight or warfare, and both environments have led to good films and bad; what you don’t want is a collaboration that breaks down entirely. The job of the director is to make strategic decisions and to inspire a unified vision, but also to bring the actors into the film’s universe and to let them do what they do best. Casting gives you the chance to address issues or potential issues before ever stepping on set.
By the time the production is under way, the casting process should have helped you answer some of these fundamental questions (ideally):
– Are the actors inspired by the script/role or just starved creatively (a combination of both can be great)? Do the actors believe in the story, in its integrity? Are they excited about it as creators or just participants?
– Do the actors agree with your overall vision of the film? Did you make a connection with them and properly outline your expectations while also offering them your full support? Remember what a cruel environment a film set can be for an actor. You must be their compass, their rock, but also you have to work as a team to get to the heart of the story.
– Will there be any potential conflicts between the actors you have selected? Can they rise above their personal preferences and comfort zones to get the job done? Local acting communities are usually tightly knit, everyone knows everyone, and that can be a blessing or a curse. Be straightforward and find out if there’s any history between your players, as this information may prove essential to how your prepare your direction.
Casting is really, as the term suggests, about laying strong foundations for a successful group collaboration. It’s not just about preventing problems, it’s about promoting a healthy atmosphere that can withstand the unexpected.
To be continued.