The Indie Chronicles: Casting About
a blogumn by R.B. Ripley
I have spent a majority of the past four weeks dealing with numbers, filling out forms, preparing presentations, writing and returning hundreds of email, crafting solicitation letters – in a word, producing. Someone asked me if I was having fun? It made me pause and think. What is fun is knowing that I am creating my own opportunity. The rest is all just really good information to know.
Last week, I realized I needed some human interaction in this project. Since I’d cast the male character so early, I decided to start working on casting the leading lady. Two weeks ago, I’d gotten the project cleared through SAG and became an official signatory, so I felt comfortable sending out word through official means and in Hollywood, that’s the Breakdowns.
As a “producer,” I was able to create an account and list the project, a logline and a short character description. I had a very clear picture of what type of actor the scripts required and therefore spent some quality time crafting what I thought was a specific, concise and relatively clear description. Here’s what I submitted:
Female, early 30′s to early 40′s; Caucasian; Classic look; She’s privileged, sheltered, and well-heeled; A wife and mother of a 7-year old boy and is ultimately in way over her head; While there is no nudity, this character will appear in one scene wearing her underclothes.
NOTES ON THIS ROLE
1. We are interested only in actors who appear within the specified age range of early 30′s to early 40′s, and specifically not in those who appear younger. Please be sure that the photo submitted reflects this important characteristic.
2. In support of Faith’s ‘classic look’, we will not consider model-thin actors.
I placed the ad on Friday. Monday at 7:30 am, I discovered 633 responses. Of those 633, 550 were clearly younger than 30 (and 80% of those between 18 and 25). That left 83, of which 42 were quite obvious stretching to look five years younger than they were. So I had a pool of 41 potential actors. After going through resumes and watching their video clips, I managed to earmark 21 as those to consider.
So, I called the one casting person I knew from my days on the Paramount lot when he was an overworked assistant working for Jeff Greenberg. Now he’s an overworked Casting Director working for himself (hooray for him!) Too busy to take on my little project, he recommended a casting director named Geralyn Flood. When Geralyn and I met, we both laughed, recognizing one another instantly, having worked in the office next to her while at Paramount (yet another instance of synchronicity in this project). We hit it off swimmingly. I told her how much I could pay (I am getting good at not feeling like a louse because of the nominal fees I can offer!) and she agreed. I drew up a deal memo, she signed it and we were on our way.
She called the 21 people I’d selected as well as three others she thought might be good for the role. We got 12 confirmations for the appointments, and nine people asking to reschedule on another day.One actually asked if we would be reading for the role “after her pilates class.” Needless to say, I didn’t ask when her class was. On the day of casting, 7 showed up and the other 5 flaked.
The first woman that read was Merritt Hicks. She blew us all away. I managed to refrain from hiring her on the spot and read the others who had graciously come in. Coincidentally, she’s also Mark Engelhardt’s – our leading man’s – wife. Again with the synchronicity.
A reminder that there are too many people in this town who say that want to be actors (or writers or producers) but really only seek the ancillary rewards. They should be ignored and I shouldn’t feel bad for ignoring them.
Second big lesson – Geralyn Flood is great to work with. If you’re in a position to hire a casting director, interview her. Finally, Merritt Hicks’ reading showed me how important it is to stay open to the possibilties great actors bring to the process.
UP NEXT: This writer finally learns math – through Movie Magic Budgeting!