The Perfect Casting Notices: Get Actors!
Many new filmmakers want to know how they can go about making a casting notice that is perceived by many to be professional and to the point. This is a good question, because it solves many of the problems that they may have attracting the right actors or actresses to their production. But, if I had to give one piece of advice about casting notices, it’s this: DO. NOT. LIE. Don’t try to make you or your production something more than what it truly is! Just be honest, as honesty is not only the best policy, but makes life a bit easier in the long run.
So, if you’re ready this, you may be curious as to what a casting notice is, or even why it’s used. It’s simple, actually. A casting notice (or “casting call notice”) is a small “advertisement” used to tell actors in the surrounding area that you are holding a casting call (auditions) for them to visit and show off before you and others in your management (producers, directors, writers, casting directors, etc.). Many times, if you have a casting director, though, you’ll not need to worry about the casting notice, as they’ll take care of it for you. And, if you have a CD (usually short for casting director), you won’t even need MUCH of the advice I provide on my site! Because that means that you or your production have some money, and that helps to go above the indie advice I tend to provide.
Okay, so now… How to create the RIGHT casting notice!
You will need to have knowledge of the production in-full in order to build a casting notice. And, you should also be privy to what the Director and Writer(s) are looking for in their characters. That way, when you describe the character, you can provide perfectly-fitting information to each character breakdown.
Here is what an example casting notice will look like:
PA Films LLC seeks cast for a feature-length film, entitled “This Movie”. Non-union only. Filming from June 23rd through July17th in and around York, PA. Seeking –
• Ron – male, 28-35, Owner of a small deli. Has issues with interpersonal relationships.
• Amy – female, 19-24, hipster bookstore clerk. Wants to help everybody she can.
• Bill – male, 45-55, warehouse worker. Father to Amy. Very protective of his daughter.
• Pat – female, 32-40, warehouse worker. Friends of Bill. Masculine in nature. Strong Bostonian accent required.
• Angela – female, 18-22, college student. Sister to Amy. Troublemaker, light-hearted nature.
Pay, food, transportation, IMDb credit, and DVD copy included. Send headshot, resume, and demo link to castingthismovie[at]pafilms[dot]com
And it’s that simple. There are important things listed there, and I will breakdown each one for you now.
Who You Are: It’s good to announce your production company’s name at the beginning, just to help amp up the press. (If you don’t have a company, you’d better go back to development and create yourself an LLC, if you’d like to keep all of your personal belongings, because if not, you could be looking at a lawsuit that will take away everything personal that you own. The process to become an LLC is simple, inexpensive, and so worth it.)
Title of Project: It’s important to include the title so that people will have a reference name for the project, even if it’s just “Currently Untitled”. Although, it’s better to have worked on a name for the project well before this point of the game.
Type of Movie: Short, Feature, Student, Industrial, Internet… These are all potential types of movie you could be creating. And each has a specific purpose. Make sure to include it.
Union Affiliation: Is this a SAG/AFTRA project? Or is it strictly non-union? Or maybe a little of both (which is possible, especially in New Media). Make sure to note that, as it helps people to know if they should be coming to the call or not.
Filming Dates: Everyone will need to know if they’re going to be on vacation that week or not, so it will help to guide their decision as to whether or not to show up to the call.
Filming Location(s): A general guideline of where the production will be taking place, as some people might be coming in from far away to join your production. Best to try to keep this centralized as possible. If you don’t add this, people WILL ask! And even if one or two scenes take place further away from that central place, people won’t be as shocked to discover it if you let them know.
Breakdown of Characters (Character Breakdowns): This is not usually up for discussion, as each notice has potentially the same information provided.
Name – Start with a name. Last names aren’t important. You’re only providing a reference for the actor when they come in and you ask them what role for which they’re trying.
Gender – Some names tend to be androgynous, like Pat (see above) or Hayden. This explains which one you’re seeking.
Age Range – This is SUPER important, since you have a specific person in mind for that role, and they need to fill it out. Imagine if Bill up above was played by a guy only 28 years old! That wouldn’t work, since he’s Amy’s FATHER. (Trust me when I tell you that people will tend to ignore this information. When they come to the call asking to try out for Bill, and you cannot see them as Bill, let them know immediately!)
Race – Although omitted from the above notice, entering a specific race here is a good idea. If you leave it out, the character is “open to interpretation”, meaning that any race could audition for it. BUT, and I stress this, if you’re NOT looking for a Asian “Bill”, you should put the race. (Many times actors will ALSO ignore this one. But look at it this way, when you don’t add a specific race, you might just be blown away by the people you meet! I have had this happen to me more than once. So it’s a good idea to just open your mind, if the role could be that way.)
Relationship – If this character has a specific relationship to main characters, put it here. This will allow people to understand things like required meanings and social interaction stances (like an old guy over a young guy. What would each be doing on a Saturday night? You see?)
Character Traits – If your character has a specific trait, like “overbearing” or “grimy” or “pervert”, make sure the actors know and understand this. You wouldn’t want someone to show up and start being all romantic/mushy when he’s supposed to play an overbearing asshole, would you? (I assure you, omitting this portion will bring in some interesting takes on the character YOU had in mind!)
Skills – I list this as just skills, but you can read it as “Necessary Skills”. These are things that you’re going to want to have the actor be able to do. If they’re a French waiter, they should probably have some form of French accent to them, and potentially a French look, as well. But the skill here is “French accent”. If it’s a major plot point that they have a French accent, then make sure to put, “French accent required” or “ability to have French accent”. But, if it’s something that isn’t so important, you could write, “French accent a bonus” or “French accent preferred”. (Again, you’re going to see all types of “French accents”, trust me.)
Payment: This is one of the big ones where people either tend to lie, or just omit the idea… Payment. Will people get paid for performing? Hey, if you have a tiny budget, let them know that you don’t have money to offer them. (But make sure to make it up in the next area the best you can!) But DO NOT LIE! Also, it’s best to not put a dollar amount in order to attract people to your casting call. By being up-front with the fact that you’ll be paying something, you’ll still get the people who just want the money, but you’ll also attract the right people, especially if certain roles pay DIFFERENTLY than other roles. So don’t put a dollar amount on there! Tell them if you’re paying or not, and wait until you meet them at the auditions. (If the production is union, you’ll be on a set pay scale anyhow, so people will know that difference when they see “union” above.)
Incentives: This is the part where you shouldn’t skimp! Now, you don’t need to let people know that you’re having lobster bisque every filming night, but you should let them know about things like food, apparel (cast and crew t-shirts, although if you don’t have the money to pay them, why the HELL did you buy shirts?! Ahhh… Advertising, riiight.), IMDb credits, copy of the DVD, premiere seats, transportation to and from their accommodations, etc. These incentives can sometimes make up for little to no pay. Sometimes. But make sure to include what you’ll be doing/having. Having this information makes your production more attractive in the long run.
Submission Guidelines: Where should they send their info? Who to contact if they have questions? Are you going to be making “appointments” or just allowing walk-ins? The most important thing you can have is the final telephone number or e-mail address (preferred) for them to make contact should they have questions or want to reserve. Yes, you WILL be inundated with ridiculous questions… Yes, you will have to answer quite a few questions that were RIGHT IN THE NOTICE… But overall, the experience will be a good one.
And there you have it! Remember: Keep the submission size DOWN! Try to consolidate words by using words that better form what you need to say in a quicker way. For example, instead of saying “he has a hard time getting along with people around him, especially those close to him”, you should say, “Issues with interpersonal relationships”. The more you can consolidate what you need to say, the better off you’ll be. Not like you’ve read this whole article or anything…
Break a leg in the business!! If you need help, contact me at my e-mail address: j e f f [ a t ] p a f i l m s [ d o t ] c o m