Casting is everything. Cast your movie right, your troubles are mostly over. Don’t take the time to find the perfect actor, everything after casting will be a waste of time. For you, your crew, and, Heaven help you, your investors.
Beginning filmmakers have no concept how helpful a superb actor can be. If you’ve never worked with excellent actors, you have zero basis for understanding their importance.
When I was at Vanderbilt, I taught a class where we made short films. The students crewed. I wrote and directed. Because the scripts were good and the university paid a professional location sound mixer and cinematographer, the best actors in Nashville would be in the movies. The shoots were four days and we fed them exceedingly well.
Once, we made a film set in 1904, about a man who had multiple mistresses and died during the opening credits having sex with one of them. Most of the story was his funeral, attended by his wife, daughters, and mistresses.
Most of the students had no faith in the project. They thought the period dialogue (written by me and Don Jones, who played the lead) was silly and stilted. Unrealistic. Impossible to deliver. They thought it sounded stupid — and therefore the movie would be equally as stupid.
The first scene we shot was in a room too small to fit anyone except key crew and Don. The first shot was a close up. He delivered a long speech straight into camera. So the pooh-poohing students could see, I had a monitor set up in the hallway.
Don Jones is an incredibly gifted actor. After the first take, when I came out in the hall, the students were staring at the monitor in stunned amazement. They had had absolutely no idea the setting and dialogue and wardrobe and story and everything would spring to vivid life when Don spoke.
Until that moment, they’d assumed the project would be a big fat waste of their time. Suddenly they realized it was going to be good.
Until you’ve seen it in person, you cannot understand the power and importance of talented actors. It makes all the difference.
Beginning filmmakers are easily satisfied.
“An actor” is what they’re looking for. Once they find “an actor”, their casting days are behind them. What is nearly impossible to get across, which my students in the hall understood as well as they would have understood how it felt to be struck by lightning, is that casting “the actor” is… everything.
Until you make the monumental effort to find, not “an actor” but “the actor”, and see how that time-consuming search affects your film’s quality, your filmmaking will never rise to the level of professional or film festival acceptance.