I want to share what we did to help out others who are doing it for the first time too. Because being a newbie is not an excuse for a bad casting.
Our main goal was to find suitable actresses for our two leading roles and hopefully a choice of people for the supporting roles. Additionally, we were aiming to make the whole thing a relaxed and pleasurable experience for all involved. We wanted to give everyone a fair chance because the acting part was way more important to us than fulfilling a ridiculous predetermined physical profile. We were willing to consider everything as long as it still made sense for the character. Age, hair colour, figure are all unimportant – if you can’t act, you can’t act. Hollywood already fuels the photoshopped plastic image of impossible humans, we didn’t want to perpetuate this tradition.
First, we set a date. Then we wrote our official casting call. We put a lot of research into it to make it look professional enough to attract actual actors and actresses but still keep it on an indie film kind of level. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not!
At the same time we were looking for a place that would let us use one or two rooms for free. Snapped is a no-budget film and what little money we spend comes from our own pockets. We found help at the MetaLab. They had room and wouldn’t charge us for using their “library” for a whole day. Thank you, Kay! The main room (our waiting area) at the MetaLab has big comfy sofas. Those actors and actresses spend valuable time on preparing for the role they most likely will not get. The least you can do is make them comfortable. Think of them as guests. You wouldn’t make a guest stand while waiting for you. Your mother raised you better than that!
We distributed our casting call via every possible channel available to us. I haven’t had time to look over the data yet but we reached approx. a third of our guests through agencies, a third through social media and another third through other means. I will update this statistics once I have actual numbers.
We asked people to apply for time slots, so we would be able to plan ahead and to avoid long waiting times. Coming without an allotted time slot was allowed but would mean a longer wait.
In the end, we received a lot more applicants than we could possibly handle in a day and had to put people on a waiting list. There went our good intentions to give everyone a chance.
Our time slots were 15 minutes per person. That turned out to be pretty accurate. With some people we only needed 10 minutes or less, but that made it easier to give some people the chance to try one more time. Our schedule was so full that on paper we didn’t have a single break in 9 hours. So what we did was to take very short breaks in between and it somehow worked out just fine. I’m not recommending it though. Schedule breaks!
Send your hopeful applicants their sides ahead of time. The sooner, the better but at least 24h before the casting starts. It will give them a feeling of security if they can come in prepared and it will make your work easier if they can already perform without looking at the text. Don’t expect them to know their lines though. You’re not looking for the person who can memorize lines the fastest, you’re looking for the person who is best at acting!
Prepare a bunch of copies of casting sides and character descriptions. The actors will probably have them but might be happy to pick up a copy if they forgot theirs at home. I also recommend having some sort of information form for actors to fill out. It’s mostly for you to remember them quickly without having to look at the casting videos again. We had a little photo sticker printer and a camera at the reception desk, so we could put a picture on these forms too.
Set up your casting room well ahead of time, you are on a tight schedule, but you don’t have to seem like it because you couldn’t get up on time. Brief your receptionist and your line reader, check if your camera works and that the light is ok. Make sure your chair doesn’t squeak and your phone is on silent.
Then you’re ready to go and ask the first person in!