Sometimes, the piece of the puzzle that tips a movie from an idea to green light is the attachment of talent. Some thoughts below on what will attract an actor to your indie movie.
What will attract an actor to my indie movie?
Amazing stories are hard to come by – and decisions are made within the first 10 pages of a read. The better the quality of screenplay, the more likely it will get attention from agents and actors.
Why do actors take on low paying indie movies if they can green light a studio film? The work. Actors want to work and they want to challenge themselves; to be involved in exciting material.
They also get to showcase their talent and might win awards in carefully crafted indie movies. Make sure the script is the best it can be and you will attract an actor to your indie movie.
Female Driven Material
Although diversity is a watchword, there still aren’t as many leading roles for women as there are for men i.e. a leading female role will attract an actor to your indie movie. If your project is female focusing, aim high if that leading role gives an actress an opportunity to hold the screen for 90 minutes. Does that actor have her own production company – what type of stories do they tell? Is your film a co production opportunity too?
Day in, day out, casting agents are talking to talent, managers, agents and in the theatre, indie and studio space too. They have an eye for new talent and a head start on the next big thing. They will also know who is available and, importantly, how long they take to read / if they are likely to respond. The casting agent’s knowledge & relationships will attract an actor to your indie movie. Having a casting agent on your project also adds credibility when going out to talent.
Agents / Managers
Long term, it’s a good idea to start making relationships with talent agents. You may want one actor in particular – but if they’re not available, who else does that agency represent? Actors have agents in other cities – befriend the UK, NYC agents as well as LA. Does the actor work in theatre too – expand your network. Ask the agents for their opinion on the script – who do they rep or have they seen anyone lately who suits the role?
Partner up with experience on your movie. Surround yourself with experts and you will attract an actor to your indie movie . If this is your first or second feature, “Who are you? Why should I trust you?” may be an agent’s response. As well as your passion for the material, signal that you know your strengths AND weaknesses i.e. pitch with zeal; but mention you have amazing support with your line producer, DoP, Editor etc. (NB: also – these folks may know the talent you’re approaching – giving your movie another seal of approval).
Check indie projects for cast – who regularly works with independent filmmakers? There are big stars who want to support newcomers to the industry and work on alternate material. Robert Redford was a huge star when he set up the Sundance Film Festival – looking to find the talent needing a break and filmmakers with something original to say but needing a platform.
Who are the backers in your project? Agents know that independent films are contingent on financing. Let them know which financiers are fans of you / your movie. Having these backers will help you to be taken seriously. Agents and talent know indie film isn’t about a pay day – it’s about the work and the role – but having a financier on board is another ‘tick’ on the check list.
The Sales Agent
A sales agent might love you and your project but you will be asked “who’s the cast?” …It’s a little chicken and egg – how do you get cast without finance … and how do you get finance without cast …and around we go.
A sales agent will discuss casting with you – what level of cast might be appropriate for the film; what might help pre-sales? Be aware, some actors while good to have in the movie may not necessarily help the ‘sale’. A sales agent doesn’t really want to give you a top 10 list of names – because they don’t want you coming back saying the first nine passed. However, they will help you focus on talent which adds value to a project because of their international appeal.
Set a date, head towards it and make an offer. As above, the movie will be subject to the finance coming together – but having a date makes it real and will attract an actor to your indie movie. Actors like to work – if they’ve a gap in their schedule, it may be that your movie fits in nicely. Note: they will likely bail on you if Disney makes a big pay or play – so have a back-up plan!
Write an intriguing character role – one that may not take more than a week to shoot but has depth and makes an impact on the whole story. Are they busy 52 weeks of the year? Unlikely. Look for the TV hiatus period – but avoid the summer family vacation season.
Go for that huge star you don’t think you’ll ever get!