Casting Notes #1: The Broken Continent Case Study (For Filmmakers and Actors)
This 20-part series, written by Team J’s Bjorn Munson, covers the lessons learned during the casting of The Broken Continent web series pilot in 2012. You can find the full Table of Contents here, in Part 1.
This series is meant to help other independent filmmakers, primarily those who are casting a large ensemble (10+ speaking parts, multiple background actors, etc.). Individual articles may be useful to production companies looking to cast other work such as commercials. There are also a number of articles specifically for actors on how to better submit for auditions, do the auditions, and deal with the statistically inevitable rejections.
The lessons learned have been applied to Team J’s Stonehenge Casting service, an online tool for producers to find actors and actors to find work.
The Broken Continent Case Study
As some of you who follow Team J know — and I certainly hope the followers of Stonehenge Casting on Facebook know — I’ve served as an unofficial casting consultant and official casting director on a number of film and video productions for the past eight years.
Most recently, I had the opportunity to serve as casting director for The Broken Continent, an ambitious, epic fantasy webseries and undoubtedly the largest project I have cast to date. It has 21 principal roles, eight stunt performers, and easily 30 background performers (if fully funded). It requires a wide range of performers and an ensemble that needs to work on multiple levels because of all the relationships, both explicitly in the pilot and planned for the future series.
We discussed the ins and outs of casting on the July 2012 episode of the Tohubohu Producer Podcast, but — perhaps owing to my being very under the weather — I felt there was a lot more I wanted to share.
This series of articles is not simply what we did and why it was so great. On the whole, we were really pleased with how the casting sessions went. However, as with all things, there was some room for improvement. Throughout the articles, I want to share with you not only what our strategy was, but also what worked and what didn’t. And I want to share with you some of our plans for next time.
We hope this Team J blog series will help other independent filmmakers in structuring and running their casting. Francis, Kelley, and I have all been auditioning actors and while I’ll speak for myself, I’d be surprised if they didn’t agree with me when I say, “Not all filmmakers take the same care with casting as they do with shooting.” In fact, many auditions seem to be run in a haphazard fashion that does everyone a disservice — and that’s completely avoidable with more planning. Our solutions don’t amount to a one-size-fits-all prescription. While I believe some of the notes and lessons learned will apply to any casting situation (for instance, The Top Two “Good Things to Remember”), some of our suggestions may apply better to those filmmakers casting for 10 or more roles, such as is often the case for webseries or features.
I’m also not going to go through the SAG-AFTRA agreements. A 20-part series seems long as it is, and I suspect fellow indie filmmakers will really want an in-depth dissection of the various paperwork you’ll need to fill out to be a union signatory.
Speaking of scope, you’ll notice that I’ve labeled each and every article in this series “For Filmmakers and Actors” or “For Filmmakers” or “For Actors.” Note that I did not say “only” I know some of you will read over both, and you should feel free to do so. I work as both an actor and as a producer, so I think both sets of information are good to share.
It’s important to give credit where credit is due. It’s the casting director’s job to make the rest of the creative team’s job hard in picking who to finally cast. However, the casting director is not and should not be the final decision maker. For this project, writer/director Francis Abbey had the ultimate choice, ably aided by producer Kelley Slagle (who was also invaluable in helping process the actor submissions). Not only that, we think you’ll find your support team during the casting process is invaluable, and here we were supported well by Tamieka Chavis, Ann Rowe, Meredith Sims, and Brooks Tegler.
Finally, here’s the Table of Contents of all the planned articles. I’m trying to break them up into nice digestible chunks for all you nice people on the interwebs. They are more or less sequential and you can feel free to hop around the articles. However, you may want to at least skim all the articles before starting your casting (you’ll want to have found an audition space before creating your casting notice, for instance).
(Links will become active as articles are posted)
Casting Notes and Lessons Learned from The Broken Continent
1. The Broken Continent Case Study (For Filmmakers and Actors)
2. The Top Two “Good Things to Remember” (For Filmmakers and Actors)
3. The Importance of Expanding your Circle (For Filmmakers)
4. Perfecting Your Casting Notice (For Filmmakers)
5. Getting the Word Out (For Filmmakers)
6. Responding to the Casting Notice (For Actors)
6a. An Actor’s Submission Checklist (For Actors)
7. Processing all the Actor Submissions (For Filmmakers)
8. Deciding Who to Call In (For Filmmakers)
9. Finding the Right Audition Space (For Filmmakers)
10. Organizing the Audition Space (For Filmmakers)
11. Conducting the Auditions (For Filmmakers)
12. The Audition: For Actors, it’s Time to Play (For Actors)
13. Determining and Conducting Callbacks (For Filmmakers)
14. The Bonus Round: Fight Auditions (For Filmmakers)
15. Don’t Mind Me: Casting Background Performers (For Filmmakers)
16. Making the Final Casting Decisions (For Filmmakers)
17. Letting Actors Know the Final Decisions (For Filmmakers)
18. The Reaction (For Actors)
19. The Aftermath (For Filmmakers and Actors)
20. Final Thoughts (For Filmmakers and Actors)