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Casting Notes #3: The Importance of Expanding your Circle (For Filmmakers)

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 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.


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The Importance of Expanding your Circle

This installment is all about doing what scares you, when you know in this instance that doing what scares you will lead to growth and achieving greater goals.

For a project as ambitious as The Broken Continent, I knew that we needed to reach well beyond our circles of familiar actors. And for indie productions, you’re almost never paying SAG’s current standard of  about $840 per day. That makes it harder to fall back on Noel Coward’s method of motivation (“Your motivation? Your motivation is your pay packet on Friday. Now get on with it.”). Additionally, we’re trying to cast for a series. We’re hoping to cast people that, if all goes well, we will work with for years to come.

In short: it’s a scary prospect hiring complete strangers especially for the long haul.

Sadly, the filmmakers who most need to read this article, won’t. I meet these filmmakers all the time: these are the filmmakers who have zero interest in what you’ve done or what you’re doing. They know how Things are Done — and that certainly includes something as inconsequential as casting. Somehow this supreme confidence includes the conviction that actors are:
a) Quite interchangeable and therefore disposable
b) Going to flock to them because of their brilliance

You do not want to be one of these people. Confidence is good. Confidence is necessary to muscle through some days on the shoot. But for casting, humility and graciousness are crucial. There’s a natural predilection for the director to be seen as a dictator, but every talented director I know is building a team, not a dictatorship.

And one of the ways you can achieve that is expanding your potential team.

We want the Broken Continent to be exceptional. Francis has mentioned several times about how integral stellar performances are going to be to the project. Despite any tricks we might have up our sleeve with inexpensive, but impressive special effects, compelling characters are going to be what keeps people coming back to the series — and really good actors are going to be the key to that.

Now Francis, Kelley, and I know some great actors. Odds most of you filmmakers reading this have a pool of actors you like to call in. But how often do you make it a priority to seek out new talent — whether or not you think you know an actor who can pull off the role you have in mind? I’ll admit that I don’t always like to do that — and there is professional precedent in this area and elsewhere to hire who you know. You know what these actors can and can’t do. You know how they deal with stress and long shoots. Picking actors you know is not only loyalty, it’s a risk mitigation strategy. Nevertheless, as a rule, I always like to see new people.

Perhaps I do this because I’m asked to cast a wide variety of projects, so I want to know more people out there. In addition, as we discovered while casting The Broken Continent, Francis  (the director) saw many actors that weren’t quite a fit for parts in the pilot, but we might want for a future episode. The Broken Continent is to be a webseries after all. We’ll talk about “future episoders” in a later article in the series.

You also simply want more options. What if the actor you first think to cast turns out not to connect with the material or is unavailable? Even actors you know well and would love to work with you are on their own trajectory. It’s taken me years to work with some actors I wanted to work with when I saw them half a dozen auditions ago because schedules didn’t work out. And there’s always a chance that schedules won’t work out.

This doesn’t mean you should regard actors as disposable parts to plug into your movie machine. That’s for the know-it-alls mentioned above. If you’re at all human, casting will be an emotional and potentially agonizing experience because you’ll be meeting dozens of wonderful actors who also strike you as wonderful human beings with whom you’d love to work. But there aren’t enough parts. Even with the 50+ roles in Broken Continent pilot, there aren’t enough parts.

Every Stonehenge, we see over 100 actors. How many times do you think I see actors who knock it out of the park? How many actors do you suppose I would love to cast then and there, but I don’t have a part for them? Every. Single. Time. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I enjoy casting because I get to match actors with so many more parts.

Then I go through casting and experience that agony all over again and see it on the director’s face. Maybe I’m just a masochist, but I digress. The point is, if you have too many good choices in terms of who to cast, you’re doing it right.

But you don’t have a chance to do it right if you’re not ready to do something a little scary.

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Casting Notes #2: The Top Two “Good Things to Remember” (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 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.


Previous Casting Notes Article | Next Casting Notes Article


The Top Two “Good Things to Remember”

One of my goals for this series is to give people far more in-depth information about casting than I’ve been able to do in interviews and panel discussions in the past. However, I am not ignorant of the attention span of many surfers on the interwebs. So, even though I’ve tried to break the information into many shorter articles, I know that’s not enough (or rather, too much) for some folks.

Therefore, for those people, and for the more patient readers looking for a throughline in the articles ahead, here are the top two “Good Things to Remember About Casting.”

For Actors:
Whatever you can do to make the casting director’s job easier is a good thing.

We’ll touch on techniques to achieve this and — often more importantly — what to avoid by both action and inaction. None of what we’ll advocate is unethical or even unusual. However, it might burst some actors’ bubbles.

For Filmmakers:
Whatever you can do to respect the actor and make their audition experience more pleasant is a good thing.

Assembling a good cast takes a lot of work — and from what all of us on The Broken Continent team have seen as actors, a lot of filmmakers don’t do that work. We break down a lot of different tactics we used to impress the actors and make the auditions run smoother (and the actors noticed!).

I’d say, “That’s it” but that wouldn’t be true. There’s a whole lot of “how?” and “why” to support those two Good Things. And that’s what we’ll start exploring in Part Three.

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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.


Next Casting Notes Article


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)

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Union/Non-Union Casting for Fantasy Web Series – All Roles Paid

Ciscovaras Pictures and award-winning director Francis Abbey, in conjunction with Team Jabberwocky and Cavegirl Productions, are seeking over 40 actors for its production of “The Broken Continent” — an epic fantasy web series set in a land torn apart by a vengeful god where ambitious men vie for dominion and both nobles and commoners struggle to survive.

The “pilot set”  of webisodes will tentatively be shot near the DC area this September under a SAG New Media Entertainment Contract, so both union and non-union are invited to apply. Depending on the role, costume fittings and fight rehearsals will occur before the principal photography in September.

The list of roles is below. All roles will be paid. Whether you are interested in a principal, stunt, OR background role, please email us at casting@brokencontinent.com with:
*Your resume (PDF, .doc, or .docx only)
*A small headshot (100k or less in size, please)
* What role(s) you are interested in.

Actors will be called in for auditions in DC on Sunday, May 20th and Monday, May 21st to read from sides provided beforehand. Callbacks will be Sunday, June 3rd and Monday, June 4th.

Roles that require stage combat experience are noted below. Also, there are many cultures across The Broken Continent, so the ability to do accents is a plus for just about all the roles.

Learn more about the world of the Broken Continent on our Facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Broken-Continent/324739100871719

ROLES

Althalos
(30s to 50s, Male) Younger peer of Lord Forthwind, a gaunt-faced, honorable man, troubled by the war in the realm and skeptical of magic. Stage combat experience a plus.

Barda
(Late 30s to 50s, Male) Intelligencer and subtly scheming advisor to King Eadwyn.

Cedany
(20s to 30s, Female), Young, empathetic healer of the Women of the Wood who urges the group take sides in the war. Stage combat experience preferred.

Diarmait
(30s to 60s, Male) Enigmatic and conniving sorcerer from a far land. Stage combat experience a plus.

Eadwyn
(20s to early 30s, Male) Young, energetic and dashing king who hungers to unite the lands under his rule. Stage combat experience required.

Forthwind
(50s to 60s, Male) A graying veteran of both the battlefield and court, he wrestles between his loyalty to the king he serves or the realm he has served longer. Stage combat experience a plus.

Frewin
(40s to 60s, Male) Stocky leader of the lords in rebellion, a principled if stubborn man.

Jolenta
(20s to 40s, Female) Short-haired, sharp-featured scout of the Women in the Wood. A woman of few words, but great humility and dedication to her adopted family. Stage combat experience a plus.

Loe
(20s to 30s, Male) Battle-scarred man-at-arms in the service of Lord Frewin. Stage combat experience a plus.

Lorica
(20s to early 30s, Female) Practical peasant woman and de facto leader of a band of refugees, she is driven to guarantee their safety. Stage combat experience preferred.

Malkyn
(20s to 30s, Female) Beautiful, foreign-born Queen and wife to King Eadwyn. She has begun to fear for the future of both her marriage and the realm.

Nerida
(20s to 40s, Female) Steadfast foreigner serving as an experienced Warden of the Wood. Stage combat experience required.

Orla
(Late 20s to 40s, Female) Refugee peasant and mother unafraid to speak her mind. Stage combat experience a plus.

Prince Boric
(CHILD: 2 – 5, Male) Carefree child of King Eadwyn and Queen Malkyn. Cherubic cuteness required.

Rhoswen
(40s to 50s, Female) Sturdy and serious-minded Warden of the Wood and bodyguard to Ysmay. Stage combat experience required.

Roylon
(20s to 30s, Male) Young knight in the service of Lord Forthwind. Loyal, trustworthy, and a skilled horseman. Stage combat experience preferred.

Spiders
(7 roles needed, 20s to 50s, Male or Female ) Members of the Order of the Ebon Spider: Skilled scouts, assassins and saboteurs who sell their blades to the highest bidder. Stage combat experience required.

Tybalt
(30s to 40s, Male) Self-assured, permanently smirking lord and military advisor to King Eadwyn. He is eager to earn his own glory. Stage combat experience preferred.

Vymont
(late 20s to 50s, Male) A massive, hard-looking man whose skill on the battlefield is legendary. Stage combat experience required.

Ysmay
(50s to 60s, Female) Gray-haired healer and leader of the Women of the Wood. She works to guide her people as the war draws closer. Stage combat experience a plus.

Armored Knights
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 4 needed, 20s to 40s, Male) Followers of Lord Frewin. Athletic, though perhaps looking as if they’ve missed a few meals.

Eadwyn’s Lords
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 4 needed, 30s to 60s, Male) A mixture of athletic knights and well-fed courtiers of King Eadwyn.

Peasant Women
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 3 needed, 30s to 60s, Female)

Peasant Children
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 2 needed, 5-12, Male or Female)

Refugees
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 4 needed, 30s to 60s, Male or Female) Wounded and recovering civilians who have escaped the war.

Second (Duel)
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 1 needed, 20s to 40s, Male) An armored knight, follower of Lord Frewin, perhaps a bit more athletic looking than his compatriots.

Women of the Wood
(EXTRA/BACKGROUND – 2 needed, 30s to 60s, Female) Women who now make a life for themselves in Ironleaf Forest

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