GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – THE ANATOMY OF CASTING, PART 2

Hey filmmakers. Welcome to Going Bionic #172!  I hope you had a wonderful week. Mine has been nothing less than remarkable, because not only did multiple projects of mine move forward, (projects I’ll surely discuss with you in the coming weeks), but the Los Angeles Lakers just upgraded my season tickets to center court. Now if only the Lakers were going to be as good as my new seats are, I’d be in Heaven.

Today we’re going to continue what we started last week and discuss five more casting strategies for your feature films. As always, these strategies are built to give you and your film the best shot at wrangling a great cast. So, without further ado, here’s part two of our miniseries on “The Anatomy of Casting.”

Side Note: When I use the term “actor,” I am referring to both male and female actors. 

An Actor’s ‘Last Reported Income’ Isn’t Always a Factual Number
An actor’s “last reported income,” as stated on IMDB or other sites, is just that, “reported,” and not confirmed. While the short list of actors who rest on top of the A list get their “reported amount,” everyone below their perch is probably earning less than their “reported income.” Inflating the amount an actor earns is beneficial to both the actor and the film. This is because it allows the actor to keep his or her value high and it allows the film to inflate its budget, which undoubtedly increases its international value. So, when you’re making an offer to an actor, you should use their “last reported income,” as a the highest number you would ever offer, not the starting number.

Beware of “Payday” Actors
By “payday actor,” I mean actors who will say, “yes” to any script, just as long as your check clears. While I mean absolutely no disrespect to actors, if the actor you’re considering to cast has a habit of cashing in on every film that’s willing to cast them, then their value will evaporate, as will the value of your film.Thus, before you make an offer to an actor, do your research on the last several films they appeared in. Unless those films were major studio based, major film festival darlings, or indie flicks that captured international distribution, you should question the value the actor brings.

Furthermore, some actors may not care how undeveloped, or to put it more bluntly, how bad the script may be, as long as they’re getting paid. The worst part in this scenario, is some actors are fine with making a shitty film, because they know there is little chance for that waste of celluloid to get distribution. Thus, the actor can make a bit of money, and their rate may not be negatively affected if the film never achieves distribution.

Side Note: There is nothing wrong with actors green-lighting every offer they get. I’d probably do the same with most writing and producing gigs, so I’m not going to judge. However, my comments above are meant to help the filmmaker.

Offer Actors Income From Foreign Sales in Exchange for Paying Less Upfront
One way to wrangle a bigger actor your budget can handle, is to try to work a deal where he or she gets part of their income from foreign sales. Of course, this scenario only works with an actor with a large enough name to guarantee foreign sales. Once you get such confirmation from a qualified foreign sales agent and or international distributor, then you can entice the actor to take a bit less up front, in exchange for a bit more money from the first international sales made on the film. While the actor’s agent will severely dislike this proposal, the only way to get it to be approved is to offer the actor a chunk of money from foreign sales. The “chunk” should clearly surpass the actor’s normal asking price. Thus, the trade off for getting a big name actor in your less than big budget film, is paying that actor more than he or she normally earns.

Approach Companies Owned By Actors To Get Them Attached
The quickest way to get an actor to consider your material, is to present your script to the actor’s production company. This is because the actor will be much more vested in making your film come to fruition, if his or her production company is developing it with you. Of course, the actor (and most likely his or her manager) will become producers on your film, but who cares as long as you get your film made, right?

If You Are Directing, Don’t Mention it to a Big Actor Until After They Show Interest
While I know this point is the one you are least likely to listen to, it is the one you truly should take to heart. Simply put, if you’re directing your upcoming film and it is either a) your first feature film, or b) not your first experience as a director, but your previous films were not financially successful or not widely distributed, then most ‘name actors’ will probably not want to be directed by you. Thus, the smart move is not to tell the actor you’re tied to direct, until that actor has already read your script and is highly interested in being in the film. The reason for this is if the actor knows a director without a track record of success is tied to the script, then the actor may pass on the project without reading the material. However, once they’re interested after reading the script, then you have a better chance of wanting to work with you; especially if you wrote the script.

In conclusion, casting a feature at a time when most actor’s values are lower than they were in 2008, is a task and a half for even the best producers, directors and casting agents. That’s why every move you make in your casting phase directly effects every dollar you take at the box office and beyond. So, if you want your cinematic dollars to multiply instead of divide and subtract, then you may want to cast your film strategically.

Okay, that’s what I have for you today. As always, I thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week!

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on August 13, 2013 in Features, Going Bionic by
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