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Casting a Film

Who does it and why is it necessary?

Once a detailed budget, based upon a production board and schedule is complete, the producer of the film now has a very accurate idea as to how much money is available to spend on the actors and for how many days or weeks they will be needed.

Many inexperienced filmmakers make the mistake of believing that their budget is accurate, however, a proper breakdown of the script, board and schedule is necessary in order to create a budget and to make it believable to financiers. (You can find more about that in the Film Facts Blog under Budgeting).

At this time, the script should be very close to a polished draft, with perhaps one more to go. This, along with a tentative date for the commencement of principle photography (the shooting phase), is everything a producer needs to begin casting.

It’s important that the film’s director be intimately involved in the casting process. The director will of course guide the actors and their performance throughout the making of the film, so it’s crucial that the casting be consistent with their overall vision of the film. I personally believe, and so do many other directors, that their job is half over if the picture is well cast.

The casting director

Usually, the very first thing that a producer does when they are casting a film is to hire a casting director. This is someone who specializes in finding and recommending the most appropriate actors for each speaking role in the film. His/her recommendations are naturally subject to the approval of the producer and/or director.

Casting directors also handle negotiations on behalf of the producer with agents regarding actors’ contracts including salary and screen credit. Some agents request that the actor in question have a ‘single card’ credit, which means that their name would be the only one seen on the screen, without actors listed, which must be negotiated with the producer.

Some casting directors will break down a total budget figure for an entire cast into detailed allotments for each character in the script which is extremely helpful to the producer.

Because of their experience and knowledge, a good casting director can save a producer both time and money as they have accumulated a vast file of actors and actresses, and have devoted a tremendous amount of time to studying actors’ abilities.

Casting directors also tend to have their ‘feelers’ out for fresh new talent, have a rough idea as to how much a certain actor costs, have insider information about which sort of roles certain actors are looking for, the approximate schedule and availability of the actor, and thorough working knowledge of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) or Screen Actors Guild (SAG, USA) union rules and regulations, and have a great deal of experience dealing with actors’ agents as they have set up a working rapport with many of them.

Agents realize that they cannot lie to an experienced casting director about an actor’s price as they probably have enough connections to find out what a particular actor received for their last picture.  Now, the actual casting processis tricky and something I will discuss in another Trebas blog article.

By Kalman Szegvary, MFA
Department: Head of Film and Television Production & Post-Production, Entertainment Management
Trebas Institute - Toronto


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