How to Cast a Film
Notable independent directors like Spike Lee and David Lynch have their own unique tips for casting a film. For a general breakdown of the essential steps to take when casting your project, check out the following tips
- Break down the script. To break down a script, casting directors will read through a screenplay and create character descriptions for each speaking role. They compile these descriptions into a casting breakdown that contains information about all the different roles, including the age range of the characters, appearance, character notes, and any relevant backstory that can help the actor further embody the role.
- Send out the breakdown. Some casting directors will set up an open call for auditions online or send the casting breakdown directly to talent agents. To hold an open casting call, post the breakdown online to relevant casting sites or forums to find lesser-known actors who may be right for the part. If you’re sending the breakdown to a talent agency, they will use it to determine which talent on their current roster can fulfill the role and recommend actors they think are the right choice.
- Provide sides. There are two types of auditions: in-person and self-tape (the talent records their audition and sends it to casting). Whether you’re calling in an actor for an in-person audition or requesting a self-tape, you’ll need to provide them with sides, a small sample of relevant dialogue, and actions for the talent to perform. Sides can help the casting director envision a particular actor as the character, or rule them out altogether.
- Send a callback. When casting, it’s essential to see as many performers as possible to broaden the selection of talent you can choose from. You may need to call back some actors multiple times to perform different scenes to see if they’re the right fit for the role. You should also compare their performances to other potential actors to help you make the best possible casting decision. Callbacks help the casting department narrow down their search for the perfect performer, allowing the team to take another look at a viable choice.
- Screen test. A screen test is a filmed audition where an actor performs sides on-camera. The casting department uses screen tests to analyze performance, wardrobe, makeup, and the on-screen chemistry between actors. If your project has multiple leads, you’ll need to ensure they work well together and have good chemistry. Screen tests let you see how an actor performs for the camera, their on-screen chemistry with their co-stars, and whether they have the right presence for the role.
- Make the selections. While the casting company is responsible for wrangling the talent, the director and producers ultimately decide which actors to book for the role. Choose the actor that best suits the role and your budget.