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How to Make Your First Movie - Phase 3: Casting

Good casting can bring a script to life. The trick is knowing where to look for the best people.


  • Step 1: Pick roles Pick the roles you need to cast. Focus on the lead roles—there’s no point in spending too much time casting Background Cowboy Number Four.
  • Step 2: Advertise Put an ad in local talent trade magazines explaining what you’re looking for. Specify whether this will be a union or non-union job.
  • TIP: Inform local talent agencies when and where you’ll be holding auditions, and give them detailed profiles of the characters that you’re casting, as well as a copy of the script.
  • Step 3: Go public If you want to go totally indie, post casting notices online, in newspapers, or on bulletin boards at colleges. You’ll get a huge turnout.
  • Step 4: Organize the audition Organize the audition, either with a first-come-first-served sign-up sheet, or by assigning tryout times to talent beforehand. You can also bring in groups to work off each other.
  • TIP: Consider having a friend on hand to help out as a casting associate.
  • Step 5: Distribute audition parts Distribute what you want people to read for the audition. Look for a part of your script that will give the actors a chance to show insight into their characters.
  • TIP: Give scripts out beforehand if you’re looking for polish and nuance, when actors arrive if you’re looking for the ability to create a character quickly, or when actors enter the audition room if you want to see raw talent.
  • Step 6: Be friendly When the day comes, be friendly to the talent. A smile, some relaxed banter and a comfortable atmosphere will bring out better performances than rudeness and arrogance.
  • Step 7: Tape auditions Videotape each audition, no matter how well you take notes or how sharp your memory is.
  • TIP: Ask the actor’s permission to be taped, and have him say his name into the camera before he starts.
  • Step 8: Explain the role Explain the role to each person. Giving some insight into what you’re looking for will ease nerves and inspire better performances.
  • Step 9: Pay attention Pay close attention to each audition. Make notes on appearance, voice, and, most importantly, acting ability.
  • TIP: Usually, some combination of a casting director, a producer, and the director watch the auditions, take notes, and influence casting.
  • Step 10: Keep things moving Keep things moving. Give each person an equal chance, maybe two or three reads if you have time, then send them out with the assurance that you’ll let them know.
  • Step 11: Make initial judgments After you’re done with the auditions, make a list of those actors who you thought had merit. Keep the cut actors on file, just in case you need extras.
  • Step 12: Cast each role From your shortlist, cast each role, starting with the leads. Don’t be afraid to make bold choices.
  • Step 13: Contact the actors Contact the actors. Thank everyone who tried out and offer parts, as well as pay packages, to the select few. If you have a tight budget, you can pay with points—or a share in future profits.
  • FACT: Hugh Laurie auditioned for the lead role in the TV hit House via a video he made in a hotel bathroom in Namibia, where he was shooting a film.

You Will Need

  • A place to hold auditions
  • Talent trade magazines and websites
  • Copies of the script
  • A video camera with a tripod and the ability to record sound
  • Local casting agencies

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