Sunday, 8 May 2011

Casting Revealed

Hester Schell from San Francisco was in London this weekend promoting her new book Casting Revealed and hosting a Q&A session for producers, directors and actors. 

It was interesting to note some of the subtle distinctions between working in the UK and in the States - the actor's union seems to be more demanding of producers/directors over there, which may be a good thing.

Here are some interesting tidbits of advice from the seminar - the book is on my desk and I can't vouch for it yet, but Hester seems to be a genuinely passionate collaborator and experienced in independent film.

  • Use the internet - nobody does open casting calls anymore.
  • There's a myth that "actors are a dime a dozen", but smart directors know actors are worth their weight in gold. You have to find the right one.
  • When in doubt, keep on casting.
  • Pay attention to how you feel and not what you're thinking - if there's any doubt, call back.
  • If you're working on a low-budget film, your shooting schedule will be tight, so check to make sure an actor can take direction and that they understand technical aspects of the craft, ie. make the mark, match the action, frameline and eyeline.
  • Have people bring in memorised material to check they can learn lines (and rock up on time!). In the States it is mandatory to send an actor the sides 24 hours before casting.
  • Start casting at least 3 - 4 months before before the first day of principal photography.
  • Who are the good teachers in your country and where did your actors train?
  • When you're interested in an actor, google them, see how they present themselves.
One of my favourite quotes from the day was "when you share the wealth, we all rise up".

If you're interested in learning the nitty gritty of the casting process, you can buy the book here.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Brave New Storytelling

Where are we now? Show + Tell Films hosted a panel last week to discuss Content(ment). Film, television and advertisement are all changing, but we can't be sure yet how profound that change is or where it is taking us.

On the panel, Nik Powell (director of the National Film and Television School) played devil's advocate and claimed "the customer has always wanted what they want, how they want it, where they want it, and preferably for free - that's nothing new", later saying "we are making films for other human beings and what human beings want hasn't changed".

Justin Pearse (editor of digital industry mag New Media Age) was hosting the panel and challenged this idea saying the difference is now "people can change the story".

"I like to call it interactive, not digital" added Paul Banham from the established advertising agency JWT.

Ben Freeman from ITV cautioned that "you don't always want people to write drama because they're not good at it", though he did point out that there are many other ways in which audiences can engage with shows and not influence the writer's work directly, like a competition to design bowls that appear as part of the set.

Matt Smith (The Viral Factory) said "watching YouTube us a very different experience" and Michael Gubbins (former editor of Screen International) agreed that "how we're going to get these stories out there has fundamentally changed".So assuming the landscape has changed, what should content creators keep in mind?
  • Viral video success remains unpredictable, but make sure to target universal language and appeal, make something that stands up to repeat viewing, and according to Matt Smith: "cute's just a big kinda deal"
  • We are moving towards "a changed environment of complete total choice" according to Nik Powell.
  • The 24 hour day is fixed, the challenge now is to win the audience's time.

The good news - this is a visual age, so filmmakers have a natural advantage and should adapt our 100 years of visual language!

Thursday, 5 May 2011