9 Tips for Getting the Best Performances in Micro-Budget Features

There’s a saying that 90 percent of directing actors is finding the right cast. While I don’t entirely agree with that sentiment, it’s repeated so often because there is an element of truth to it. Here are some tips to help with the casting process for your micro-budget feature.

I’ve been on both sides of the casting process, and I regretfully report that most auditions I’ve experienced are not staged in a way that benefits either filmmakers or actors.

Many filmmakers are taught casting techniques which don’t effectively measure acting skill, and instead, gauge how good an actor is at auditioning. While auditioning is part of the job of the actor, it’s your job to get the best performance possible out of each role in your film, so it’s worth re-thinking the process.

Throughout the process of making my debut feature, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” set to premiere in competition at Cinequest this month, I discovered a number of techniques which can help filmmakers tap undiscovered talent and maximize performances:

1.Provide more pages, not fewer.

I’ve heard acting teachers say that “the audition starts when you walk into the casting room,” but as a director, I want to see that it started even earlier than that. I want to know how well an actor connects with the text, and so I’m going to give them as many tools as possible to do so — sides before the first round of auditions, and the full, most current draft of the screenplay for callbacks.

I’m not going to be showing actors pages of text for the first time when we’re shooting, so I’m not that interested in “cold reading” during casting. I’m not necessarily looking for finished work, but I would rather see a prepared actor than not. And it can’t be understated (especially if you’re offering little, no, or deferred compensation): it’s never too early to start gauging work ethic…

Check out the rest of 9 Tips for Getting the Best Performances in Micro-Budget Features found on Indiewire.