The coup de gras for indie filmmakers is landing a well-known actor for your movie. While that might be the golden apple for many movie makers and a strong drawing card for some audiences, it’s just as important to get affordable talent at a reasonable fee. Casting an indie film has all the same requirements as casting a Hollywood blockbuster: creating a casting call, hosting auditions, casting the leads, casting the supporting roles, and casting the extras. These five casting methods can help you uncover hidden talent, round out your cast, and do so quickly and affordably.

  1. Scour Local Talent Pools
    Place ads in local papers and online classifieds like Craigslist. Try posting on bulletin boards in local coffee houses and at community colleges and universities. Most colleges have drama departments full of talented students looking for a break into show biz. Also, try local high schools, including performing arts schools and after school programs and clubs.
  2. Make The Most of Callbacks
    Avoid being in such a rush to finalize your cast that you hire the whole cast based on a single audition. Callbacks let you get a second look at the ideal pool of candidates. Callbacks also let you see actors in different scenes, sometimes in different moods, and often in a whole new light. They’re a strategic way to move a variety of actors into and out of a variety of roles and find everyone’s true best fit.
  3. Maximize Actor’s Headshots
    Use the front of each headshot to see if the actor fits the desired visual characteristics of the role they’re auditioning for
    or to see if they give you a different perspective on how a particular character should be depicted. Use the back of the headshot to take notes that make each actor stand out and their special skills and talents easy to see at a glance. Add website URLs and URLs to their demo reels to help you skip wading through a ton of physical and digital files.
  4. Look Beyond Acting Ability
    Casting either a newbie or established author based on sheer acting ability might seem like a good idea. But, it’s all fun and games until they get a bad case of prima-donna-itis. Ask for references that speak to the actor’s commitment level, ability to show up on time, and willingness to work well with others. Set crystal clear expectations right up front and nip any sign of subordination in the bud right from the start.
  5. Brush Up On Your Chemistry
    The actors cast in leading roles must have chemistry. Even if the roles aren’t romantic, the actors must be able to play off each other, light up a scene, and draw the audience into their on-screen lives. If they can’t do that in auditions and rehearsals, they can’t do it in the finished product. An indie film set is small and intimate. Actors, directors, crew members, and support staff must be able to get along and work together – often in confined quarters – or your movie set will quickly become a horror show.

Big budget Hollywood movies usually work with casting agencies and directly with actor’s agents. If your budget allows you to do the same, go for it. Most indie filmmakers don’t have that luxury, though, so we resort to other strategies to scope out the talent we need. The five tips outlined above can help you cast your movie with the right folks and set your screenplay up for success.