On my last project, I decided not to use friends or family in my production. Lets face it, as a low budget production house, I have relied on casting friends and family for just about everything I have done.And for several reasons.
Let’s go over these and I will tell you why I have come to the conclusion that, in general, it is not a good idea.
1. They are cheap talent.
Yes, you can get your friends to do some acting for you for free…but there are plenty of actors and aspiring actors in your area that are willing to work for free to hone their craft. Local talent abounds! Colleges, local art house theaters, local models that also act. They all need the practice, and they all need to put their name in the credits of something…anything!
2. You want your friends to be involved, get excited about your projects.
Been there! You have this crazy idea that you are going to make movies! You need the moral support of your friends….you also don’t want them to think you are insane. So you wrangle them into acting, so they can see how cool this can be. See #1. Real actors with experience get excited too. They know the score and are already pumped to get to work. And there are plenty of things you friends can help you with behind the camera, which is just as exciting as acting. Having them behind the scenes also helps you delegate some tasks that you might otherwise be unwilling to let go of.
3. I can boss my friends and family around, I don’t know if I can be assertive with actors.
Actors with experience already come with the idea that there will be a director in charge….that’s what directors do by definition. Whether from the stage, experience in front of the camera, or someone that has done photo shoots, these guys have all had a director….directing them. And if you come across an actor that cannot take direction, you don’t want them anyways, kick em to the curb!
4. I don’t know what I am doing, I don’t want to look foolish!
That was probably my biggest hang up to getting virtual strangers to be in my productions. It is easy to think that. But it is also the easiest to overcome. First of all, this is your production, you know exactly what you want. The first step in looking, and being treated, like a professional that knows what he/she is doing is to BE PREPARED! Plan out everything down to the last detail. Have a shot list and stick to it. Refer to your notes often. In no way shape or form does it make you look foolish or unprofessional to refer to your shot list. That is what it is for and that is what professionals do! Second, is to never let em see you sweat! You hired these folks and they are excited to be working. Whenever you come across an issue, work it calmly and you’ll earn the respect of your crew. If you don’t act like a professional that knows what is going on, you’ll never ever be treated and seen as one. Third and last, treat your actors with respect. If you need something more from them, let them know. They expect you to tell them what you need. That’s your job.
5. And lastly..Its just easier to ask my friends.
Ok….yeah it IS easier. And it can be lots of fun to direct your friends. But turning your script into a film is not about being easy. It is about getting the best product you can on screen.Period. If you want easy, this ain’t it. It takes a bit of work to send out casting calls, but the rewards, the contacts, the feeling of getting your production to the next level is very worth it.
I do not mean in any way to imply that your friends or family cannot do a good job in front of the camera. Every single person that I have used has given me their all. And have done a great job. And I will use them again.
But I needed to push my self, preparing for the next level. And I will continue to do so.
In full disclosure, two of my actors in my last production were “friends” . But they were also working actors and models. Josh Smith is studying acting in college and has several stage productions under his belt. Mychal Fox works regularly on a professional level. The other two guys, Nathan Hall and Travis Clyburn, I saw in a local improv troupe, called Angry Bacon. They were funny. They are stand up comics, but they were acting pretty well in their improv bits. I had never met them before the days shoot.
Which brings me to a lead in to my next blog entry. How do you direct them once you got em?
I’m dsto and I’m out!