Actors are not the only ones who experience rejection during the casting process, no matter what side of the table you are on, just remember it’s not personal.
On more than one occasion I have written a role with someone I knew in mind, a colleague, a friend, someone from acting class or my theatre company… This can be constructive during the writing process to help bring your characters to life in a more vivid way because you can imagine them in the scenes and playing with your dialogue. As much as this can be helpful, be cautious of not getting too attached to the idea of a particular actor in your project until you have discussed it with them. What happens when this actor isn’t interested in the project? Has too many conflicts with dates? Loses interest because it’s been over a year since the first reading and ‘is this production ever going anywhere?’ Or what if they don’t have confidence the production will be up to snuff?
Out of the 8 roles in my web series Dumpwater Divas, with the exception of myself and my writing partner, 5 of the actors we wrote the roles for were not interested in the project, only one was but couldn’t work with us due to scheduling conflicts. Some weren’t even interested in reading the script. At first I was hurt, but being an experienced producer I let go of that quite quickly, remembering my #1 requirement when I hire people: they WANT to be there.
Don’t take it personally if your ‘friends’ aren’t interested in your production, just move on and post a casting notice. The key is to find actors who connect with your project, who are excited about the writing and who want to explore the material. You can’t really guarantee them anything beyond the creative experience. Even the promised “copy” or “footage” gets to talent less than 40% of the time. You can’t guarantee festivals, reviews, or sold out houses.
I always like to pay talent a stipend for gas and production expenses; to show that even though I don’t have a large budget, I still respect the time and effort talent is putting forth. There are many actors out there looking for experience, exposure, and an opportunity to be creative, but I don’t believe it should ever cost them to be in a production especially when they are not getting paid.
Sometimes when mounting your first productions it’s better to work with new people – people who don’t have a point of view about you, your experience or your capabilities. For Dumpwater Divas we held auditions (none of the actors the roles were written for were involved in the production) and I’ve got to say, the actors we cast brought the characters and story to life in dimensions I never dreamed.
Have fun with the auditions, take risks playing against type, let people surprise you. There are so many wonderfully talented actors out there just waiting to breath life into a character and a production. Go find them, your production depends on it!
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