Colorado Actors Scripts And Films

Free Support and Outreach for Colorado's Filmmaking Community

By David Dalton

**ADDED 12/08/10
ACTORS: Pay attention to the audition notices. How information is conveyed can tell you a lot about the level of professionalism with that project. Although any producer can lie or "spin" the information to make their project look more appealing, you should ALWAYS trust your gut. Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
DO NOT succumb to the feelings of desperation. DO NOT allow your dreams of stardom or notoriety cloud your judgment. Use your common sense. Ask around, do your research.

In the professional world of film and television (union) there are clear guidelines for posting casting notices, and for good reason. Communication is essential. Even the littlest error in communication can cost someone a lot time, money or both. I could go on about the details, but generally, it's all about letting the actor know what they are auditioning for, what's required from them and what the terms of their employment. If the essential information is mishandled or left out, you can serious problems when that shoot day arrives.

Contracts: I'm surprised at how few indie filmmakers actually offer up a contract for talent, and many don't really know how to put one together. There are standard "talent release" forms any indie filmmaker can get a hold of and modify for their particular project. Talent contracts are important. If you have worked hard to pull the money together for your film, the last thing you need is disgruntled actor walking off your set or coming after you for something you verbally promised, but didn't make the terms clear. A lot of what you should put in your casting notice are about the terms. Any actor who cares enough and knows enough about the terms will likely ask the producers, anyway. You should not have to have that "conversation" during the casting process or after the actor has been cast.

Your casting notice doesn't have to include every little contract detail, but it should have the essentials. It's not all about the characters and the story, and it's certainly not all about the fluff and hype you're trying to pitch.

Let me offer some suggestions borrowed from the professional castings and modified for the low-budget NON-UNION indie.

Suggestions of what to include in your casting notices:

Title of Project: If this is a working title, let them know.
Production Company (name): If your company has previous published projects, then you can offer up a link to your website or Imdb credits.
Producer(s):
Director:
Casting Director (or name of contact dealing with casting):

LOCATION OF CASTING: Include address and if possible, a hyperlink with directions.

DATE(S) OF CASTINGS: Give the dates and time frame. Also include "by appointment" or "open call"

DATE(S) OF CALL-BACKS: Give the dates and time frame. Also include "by appointment" or "open call"

SHOOT DATES: Of course you may not have exact dates, but you should be able to list the time periods. The more information you can give, the better. If you're not able to pay the actors, then they are giving their time for free, so please be clear as to the time you expect from them.

LOCATION OF SHOOTS: You may not have the exact location nailed down, but at least let them know where this is shooting, i.e. local, regional travel, out-of-state, etc.

WARDROBE FITTINGS (dates): This is required if you are providing the wardrobe (period or fantasy pieces, etc.) that requires actors to be fitted.

SPECIAL TRAINING/CHOREOGRAPHY (dates): This is for the actors who are required to train or rehearse for stunt work, dance choreography, etc.

The following is in regard to PAY AND PAYMENT TERMS. This can be listed separately in categories of PRINCIPAL/LEAD, SUPPORTING, DAY-PLAYER/MINOR, FEATURED EXTRA, EXTRA, etc.

For Example: PRINCIPAL PAY: List amount and term, i.e. $100 per day ...or $500 for (entire) project and payment to be issued to actor 14 days after character is wrapped/released from film, etc..

OR you can list it under the character breakdowns:

For Example:
"JOHN DOE": Description, blah. blah, blah......
Pay: $50.00 per day. Payment issued at the end of day ....etc.

For the casting notice, you only have to list how much they get paid and when they will get paid. You don't have to list details of the entire contract, but you will be expected to present the contract when you offer them the role.
*NO ACTOR SHOULD ACCEPT A CONTRACTED ROLE UNTIL THEY HAVE ACTUALLY READ THE CONTRACT!

Also included:
STUNT PAY: Some actors may have special skills that lend themselves to doing stunts, i.e. parkour, gymnastics, rock climbing etc. You should also provide and list "insured on location".

TRAVEL/ACCOMMODATIONS: If you are not paying your actors, then at least let them know you will take care of travel (flights, taxi, etc) and accommodations (lodging) with your own "out-of-pocket" coverage.

GAS & MILEAGE: If you are not paying your actors, then at least let them know you will pay mileage (usually 45 cents per mile) or reimburse for the cost of gas.

"DEFERRED PAYMENT": Oooookay, I think most people know how I feel about this one. BUT if you are going to list this as a payment option, you should be able to explain how you're going to actually do that when you have "that" conversation.

INTENDED MEDIA and VENUES (optional): Film festivals, Straight to DVD, theatrical release, to pitch to networks, etc.
JUST MAKE A SIMPLE STATEMENT OF YOUR INTENTIONS! You don't have to explain or sell to actors on how brilliant your strategy is.

THE BRIEF STORY (treatment); This only has to be a BRIEF paragraph, much like description you'd read on the back of the DVD cover. We don't need to hear the in depth details.

CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS:
Age (exact or range)
Race/Ethnicity
Gender
Character description: Lead roles may require a long paragraph, smaller roles only need one, two or three sentences explaining the character or what purpose they serve the story.

SIDE NOTE:
Audition Sides: You can have any actor audition with a monologue or scene from another published author, but why? When you post a casting notice, we are all assuming you have a script, so why not just have them audition with the scenes from your script. Let them know you will send them audition sides when they make an appointment. If you're doing an open casting call, then tell them sides are available at the auditions, but it will be a cold-read. Personally, if an indie doesn't want to send me sides, I can't help but to believe they haven't written the script, or they're worried I will steal their idea or they're worried I will think their script sucks.
LEAD ACTORS auditioning should always be given the entire script before their call-backs.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Additional Consideration

NUDITY/LOVE SCENES:
*Let me preface with my opinion: Nudity is a part of the film industry. It can serve a purpose like any other visual aspect of the film. But if there is nudity required, you cannot just say "It will be done tastefully". Be straight forward and honest with your intention and be prepared to explain (justify) the purpose of the nudity in the story. NEVER EVER surprise anyone with nudity requirements during or after the auditions. Nudity requirements MUST BE declared and explained in the casting notice.
HIGHLIGHT the section in the character's breakdown. For example: "PARTIAL NUDITY REQUIRED FOR THIS ROLE"
There is Full Nudity (any body part can be exposed in the scene), Partial Nudity (front view topless), Implied Nudity (side boob, full body profile, there may be flesh colored panties, "crotch patches", dancer's tie-downs, taped nipples involved, etc.) These shots may be described as "brief" or not.

ALWAYS include a copy of the scene where the nudity or love scene takes place. You might want to include a hyperlinked PDF copy of the scene with director's notes explaining details of the shot. If you want anyone to take this role, don't leave the details hanging (pun intended).

DISROBING IN THE AUDITION: Include whether or not anyone is required to disrobe for the audition. YES, this may be required. ALWAYS state who will be present for that nude audition and include (for women) "a female PA will be present" and "no photographing will occur", etc. If the nude role is a minor role, you may just be auditioning their body, therefore, you need to know if they have any unwanted body "anomalies" (massive tattoos, scars, etc.) and you may also need to know if they are really comfortable with nudity. If the actor is not comfortable with nudity in a small casting office with no camera running, they will likely be uncomfortable with nudity on-set in front of a crew with camera rolling The last thing you want is to have someone agree to (and sign a contract for) nudity and have them chicken out or change their mind when they arrive to the set.
**FOR FEMALES AUDITIONING: ALWAYS have an adult female in the casting room for these auditions and DO NOT videotape or photograph the disrobing for either gender. (I would suggest you turn the camera off and cover it or pivot the lens away from the subject).

Nudity and the Lead Actor: All the above rules of posting these requirements apply to the main principal characters, as well. However, it is not necessary to ask them to disrobe at the audition. You are, after all, auditioning them for their acting skills and ability to carry that role. You should however thoroughly and openly discuss the nudity requirements with the lead actors.

_________________________________________________________________________________

I know this may seem to be a huge lists of considerations, but if you want to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, the casting notice has to be informative and as precise as possible. These considerations let's all those who you want to involve know you are prepared, professional and worth working with.

Even if you use only a few of these suggestions, honesty in your casting notice is essential to a successful casting.

If you think I left anything out, please chime in.

CoachDalton

Views: 32

Tags: audition-notices, audition-tips, auditions, casting-notices, castings, indies

Comment by Amanda Hart on October 23, 2010 at 5:43pm
That was really good. Very informative for filmmakers AND actors!!! You're wise, master! ;) lol!
Comment by Kathryn Gould on October 24, 2010 at 7:28am
Hallelujah, Dave! THANK YOU! Producers and directors--please heed this advice. Having all this information helps actors make intelligent decisions about whether to audition or not, which helps us not waste your time or ours.

One issue that I want to touch on, though, is contracts. Those "standard" contracts that are so easily available online generally suck. They often include a paragraph stating essentially that our image may be used by the producers for any reason in any context at anytime whatsoever. This is done just to CYA, but it makes agents really nervous (and it should make actors really nervous). The contract should state specifically how an actor's image and recordings are going to be used specifically for that project, and limited to that project. The way most of them are worded are so general that the filmmaker could take the footage of that actor and try to use it in some other project. Or use photos of them and alter them in some way to make them appear nude or whatever they wanted to do without the permission of the actor or any compensation. Filmmakers, please read those contracts and see if it's something you would want to sign, or something you would let your child sign. Make sure it's not just your ass that's covered, but the actors as well.
Comment by Acting Alchemy on October 24, 2010 at 8:29am
great stuff, Dave. The basics...
Comment by Kristin Keating on October 24, 2010 at 10:06am
Thank you, Dave! Now let's just hope that filmmakers READ THIS!!!
Comment by CoachDalton on October 24, 2010 at 10:08am
Thank you all and thank you Kathryn.

Additional Notes: NEVER give your personal information (DL#, birth date & SS#, etc.) when submitting for any audition or if the non-union contract asks for it. There is a so-called "epic film" auditioning in Colorado that is asking for personal information and even a copy of your passport; this opens you up for identity theft and other types of scams.

ALSO- There are non-union commercials that will sometimes ask you to sign a release before you enter the casting room, DON'T DO IT! These commercial castings may try to use your audition tape in the actual commercial and you may never see a dime or be able to audition for a competing product.

If you have any doubts, contact me.

-D
Comment by Jim Brennan on October 24, 2010 at 10:42am
Great tips David. Thanks for taking the time to post this. Very important information.
Comment by Amanda Hart on October 24, 2010 at 11:40am
I didn't know about the commercial release....good to know.
Comment by Meryem Ersoz on October 24, 2010 at 2:39pm
I disagree with lead actors always being given a full script for a callback. In the past this might have been the case, but in the digital age, replication and distribution is way too easy. I think that the right time to give away the whole script is when you are confident that you are going to cast the actor. That is proprietary information and, even with a legal disclaimer, its incidental dissemination can be damaging to the project. Once it is out of your hands, it is out of your hands.

On a different note, payrolls require authentication of your citizenship - so you may need to give away your personal info to participate. The irony here is that, someone doing this in the most unprofessional way (no payroll, just pizza and empty promises) is the one least likely to request that info. A professionally run film will need items such as your SSN and birth date or authenticity of citizenship to initiate a payroll and complete their taxes and paperwork, just like any other business. This would apply to a union or a non-union job. I get where David is coming from with this advice, but I would say that it is not applicable to all circumstances and not necessarily a measure of the ethics of the production.
Comment by CoachDalton on October 24, 2010 at 3:39pm
I understand what you're saying about SS# and such for payroll, but there is a time when that information is needed, and that time is usually just as the production phase is beginning and by that time, an actor would know if the job is legit and actually getting off the ground. BUT NEVER during the casting process and not until production begins. For union jobs, actors don't usually have to provide any of that information until they are on the set for their first day of shooting, besides, SAG will have your information verified immediately after you're cast when casting files the Station 12.

I also understand intellectual property issues of our day. Many casting offices are having actors pick up the hard copy of the sides at their offices and having them sign a legal agreement. Principal roles are often sent the entire script via courier also with a required signature. If I'm dealing with a new producer/company who doesn't have established track record of feature productions, I would not accept the role without seeing the script first. In casting low-budget non-union indies, I see the producers usually offer up the script before the lead actor's first call-back, and it's usually to their top choices. Often, the negotiation of that lead actor hangs on the quality of that script. So, the "right" time to hand over the script depends on your track record, reputation, and various other factors shown in the casting notice. But I don't think anyone's IP is going to be completely protected no matter what they do.

This blog is addressing low-budget indies, which often don't have any established track record for feature film.
Comment by Ken Hendricks on October 24, 2010 at 8:30pm
I really wish that so-called "epic film" would go away faster. It will go away but it's just not happening fast enough. Too many actors are wasting their time on it.

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