Thursday, 3 December 2015

How Do You Cast a Movie? - BAFTA Explains

You wish! Photo: Wikimedia
How do you cast a movie? The question is just as relevant for animators as it is for live-action film-makers.

If you are hoping to get an animated film project to the big screen (and we want all our students to aim high), then at some point you need to think about casting. And, the bigger the star you can attract, the more likely your movie is to get made, because investors and sales agents will feel more confident that audiences will pay money to see it.

At a recent event at BAFTA in London, part of the BAFTA Guru series of lectures, a panel of industry experts discussed how, exactly, indepedent film-makers can go about casting their film, even if they don't have a big budget to land a big star.

BAFTA Guru - educating film-makers
The panel included casting director Des Hamilton, director Tom Harper and actress Phoebe Fox, who trained at RADA.

The event was chaired by Edward Hicks – Head of Film TV & Radio at RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - one of the UK's leading acting schools.

Frank Gladstone directs voice actors in a Soho sound booth
Casting is a tricky issue for film-makers. Of course, director needs to cast great actors, performers who are just right for the role.  But, in the world of independent film, you also need to find "marquee" or "A List" talent to help sell your film.

Investors like big stars, and if you can get one to agree to do a voice, this can make a big difference in raising finance for your film.
Pheobe Fox. Photo:
Wikimedia Commons

Phoebe Fox was asked what actors are looking for in a project. Of course, a great script is vital, but for an actor "you gotta have a great scene that you really want to be in.  If it doesn’t have that then – you’re f***ed".

She also suggested that it was important to "ask her opinion on the character – what does she [the actor] think?" A good director should be "open to new ideas". That said, she "wants to be directed". Indecision is not welcome from directors. "Tell me what you want", she said. After all, properly trained actors "have range".

Des Hamilton suggested that the highest profile actors often have US agent, and this can make things complicated. Directors and producers on a project can wait a long time waiting for someone to say yes or no, and you can't wait forever.  That said, putting pressure on leading talent may backfire.  After all, “you can speed up a no much faster than you can speed up a yes”.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on Gower St, London.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
But nonetheless, film-makers should aim high - since "higher level casting directors have more clout – people are frightened of them".  In the end, you have to "go with your instinct. If you’re thinking this isn’t going to happen – then you’re probably right".

It is, he said, "very hard to get A list talent. You’re better off shooting a great teaser/trailer and show them [investors and sales agents] how great the film is gonna be. There are only a small number of actors who can get films made and they tend to be very busy".

Tom Hicks agreed:  "Aim high, but then move on if it doesn’t work out". He also suggested that if you need young talent, "go and find actors in the bar at RADA". Watch the annual shows there, and look for the rising talent. Then go and find them and make them an offer.

Once you've signed your talent, of course, you have to great a great performance out of them. To see a guide on directing voice actors for film and TV, follow this link.

To keep an eye on upcoming BAFTA Guru events, see the official BAFTA page here. Lots of their events are free for students, or offer discounted tickets.

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt starting in September 2016, follow this link.   To apply, visit the offical page here.

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