How To Make A Feature Film For No Money - Part 4: The Actors

Finding actors with no money, no script and no clue... how hard can it really be?

Follow us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with Bound By Blue by clicking here!And catch up with all you missed in episode #3 of the Un-Movie Experience. That was the un-script done (as much as it can be), volunteers found and two actors cast. Right. We were practically done... just needed another 48 actors and we'd be ready to shoot! As crazy as it may sound when I say it like that, Kate and I really did just look at the wall of work that loomed over us and rolled up our sleeves. When you are facing the impossible, little things like reality only get in the way. First on the to-do list: find the remaining two key cast. Where do you find these thespians? We could ask the local amateur theatrical group but these roles were critical to the film - no offense to amateur actors but we needed people who could not only carry the movie, but do so whilst creating each scene on the fly. It was this improvisation aspect that really made casting a difficult process. Being able to trust the skills of these actors was paramount, so it made sense to contact people we had worked with before. I had already chosen someone we knew for one of the parts. The awkward thing was that she wasn't aware of this. Debbie Zukerman had performed in my first attempt at directing, only to be upstaged by the monstrous scene-stealing 'junk robot' I had built; perhaps it was time to allow her the whole stage to herself. I casually asked her at her own house-warming party: David - "Nice place" Debbie - "Thanks" David - "The frankfurters are rather tasty" Debbie - "Are you one of Alethea's friends?" David - "You're hilarious Deb! A real rib-tickler! By the by, wanna star in my debut feature film for no money and loads of unpaid sweat and tears?" Debbie - "Alethea! I think we've got another walk-in. Can you send the boys to get rid of him?" With Debbie on board we were now faced with a difficult character to cast. Between Kate and I, we have filmed many projects and worked with a wide array of actors. Yet it wasn't until we began attempting to cast a mature female that I realised how few women over the age of 30 I had recorded. Nobody was writing parts for them! Initially one of our already-cast, Frank Magree, put us in touch with his co-star from a TV-show. Within a few days I met this actress for 'coffee' (industry code for "sussing each other out") and she hopped on board with a single proviso - she was in as long as she didn't get the theatre funding she had been seeking (insert warning music here: dum-dum-DUUUUM!). No surprise really when she called one month later (whilst we were deep in pre-production) to say that she was off to create her play. The pair of us were thrilled for her success; but what a badly timed kick-in-the-face! Weeks out from shooting and we were going backwards. If you have no cash then you are destined to face the 'paid-job' phenomena and the simple fact that people need to waste money on things like food, rent and heart medication. Selfish, selfish people. It was now Debbie who saved us (are you seeing a pattern here?) as she kind of knew an actor who may be perfect for the role. A woman who had performed in some of the greatest feats of Australian film - Gallipoli, Picnic At Hanging Rock and Prisoner: Cell Block H. But they had only met fleetingly. Debbie called around and tracked down a phone number. The rest was up to me. Making a no-budget feature has one major hurdle: how do you ask people to work for you for free? Some people like to offer a pretend future; "We can't pay you for this one, but next time we'll pay you twice your rate". Others prefer to live in a fantasy land; "Edited by April. Cannes in May. Sold to Universal for $100 million by June". And some just outright lie; "We've got full funding caught up in red tape at the moment. We can't pay you now but it will be sorted out next week. Cash in hand. Promise". Our approach is a little simpler. Tell the truth. It works. When I 'coffee-ed' with Jenny I offered all that I could. A bunch of professionally-minded nutters jumping into the deep end of crazy in the hope of getting a chance to do something a little different. There was no point in trying to make ourselves look like other productions; our difference was our selling point. And it worked. But Jenny wasn't just helping us out. After reading the un-script, and discussing the character and her journey, Jenny found a personal connection with the film. This is the most important part of casting. It's not the advertising, the calling around and the meetings. It's finding actors who get what it is you are wanting to explore and are willing to challenge you every step of the way. People to push you to be better than you think you can be. Frank brought us another surprise in the shape of his 5 year-old daughter. She had recently starred in a couple of commercials with him and Frank thought that this would be a great chance if we had need of a cute and cheeky little girl. This is where having an un-script comes in handy. We sculpted an entire subplot revolving around the relationship between Frank's character, Blue, and the Little Girl who teaches him about the human experience. Sickly sweet scenes of innocence and revelation. Perfect. All that was left was to find the 46 supporting cast and we would be ready to shoot. Where the hell were we going get them all from? First stop, we put up an ad on casting websites. Next, we emailed everyone we knew to see if they may have encountered any actors. Step three (and by far our smartest move), we asked the cast who were already with us to get involved in the process. Debbie owned this. A post on her Facebook and we had actors queuing up to talk to us! Social networking can be a casting and crewing wonder, and Debbie was connected to a lot of enthusiastic, passionate and adventurous people. This is the best suggestion I could give if you are thinking about making a no money feature: allow the people who join you in your craziness to be an active part of the film. Everyone needs to want it to succeed. It's time for Kate to take over and give you an insight into the glittering gem in our no-budget-film-crown: the locations! Find out more in the fifth installment of The Un-Movie Experience (also known as 'What Do You Mean The Eiffel Tower Is In Paris?').
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A director & cinematographer by trade, but a Geek by choice. David grew up on the beaches of Sydney, Australia where he spent most sunny days indoors organsing his ever-expanding comic collection. Snubbed by the world at large, he wrapped himself in the sweet, sweet tales of the Marvel Universe and only resurfaces for Cheezels.