Sorting Thru Auditions On A Microbudget Feature Or Short Film

No budget to shoot a movie? If you are a small church, a new videographer, a budding director, a film student, or the gal who got stuck with the company safety video, you're in the right place. You can't cower in fear or let a lack of funds stop you from sharing your story. This is the No Budget Guide To Filmmaking, and this is for you. Write your story. Shoot your movie. Start.

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You taped your auditions, right? Of course you did! Now back them up. Really, you should make backing up your footage a practice. DO IT. Routinely. It’s 2015 now, and there are more cloud storage options these days. Amazon is a fine pack mule. Back it up on your hard drive. I still have a USB 3.0 drive from two summers ago. Half a TB for $70 at the time. It’s slower than thunderbolt, but it still works. No excuses, just back up your footage.

Two eyes are better than one here. I asked my wife be the casting director for the film. The reality is you can’t and shouldn’t shoulder everything. If you do, you will fail. Do an ego check and find people who are more talented than you and get them onboard, and it should start with a casting director to be that extra set of eyes. I used the same strategy on our short film Fight The Battle Together. It’s not that I don’t love people - I do and I’m very extroverted - but with your actors, they deserve (even on the most microbudget of efforts) someone they know will be their point of contact, their go-to-guy or gal, their upline. This need a champion in their court, someone who will be able to shoot the breeze with them when you’re off coaching your DP on a scene (camera gal/guy). You will be working with these guys and gals directly, make no mistake, and don’t get me wrong, you can and should be building those relationships when they’re in the trenches with you. What I am saying is they need to know they have someone they can go to when the going gets tough and you’re pulled in many different directions. Try as you might, you can’t love everyone and do all of the other 965 things you’ll need to work on. Make the casting director that person who will stand in the gap, and their job is to cultivate time and talent, and more importantly, be that person that will validate and show actors love. Yes, I think a casting director should be primarily concerned with the morale and welfare of the talents. Here is an example of the lasting importance of a casting director - mind you, your casting director on a microbudget movie, video shoot, music video, etc. might wear a few other hats. Think of it as a role, and less of a person, but one that must be accounted for. My wife, as I already mentioned, served in this capacity. Because she was that champion, people knew they could trust her and go to her in the downtime in between takes. My wife Shalom is amazing. She naturally cares for those around her. It’s not even a thought for her; it’s more like a reflex. Later, during post-production when tempers flared up, an actor let me know we weren’t on good terms, but that it was all directed at me, and not my wife. “Your wife is great,” the actor said. So even though I had a falling out with an actor, my wife was respected and remembered because of the care she brought to this person and our people in general. She’s always known for that, film or childcare or ministry - that’s how she treats people.

Find that innate caretaker. That’s who you want in this role of Casting Director. Or recruit that person who is a natural servant - or both. It is a service position, so bear that in mind. For me, it was our friend Tay Tay that we met through church. She serves where needed, and while she might not have picked a casting director role, she did it wonderfully because she is one of those rare people that can handle several projects simultaneously.

You’re sorting through the auditions, and your casting director is (and should) have the final say in the selections. They’re getting to know the talents more than you are at this point, and they know your story, so let go. You’ve delegated, now delegate. Trust their instincts, offer input, but leave the final say-so with them. It’s worked 2/2 times so far. In the past, when I tried to juggle everything, I did not do as well (of course), and my efforts were too divided across everything that goes with being the captain on the ship. Get through your auditions, pen down the ones you like, and thank everyone that came out. Affirm people. Find what they did well, even if they didn’t make the cut, and thank them for their time. Your team’s job at this point is to validate, and every creator, be it an actor or a poet has a stake in the creative process. Constructive criticism is fine, but don’t leave out what they are doing well. And please, don’t offer the generic “I’d love to work with you in the future.” I’m guilty of that, and actors are jaded by it. It’s heartless and super generic. Just lock that phrase up and throw away the key. Try something like “Thanks for coming out. I won’t be using you for this role because we need a quieter, older interpretation of this character. I think your comic timing is your strength, and I hope you never quit. This industry is tough, and we all face doubt and uncertainty. But if you press on, same as me, if we press on, we’ll make it.” That’s a little more human than just “thanks, hope to work with you in the future.” No you don’t. Don’t lie to them. Again, I’m guilty of this, and I apologize to all of my past, present, and future talent. The work God started in me, He is continuing, same as what He is doing in you.


Las Vegas

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.