Updated: May 2, 2022
Casting can be a challenge for short film makers, particularly if you are working with little or no budget. Friends and family can help fill in, but for real talent you should look to your school or the local indie film community for help. If you are in a school that has a drama department, you may find all the talent you need right there. The indie film community is also a great resource of talent. Many aspiring actors struggle to find enough work to fill out their portfolio so they can break into the business. This is true for anyone trying to make it in the film and television industry, but it is also true in any major city for actors who are just trying to get work with local modeling agencies.
Get involved with your local indie film industry through any organizations that operate where you live. Check with local art councils to find out what is active in your area. You can also check with your local Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Both organizations are well connected in their own communities and know about almost everything that is going on when it comes to other organizations of any kind. A common practice among serious indie filmmakers is to share time and expertise with each other. In other words, help other people make their films and they will be more willing to help you make yours. If you have key technical skill, like filming or editing, you will be in high demand from other filmmakers, so trade your time and skill wisely. Be aware, in states that have strong film related unions, you may be restricted in what you can and cannot do.
Become familiar with the rules in your state. You can check with your state’s film commission to find out all the rules under which you can operate.
Once connected to your local indie film community, finding actors who will work for free will become much easier for you. Casting is a skill. If you have not done much, rely on your common sense about people to help guide you. If someone reads well for a part, they will probably do a good job. It is important that you have a clear idea in your own mind about how a character should come across on screen. Do your best to explain your expectations to actors trying out for a role. Always be nice to anyone who tries out, regardless of how bad they may be. Remember, they may be starting their career too. It’s an age-old adage in the business: Be nice to everyone on the way up, because you don’t know who you will meet on the way down! If you discover that an actor is not right for the part once you start shooting, you can always make changes. This can be awkward and unpleasant, but it is part of the job of a producer. If an actor can’t deliver the performance you need to make the film work, the director and the producer must decide if the film is viable. If it is, carry on as best you can. If not, explain to the actor why it is not working out. You don’t have to be insulting. Just explain why it isn’t working but try to be positive. Otherwise, you can always blame it on a casting mistake.
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