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Casting Your Own Project the Indie Way


Ally.jpgIf you are casting a big budget film, you should read another great article on this site. This is not for you. This is for the student filmmakers, the competitive spec types, and the people who are sitting on the couch one day and say, “hey, I want to make a movie.” The following are steps to casting your own project.

Step 1: You should start with a script. Break down the characters and type out some descriptions. Some details would include age, ethnicity, personality, and hair color, amongst others. These descriptions are important, as it will be what you use to find the right talent.

Step 2: Ask yourself how much money will be used for the talent, and do you want to make the project union or non-union? If you are asking people to donate their time for your passion project, all good. Many new actors and even veteran actors enjoy doing free projects to update their reels and meet new folks in the business. Once a budget for talent is decided and the union status is confirmed, you are just about ready to start posting.

Step 3: Back to the budget. Do you need a free space or can you pay for a space to hold the auditions? I think it is important to have as many details about the project as possible, including rates, the union status, and location of auditions prior to posting your call. You can use a variety of different locations for the auditions, including theatres, offices, and dance studios. If you need something free, check out You can do auditions for free, and in exchange, you must use their website to post the audition tapes and notes for actors. The biggest piece of advice I can give for locations is DON’T HOLD AUDITIONS AT YOUR HOUSE!!! Sure, it’s free, but it is terribly uncomfortable for actors to enter your home and perform for you. Find a more common space and you will get more professional actors and better performances.

Step 4: Now you’re ready to post the casting calls. There are many options for where to post, most of which are free. The most popular are, and They all let you post multiple characters and have systems where you can do audition scheduling directly on the site. If your character descriptions aren’t too specific, you should start receiving headshots from actors immediately.

Step 5: Once you go through all the headshots and decide which actors you would like to come in, you can start to schedule them. I have done open times and scheduled times individually, it’s whatever you feel more comfortable with. You can also post an open call between two times and not worry about picking out headshots, just see who shows up. When you reach out about the actual audition, you should let the actors know what to wear or to just look casual. Also, let the actor know if you would like them to read sides, perform a monologue, or do a cold read.

Step 6: Hold the auditions! This is the fun part. Be professional and respectful with the actors, they are more than likely nervous. I would suggest taping the auditions, collect headshots, and sign people in. Keep organized. I auditioned 550 actors for a production a few years ago and we had to keep everything in order to be sure a gem didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Step 7: If you’re going to do call backs, get in touch with the actors as soon as possible and let them know if there will be additional or new material to prepare. Schedule the auditions, and a space, and do it.

Step 8: Once auditions are all done and you have picked your favorites, get in touch with the actors or their representation to lock them down. You will have to negotiate rates when necessary and manage everyone’s schedules. You do not need to contact actors that you are not going to use, most actors will forget about the audition soon enough.

SIDE NOTE: The newest trend of auditioning is self-taped auditions. It is convenient for casting directors and usually weeds out the people who aren’t as dedicated. It’s the same process, just without the audition space and scheduling. You just request videos from actors reading sides or doing monologues.

Good luck with casting your projects! Hope this helps.

Ally Zonsius

About Ally Zonsius

Director/Actor - Michigan native, Ally Zonsius, made her acting debut at 16, playing Elaine Harper in her high school’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. With a subtle combination of sweetness and strength, she knew then a 9-5 was not in the cards and her aspiration to spend a life being creative began. It didn’t take long for Ally to pack up her suitcases and migrate to Southern California where she has been a rising award-winning director and actor for film, television and theatre.