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Casting Your Project: Making an Actor an Offer vs Auditioning Them for the Role

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“I want to be done auditioning and just get cast.”

We all want to get there, but that’s not necessarily a good place to be. Yes, being Meryl Streep has its unrealistic perks, but some of the biggest actors you know have read for or discussed certain roles with creatives and still not gotten the part. And that’s ok. Reading for a role is actually a great place to be.

I’m an actor. I am going to level with you, I am not being considered for ‘any’ roles right now. I know this. I’m a respected actor, had 3 films release this year already, and I am in talks with plenty of friends on their projects. BUT I am not in the running for any roles right now. How do I know? I haven’t auditioned or read for any of them. Sure, we can say that maybe a few folks are thinking of me for those roles, but I’m not in the running until I read for the role with the Director.

I know this because I make movies and once someone reads for the role and works on it with our director, then I am truly considering them for the role.

Casting Your Project: Making Actor an Offer vs Auditioning Them for the Role

Actress Vanessa Rose Parker portraying an aspiring actress in award-winning indie drama “Before The Lights Come Up” @AmazonPrime
(BEST OF FEST Fayetteville Film Fest, 2018 wide release)

As a producer, some of my biggest missteps in the films we have cast is that we have cast people (friends AND strangers) without them reading for the role. Just because a big famous actor is in consideration for the role doesn’t mean they are right for the part. I know that my casting director may say they will not read for a role in your indie, buuuuuuut there are ways to sit down and meet with the creative team and get a feel for whether or not they would be right for the role. Same goes for friends- just because I know her body of work, know her best roles, and can basically do an impression of her doing the role does not actually mean she is right for the role. We have written roles FOR friends and still missed the mark. Not because they did a poor job of fulfilling our expectations, but because we skipped over a crucial part of the creative process. Reading for a role and playing pretend for and with the team is a part of the process.

All this is also to say that the most famous person for a role is not the best person for the role. But I know what you’re going to say, “Casting is important with indies, no one will watch my film without a powerful cast.” You’re not wrong. But I’m making a case for good casting, not stunt casting (of which, I am a fan and continue to do).

Creatively speaking, there is so much more to casting than just who would be good for the role. And because I have been on both sides of the camera in multiple projects, I can assure you that successful casting is not always just about how the scene turned out in the finished product. I love so many scenes in my last few films buuuuuuut I have mixed feelings too. Just because this scene turned out fantastic doesn’t mean that it was what we were going for in the first place.

Casting Your Project: Making Actor an Offer vs Auditioning Them for the Role

Actress Jennica Schwartzman experiencing the perils of the film industry in award-winning indie drama “Before The Lights Come Up” @AmazonPrime
(BEST OF FEST Fayetteville Film Fest, 2018 wide release)

And what’s wrong with working for the role? Yes, I don’t like printing the paper, writing it all up with my thoughts, breaking down the scene(s), practicing under my breath, rehearsing full voice, memorizing, making up fun ‘buttons,’ putting on make-up, doing my hair, getting dressed up for this particular scene, booking a babysitter, driving to the audition, paying for parking, getting nervous, warming up, getting in the room, being vulnerable, acting acting acting, and then leaving to never know if I got the role or anything about the project ever again unless I get a call or see the movie being released. It’s a LOT. But I do like acting. And it may be the only real acting I get this month aside from the 2 liner co-stars and 15 second commercials that never cease to flood in. But those are not acting, more specifically, not the acting I like to do. I like the scenes that the rad character gets to do in that really interesting movie. I want to be in that part and act. So, I gotta do it.

“But I just want to get paid to act.” Do you? DO you? Then prove it. Do all those things. Every single time.

I have asked SO many actors for auditions and I’d say there is about a 50% drop off of people who never send in a tape or respond or probably ever even intend to.

And let me read for your film. Every single time. Don’t just think about maybe if I might be an option. Send me a script or send me the sides and let me dribble that ball right back to your side of the court in such a way that you don’t need to read anyone else. But you should let them read too.

Reading the role is breathing life into the character. yes, the character NEEDS you to live. The writer and director want to see the role breath. It is an important part of the process. Do you think Carrie Bradshaw, Ellen Ripley, Olivia Pope, Elle Woods, Princess Leia, or Aria Stark would be the iconic characters they are today without the actors who breathed life into the character?! The director is also collaborating through this early reading process. The entire project’s identity is adjusted through casting. Reading for the role is engaging the entire creative team on this character for the first time.

Actress Vanessa Rose Parker portraying an aspiring actress in award-winning indie drama “Before The Lights Come Up” @AmazonPrime
(BEST OF FEST Fayetteville Film Fest, 2018 wide release)

My Mom was reading an article and said how sad it is that this crazy famous actress was discouraged by writing all this stuff for herself and working so hard on creating a career in the world and leading a successful TV show and she STILL had to audition for tons of stuff and was getting rejected. Important people could just watch her big TV show, but they still had her read for roles. And I lovingly let my Mom know that I am creating roles for myself, releasing films, and growing a career and I would LOVE to read for anything. I don’t even get the chance very often. No matter how seemingly successful I may become, I would like the chance to sit and play pretend with a script, a scene partner, and the director. How intimate, fun, and carefree. Nothing is really at stake when you are playing in the room. Everything and nothing. It’s liminal. Let me do it!

 

Thank You, @JennicaRenee #iwahpf

Jennica Schwartzman

About Jennica Schwartzman

Jennica Schwartzman, a member of The Producer’s Guild of America, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution. Jennica has been published in the Producer’s Guild Magazine Produced By, Legacy Arts Magazine, Bustle and she is a guest writer on the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion pictures’ #WomenKickAss Forum, & WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a teacher & workshop speaker for The International Family Film Festival’s Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has 6 feature film releases scheduled for 2018. Her films have collected TOP awards from Bentonville Film Fest, Big Bear Lake Int’l Film Fest, Eureka Springs Indie Fest, Film Fest Twain Harte, Worldfest Houston, Fayetteville Film Festival, The Int’l Family Film Fest, & the highest honor from The Dove Foundation. Jennica and her husband/producing partner/writing partner Ryan have 2 kiddos and reside in Hollywood.