Oh yes… actors.

In an article over at Raindance, Stacey Parks lists some tips on how producers can find the actors that will sell their film.

Depressing as it may seem to new writers, directors and producers, the truth is that films are sold based on who stars in them. The presence of other contributors doesn’t matter to 90% of the population and 99.1% of those choosing which DVD to rent on a Saturday night.

If you read the blurb on the back of DVDs, you can tell they are designed for non-fans of film. Most people like to go to the pictures every so often, and it’s nice to watch a movie when there’s nothing on TV. They don’t make a point of following which films are coming out soon, when they’ll be on DVD or when they’ll appear on Pay-TV. Decisions on whether to buy a ticket, rent a DVD or record a film on TV are based on seeing an advert or some bit of PR hours before. No more than that.

If that is so, movies need to have simple two sentence explanations combined with an actor you’ve heard of. This happens for blockbusters right down to low-budget horror movies released straight to DVD (“How about this one? It’s got that blond robot guy from Blade Runner.” “What’s that?” “An old Harrison Ford film from the 80s.” “OK… as long as we get that Meg Ryan DVD… the one with Wolverine.”)

Stacey covers how to work out which actors are right for your film. She covers how to get those actors involved in your project elsewhere (warning, it is a subscription site!), but there is a stage to remember before all that.

The first thing about actors and your film is making sure that actors would want to play the parts in your story. You’ll always be able to find no-name actors to play parts. What about those with existing careers? If you can’t afford to pay their going rate, you’ll need to provide an alternative benefit: a part that showcases their ability, possibly one that shows their range. Maybe the man previously cast in a series of parts as mild-mannered men in a series of mid-life crises might want to show that they can play a charismatic serial killer across the screen from Jodie Foster.

Make sure the ‘star’ role (which might not be the protagonist) gives an experienced actor the chance to show off a wide range of emotions and struggles with difficult decisions. Actors don’t like being ‘reactors’. Colin of The London Script Consultancy said that Dustin Hoffman didn’t use to consider a script unless there were twenty decisions for his character to make.

So when you’re outlining your short or feature, remember to make the major parts worth playing for the actors you hope to recruit. Then you might be able to get it distributed, funded and made.

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