Production: Day Two, Part Two.

For Day One, Part One, click here!
For Day One, Part Two, click here!
For Day Two, Part One, click here!

Sorry for the delay between posts – I’ve only been able to grab snippets at the computer for the last fortnight. Where we we?

Oh, the choir practising Christmas Carols or suchlike out in the back studio when we were gearing up to shoot exteriors.

Jamie, Jim and I went to have a look at the set to figure out how we could shoot it. It was pretty easy to see how it had to be done for the closer shots, so we decided to shoot a wide shot where sound was irrelevant whilst the songs were thudding nearby. After a quick two takes of that for coverage, we pushed in for the closer shots.

Incredibly, the choir took a break when we first started to roll camera. Instead we had to deal with planes, buses, sirens, motorbikes, trucks – anything that is a vehicle that makes a grumbling noise to ruin our sound we got. And when the traffic was quiet, the choir started up again. Craig decided that as we were only going to be about 30 minutes shooting, he’d ask them to take a break until then.

He must be one persuasive guy, cause it worked. We managed to shoot the final scene of the film (although not of the day) really quickly thanks to actors who consistently hit their marks, a fantastic crew and Jim’s awesome walking skills for eyelines. After we finished up there, we told the choir to continue and we headed inside to shoot the last few shots for Markus and Danny.

The thing I’ve learnt about shooting in November is that apparentely November 12 isn’t too early to put up Christmas decorations. We had to, very carefully, dismantle the Chrissy decos from the next location and put them all safely away so that we could shoot and not date the film at any particular time of the year – especially as the costumes didn’t match an English Christmas movie (which was suggested, that we change the time of year but I vetoed that idea very quickly).

Another short scene, consisting of three shots. Four takes per shot and bam! The boys, Danny and Markus, were wrapped for the shoot! It wasn’t over for the rest of us, though, and we moved into the theatre to set up for the final scene to film. It was the conversation between the two girls and we were filming it on a stage. The only thing is that the stage looked like a black room if we were punched in too close, so Jamie stuck a wide angle lens on the front of the camera and there were suddenly red seats in the foreground.

This scene was a little tricky to film because there was a lot of movement in Lucy’s blocking. Jamie had to do a lot of nifty pull focusing throughout each shot to make sure it all came together well and we did cover the scene quite thoroughly to make sure that we got everything that we needed. In amongst church bells ringing on a Sunday afternoon and car alarms going off – both things we couldn’t have predicted but it just goes to show you that location recces at the time you’re planning to shoot are really important! – we managed to finish shooting the scene. Both the girls were great – barely any giggles and they took on board my direction really well.

Then it was all over and we were packing up to get out of there!

It’s a bit crazy looking back to think that we shot a whole short film in two days. It was a fantastic experience for me and hopefully for the rest of the cast and crew as well. We’re in our first week of post at the moment, so I’m hoping that the editor will have something to show me soon but I’ll let you guys know how we’re getting on, of course!

Production: Day One; Part Two

Catch up on Part One here.

Knowing that Markus had the kind of giggles that makes everything hilariously funny, I took him out of the room, off set and calmed him down away from the rest of the cast and crew. He managed to regain enough composure to continue on with the scene – he admitted later that he stood in a spot where he couldn’t see Danny before he walked in for every take after that.

We started to power through the scene. Victoria, who was due to shoot her scene at around 3.30pm, showed up at 3pm, as we’d asked, but as we were running a little behind schedule it gave her time to tweak her costume and make-up. So we continued, moving onto close ups of the boys to give us coverage for the scene.

It was during Danny’s close up that a sudden burst of voices ruined the take. I poked my head out the door, expecting the voices to be walking in and out of the theatre opposite – but there were two singers who had parked themselves right outside the door to the room we were in (so close that I actually hit their chair with the door when I opened it). I asked them to move whilst we were shooting and they, thankfully, did so.

About five minutes later, the band started up.

We had two shots left to shoot in that location, so we decided that the best way to get around it was to just go for it and cross our fingers that we got a few clean versions. Amazingly enough, we did, so we wrapped our first location and moved downstairs to set up for the next one. The next was going to be quick – it was only three shots – but as it was late in the day, it meant that we had to shoot night for day because England is annoying and loses daylight astonishingly quickly in November (it was around 5pm and it was nearly pitch black outside already).

Jamie and Jim managed to set up the lights so that the inside looked fine and Jamie framed out the windows and we were ready to rock and roll. We shot that scene very quickly and without too many hold ups and we were going to move on when we realised our next location was right under the theatre where the r’n’b band were rehearsing.

In a blindly hopeful moment, I asked Jack (the soundie) to have a listen and see if we might be able to get away with shooting something. He walked away and I apologised to Victoria for keeping her waiting for so long. Jack reappeared and said it was impossible. We had no choice but to wrap early, so I made the decision to start at 9am the next morning instead of 11am to get the scene we couldn’t shoot then done in the morning.

Unfortunately that meant that Victoria had come up to High Barnet for no reason which I felt awful about, but she was wonderful about it and once we packed up and got out of there for the day.

We’d had a few setbacks on day one and even more to shoot the next day, so I knew we had to be focused to get through everything we needed to and get everything shot. But day one was done and for now, I could let myself relax for a little while until reviewing scenes and shot lists for day two.

We’re Wrapped!

Wow.

So it’s two days after we’ve wrapped and the dust has settled and all the cast and crew have headed back into normality. The shoot went really well, regardless of problems that cropped up here and there and we got everything we needed to shoot shot, so that’s always a good thing.

I am still trying to collect myself afterward (jumping straight back into work the day after the shoot is a cool reminder of the fact you should always give yourself a day to sleep!), but the next few posts will be a break down of how the shoot went, so keep an eye out for them this week.

The indiegogo campaign is still running for another week and a half and now’s the time when we have to start paying for everything. There’s still time to get on board, just check out the campaign and contribute!

For now, I’m going to leave you with an EXCLUSIVE behind the scenes shot – the cast and crew of With A Little Help From Our Friends (click the image to make it bigger).

From left to right: Victoria (Abby), Carolina (Lucy), Jack (Sound), Markus (Max), Alli (Director), Jamie (DOP), Jim (Camera Assistant), Danny (Des) and Craig (First AD). Photograph courtesy of Oli Lewington.

The Countdown: Five Days Until We Shoot

It’s Monday already? Gosh, where did last week go? We’ve been busy in the ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ production office (and by that, I mean we’re all working out of our respective bedrooms) and suddenly we’re five days out from shooting.

This week is out last chance to get everything in place before Saturday morning. The list isn’t too formidable, but that’s ignoring anything that will go horribly wrong in the next few days. We’ve had a few hiccups but nothing disastrous as yet (touch wood) and we’ve managed to bounce back from that and keep the train moving.

So, where are we at?

We’ve currently raised $1771 toward our budget which is completely amazing considering we thought we’d struggle to hit $1000. Our budget is $2000, so if you’re still interested in helping us out, go and check out the campaign (it’s running for another two and a half weeks). We’re so stunned by the support so thank you so much to everyone who has helped out so far!

We had our second and final rehearsal yesterday which was pretty exciting. It was great to see how much the story and characters have developed since the first rehearsal a few weeks ago and the script is really starting to come into its own. The cast seemed to be having great fun, judging by the explosions of laughter that erupted after the end of each run through and I must admit that I lost it a few times during a scene and had to compose myself so that I could actually focus on the performances (see below for some ace photos!).

Now we’re all about the shoot. Craig is in charge of call sheets and schedules, Jack’s liasing with the locations and I’ve got to finalise shot lists as well as make sure we’ve got all the props and costume we need. This is the week to be organised, definitely, as this is the time when things’ll start to go wrong. But as I told Craig when he called me to tell me that the harddrives we were going to buy for the shoot had leapt up £200 in price because of the floods in Thailand – if nothing goes wrong, then you’ve forgotten something.

Bring on the shoot!

Lucy (Carolina Main) tells Abby (Victoria Smith) why dating Max is a bad idea.

Max (Markus Copeland) tells Des about how he met Abby.

Des (Danny Mahoney) tries to convince Max (Markus Copeland) he’s wrong.

Alli Parker (director) chats to Markus and Danny.

Abby (Victoria Smith), Lucy (Carolina Main), Max (Markus Copeland) and Des (Danny Mahoney).

Of Learning Lines and an Abundance of Laughter: First Rehearsal

Sunday morning dawned chilly and frosty but it didn’t deter me – it was our first rehearsal day for With A Little Help From Our Friends.

First rehearsals are pretty special things. You get the cast coming together for the first time. You often get the main heads of department showing up as well to stick their noses in and say G’Day. You get to see how well everyone gets along with each other. How well the lovers are going to be lovers, how well the villains are going to be villains. The first rehearsal is the first time you can really start to feel the weight of a film and judge exactly how much fun it’s going to be to make.

With A Little Help From Our Friends is going to be ridiculous fun.

In between everyone (except Markus) showing up on time, the immediate laughter once we all sat down in a group to say hello to each other to the roaring laughter as we rehearsed various scenes, WALHFOF is coming along really really well. I’ve been completely spoiled with an amazing cast and I’m already looking forward to the next set of rehearsals to really dive into the characters and explore the relationships between the four characters.

We’ve got a few weeks in between rehearsals now, so we’re thinking about various things separately – character, costumes, hair and make up etc – and I’ll be chatting to the actors via email to see what we can come up with individually before bringing it forward at the next rehearsal – which is the weekend before the shoot.

The other thing we’re considering doing is crowd-funding a section of the budget. The key is finding a model that works – some of the campaigns that are presented badly are 200% funded, some that are beautifully presented are struggling to get the full amount pledged. Something else to think about, at any rate.

I leave you with a few snaps of the rehearsal, courtesy of Craig. Enjoy!

Alli chats to the actors at the beginning of the rehearsal.

From left to right: Carolina Main (Lucy), Victoria Smith (Abby), Markus Copeland (Max), Danny Mahoney (Des) and the back of Alli’s head.

Markus and Danny

Carolina and Victoria

Markus exercises his angst face.

Abby and Max skipping into the sunset (improvised).

Markus and Danny take a break.

Lucy gets up in Abby’s face.

Pre-Production: Auditions Part 05

For my previous posts on auditions, choose the one you want and click: A Cautionary Tale, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

When we last left talking about auditions, we were nearly ready to have the actors walk into the space and do their thing. Before you get there, you have to book them in. This is how I do it, which may not work for everyone, but it works well enough for me.

For WALHFOF, we were time restricted. We only had a few hours in the room and we had eighteen actors to see. I divided the time up into ten minute blocks, then allocated one ten minute block in every forty minutes to a different character. My reasoning is this: I didn’t want to see six Lucy’s in a row. Chances are, they’d all blend into each other and I wouldn’t be able to remember the first one. So I use the other auditions as markers. ‘That Lucy was the one after the Des in the green shirt,’ or ‘That Lucy was the one with the blue dress before the Abby with the massively curly hair.’ That way too I have no preconceptions of character from the actor before them – because the actor before them was auditioning for a different character.

Ten minutes might not seem like a lot. For a short film, it’s PLENTY. The first time I ever scheduled auditions, I scheduled them in half hour blocks. The auditions definitely didn’t go for half an hour, most went for ten minutes, fifteen if they were amazing, five if they were terrible. I learnt from that and realised that half an hour is way too much for a short. Trust me, if the actor is good, you’ll smash through everything you want them to in ten minutes. If the actor is bad, you won’t want much more than ten minutes with them because you know in the first thirty seconds. The actors know too. They are sizing you up just as much as you’re sizing them up.

Which brings me to the audition itself. This is the way I run my auditions.

Start with a chat. Small talk. Break the tension, talk about niceties. It was raining on our audition day, so we had instant small talk. Brilliant.

Make sure you introduce everyone. Regardless of whether you’ve been talking to them to organise the auditions or not, introduce everyone in the room – including yourself. Remember that you’re likely the only person who knows everyone there. You’ve seen the actors headshots, you know the guy operating the video camera. Be polite and make sure everyone knows who everyone else is.

– Chat to camera. To start off, I get the actors to chat to camera. They introduce themselves, their agency (if they have one) and I like to get them to say something about themselves. I know people who ask them about a project they’ve worked on that they particularly enjoyed, I know others who skip this bit entirely. This time around, I asked them to tell me (and by me, I mean the camera) something that I didn’t know about them. Turns out this was a lot tougher than it seemed, even though I didn’t know anything about any of them. Always get them to look straight down the barrel of the camera. That way, if you need it, you’ve got a back-up shot of their face.

– First run through. The first time we run the piece, I get them to do it fresh with no direction. It’s always interesting to see how they’ve read the character and the scenario without me pointing them in any particular direction. After all, one of them might’ve seen something entirely different in it and that’s something you can definitely explore. The first run through is also good to do loose as it gets rid of any jitters they might have. I’ve only ever had an actor nail a first run through once – they read it exactly as I saw all of it in my head. Needless to say, they got the part.

– Second run through. For me, the second run through depends on the actor. Generally, I jump straight in to having a bit of a play with it so that the actors have a bit of reign to put a bit more flair into it and then return to the way I properly see it unfolding once they’re a bit more familiar with the words. For WALHFOF, I got the actors to play the scene as though they were in a library. This was a really interesting concept because it also showed me how many of them were paying attention to my direction – there was a rising tension in the audition piece and although most people used the library setting to their advantage (getting frustrated and loud before realising they were in a library and retreating back to stage whispers), some did forget and stayed flat and whispering the whole time.

– Third run through. This is generally the point where the actors start to really get into it. The third run through can be the magic one (although you can often tell whether someone is going to be good in the first thirty seconds or so). I come back to the way I want it to run (out of the library and back to its original setting) and challenge the actors to lift the energy. Most of the time, they do.

– Fourth run through. This one depends on the actor. If I want a little more from them, I’ll give them a bit more direction and we’ll do a Third Run Through V2. If I’ve seen everything I need to see, this is something that I love doing with actors because I think they’re wonderful. For these particular auditions, I wanted to see how far the actors would push it and go with it. I wanted them to be big, loud, passionate, outrageous – I wanted them to go nuts with it. This was generally the run through that made me laugh the hardest, the one with the most physical comedy and the one that the actors seemed to enjoy the most.

For some actors, you might like to do a few extra run throughs of the script. It depends on what kind of film you’re making as to how you’d like to run your auditions. There is no right or wrong way. If you want tips, I’d suggest talking to actors to see what they think are the best audition techniques they’ve seen. After all, you want auditions that are going to get the best out of your actors, so why not ask some?

You’ve held your auditions. You’ve remembered your textas and paper. Everyone’s been amazing.

Now you have to cast.

Pre-Production: Auditions Part 04

More in the auditions saga (A Cautionary Tale, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Where you hold your auditions is also important. You want somewhere that has enough space for the actors not to feel inhibited but, as it’s for a low/no budget film, you don’t want to have too much physical space between you and the actor. Yeah, in movies and on television, the actor/dancer/performer walks nervously out of the wings onto the stage and the producer and director are sitting bored seventeen rows back in a theatre.

You’re not them. You want to be able to see their faces, their expressions. Headshots can hide a lot – I’ve lost count of the amount of times that actors have come in and I’ve only vaguely recognised them from their headshots. But the most important thing to remember is that the audience will be watching their faces. If you’re sitting seventeen rows away from them, how will you remember the twinkle in the eye, the quirk of their mouth? You won’t. You can hope that the camera you’re filming the auditions on will pick it up, but you want to get caught in the actor’s spell. So let yourself be close enough to do so.

Which brings me to:

THE AUDITION KIT
This is all the stuff I take to an audition.

Cedric, my laptop. I use Ced to update the spreadsheet to make a note of which actors have shown up, which actors haven’t, any other notes I want to make. I try not to make these with pencil so that none of the actors coming in afterward don’t spot anything and try to change their performances. I think it’s really important that you CLOSE your laptop during an actor’s audition – how are you going to make notes on their performance if you aren’t watching? Plus, they’re taking time out of their day to come and see you – it’s about respect. I make notes in the times between actors – if it’s important, you’ll remember it. If it’s really important, then make a vague note in pencil and clarify it for yourself later.
Pens, pencils and highlighters. Always really handy to have around in general. I’m one of those people who always has a pen and paper in my bag anyway. Highlighters are good to cross names off lists – or make a note of the actors you’re black listing because they haven’t shown up.
Spare copies of the audition pieces. You’ll want one for you to follow along with. You’ll want one for the reader (if you have one) to read from. You’ll want a spare one because there are always actors who haven’t been able to bring them along. And you’ll want a spare one for the spare one because the spare one gets rumpled. It’s always good to have a few extra copies.
Spare copies of the audition timetable. Depending on how many people you are running the auditions with, it’s always a good idea to have spares in case you lose/spill coffee on/it gets stolen by green squirrels.
Camera. As I mentioned earlier, headshots can sometimes lie. Try and look at actors headshots in colour – they always look different than their black and white shots. The best way to get around this is to decide whether their headshot kind of matches the face of your characters, then take a less professional shot of them on the day. I took my camera along to the auditions then proceeded to forget all about taking shots during the audition. It’s annoying because during the decision making process, I had to rely on memory and the video to decide how much they looked like their headshots.

Video Camera (not pictured). Always film your auditions. You can sometimes get a good sense of who to cast instantly, but there will inevitably be (as there was this time around) several actors vying for the part in your head. The best thing to do is rewatch them and decide who is right for the project.

Hard-drive, card reader and spare battery. Because we were shooting the auditions digitally, I knew we’d have to dump the cards at some stage and I knew the files would be too big to fit onto my computer. Spare battery is one of those things you always forget, then desperately need.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO TAKE THAT I ALWAYS FORGET ABOUT:
Yep. Sticky tape and a Sharpie. Or texta. Or a marker pen. Whatever country you come from, these are really important things I always manage to forget about. Except this time, thankfully. What isn’t pictured here, but is up in the top picture, is blank paper. You will ALWAYS need to make signs. If you have time, print them up the night before. Chances are, you won’t have time or you’ll realise that the place you’re holding the auditions is a little harder to find than you thought or you want the actors to sit in one spot to wait instead of the other spot. Either way, these are always really handy to have on…well, on hand.
You’re nearly ready. How exciting is this?

Pre-Production: Auditions Part 03

The casting call.

It’s tough. Like I outlined in my post from earlier this week, the casting call is your pitch to actors. You want to inspire them to get involved in the project. You want them to take the time to click the ‘Apply’ button. You want them to want to give up their time to be a part of your little project, to make it the best it can possibly be.

This makes the casting call one of the most important pitches you will ever write.

You can’t give your actors the same pitch as you give your producer, your DOP, your crew. Your actors are different. They’re special. You want them to love your project as much as you do – if they really believe in what they’re doing, that will show on the screen. You can always tell if an actor doesn’t really care about what they’re doing. It might only be a split second in one shot, buried in 90 minutes, but that flicker is there. And the audience will see it and it could break the suspension of disbelief in the film and suddenly the audience aren’t invested any more but aren’t sure why.

Write a casting call that reflects the tone of your film. Remember that actors may have spent half an hour searching through casting calls, they’ve probably flicked through the list every few days or so. They’ve all seen dodgy looking casting calls, they’ve all seen casting calls for the same projects but with different titles and crew. You need to make yours stand out. Don’t be afraid to put your personality into it either – they’re not only reading to suss out the film, they also want to suss out the people behind the film. After all, you guys are going to be working pretty closely together, they want to know that it’ll be worth their time.

This is what I wrote for the casting call for ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’:

Hi there! ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ is a seven minute short comedy film that is about two friends who are trying to convince their best friends not to date each other. Sounds confusing, but it’s a lot of fun – and, of course, has a twist at the end!

We’re shooting the last weekend in October (29th and 30th), in High Barnet, London. We, unfortunately, don’t have enough money to pay you but we will feed you, cover travel expenses (within reason – we probably won’t be able to fly you down from Glasgow!) and can promise you a good time on set – great crew, wicked script: we’re just looking for the perfect cast!

The film is being made by a collection of dedicated filmmakers with varying experience but the same amount of love for filmmaking. The script was shortlisted for a script competition last year (The London Screenwriters’ Festival Short Script Competition).

AUDITIONS ARE BEING HELD THIS SUNDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER FROM 11AM-2PM IN HIGH BARNET, LONDON.

Please do not apply if you have no intention of showing up for the audition. My iPhone only has so much battery to waste playing Angry Birds in the chunk of time you leave open.

If you have any questions, please get in touch, I’m more than happy to answer them!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Alli
Writer and Director

It’s light, it’s a bit funny, it’s brief. Same as the film, really. It also helped when I wanted to reinforce about time-wasters (it worked too, everyone who had to pull out let me know they were doing so). But the amount of cover letters from enthused actors who were keen to get their hands on some comedy spoke volumes (I’ve spoken about comedy vs drama script before). The pitch worked. I got 100 odd applications for a reason.

Same rules apply for character descriptions. Make them interesting. Don’t be afraid to reveal things about your characters that happen in the script. People won’t even remember the character descriptions you posted by the time they see the film. Again, it’s about making the actors hungry to play a role like the one you’re describing. Here are my character descriptions:

MAX
19-22 years old, Max is intelligent, cheeky and is rarely seen without his best mate, Des. Max is usually the guy who has to convince Des out of his hair-brained schemes, but every so often he does allow himself to be dragged along and does have a lot of fun – until they get chased by a shopkeeper brandishing a broom or hiding in the bushes to hide from a small time security guard.

Max’s weakness is girls. He doesn’t quite know how to handle them and often finds himself talking at 100 miles per minute to avoid awkward silences. But when he spots Abby, it’s different. There’s an easiness there that makes it simple for him to be himself.

DES
19-22 years old. Loud. Dramatic. Physical. Des has an imagination that runs faster than Usain Bolt and he loves it. He’s never far away from his partner in crime, Max, although more often than not, the ideas are all Des’. He’s easy to talk to, but often says completely the wrong thing to girls who usually give him a swift slap across the face or a dark glare. He doesn’t mind, he knows that he’s awesome.

It’s when he comes across someone that he genuinely likes that his words and charm fail him and he isn’t sure what to do.

LUCY
19-22 years old. Lucy is full of boundless energy and enthusiasm, with a tinge of melodramatics and tends to over-exaggerate the smallest of things. Often, this leads into her wicked sense of humour and is somehow endearing to those who don’t know her.

But underneath the energy, Lucy is a little more shy when it comes to going out on a limb for her love life. After all, isn’t it more romantic to pine from the corner than go up and talk to the person that she likes?

ABBY
19-22 years old. Creative, quiet but with a vibrant streak that not many people get to see, Abby will always surprise you. She wants to be an actress, but she’s got a back up career in case she needs it. There’s two sides to Abby and a lot of people underestimate her due to the fact that she’s often standing in the shadow of her best friend Lucy. Abby doesn’t mind – she knows that if she keeps trying she’ll get where she wants to be in the end.

Can I let you in on a secret? Max and Des don’t get chased by a shop-keeper with a broom in the film. Des doesn’t get slapped by a girl. There are no scenes with Lucy seizing her chance and nervously telling the boy she likes that she likes him. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that all these things give you an idea of character, which then is built into the film through action. It gives the actors a chance to figure out who they want to play with, who they want to create, who they want to become.

Do you know the character who got the most applications? Abby. Easily. I’m still not sure why. Perhaps because she is described as a bit conflicted, perhaps because she’s the most relatable character in the set. I have no idea. But what I do know is that on audition day, the actors all came in and genuinely enjoyed auditioning for me. There was a fair amount of laughter and I think we all had a lot of fun.

Plus, no-one I eventually cast in the film complained about the lack of brooms or slaps in the script.

Pre-Production: Auditions Part 02

You’ve got your script. You’ve conned someone into being your producer. You’re starting to get the locations together, you’re thinking about what camera you’re going to shoot on but you need one of the most important departments of filmmaking sorted before you move too much further forward.

The actors.

Without actors, you don’t have much of a film. Arguably, you don’t have a film at all. How often do you watch a film at the cinema and come out critiquing the performances? “She was AMAZING. He was great. But that OTHER girl? What were they thinking casting HER?! I could do better!” Maybe not quite that extreme, but I’m sure you’ve all seen a film with terrible acting. Sometimes it’s so bad it’s good, sometimes it’s just bad.

But with the bad comes the good. And the great. And the phenomenal! Admittedly, the phenomenal is much harder to find when you can only cover expenses for your actors, but it can definitely be done. You just need to know where to look.

In every city there are out of work actors. There are actors who have just graduated from acting school, actors looking to update their showreel, actors with some extra time on their hands – actors who are willing to do something for free. GOOD actors too. Not all actors who work for free are terrible actors with no experience. On the contrary, I have to say that for nearly every set of auditions I’ve ever held, the good actors have definitely outweighed the bad.

Where there are out of work actors, there are places you can advertise your film. Google it. Ask actors where they go to hunt out work. It is quite an easy process now. But always have a look around the site before you place your casting call – sometimes you’ll be able to gauge the quality of actors by the way the site is set up. Most of the good sites will work to protect their actors privacy, so don’t be surprised if you have to register all your details before you post.

This research is also good to see what kind of projects people are pitching. More often than not, short films are drama (I’ve spoken about drama vs comedy before here) so if yours is as well, read a few others to see how you can make your casting call stand out. Remember that actors will read the same kinds of pitches every day. What is it about your film that makes it different? Why should the actors give up their time and work for free on yours instead of any other one on the page?

Make your pitch and character descriptions as interesting as possible. ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ is a comedy. So I kept the pitch light and threw in a few jokes. People responded to that. They clicked open the character descriptions to have a read because it got them interested. The content was light and the tone of the casting call was comical. I do think I would’ve gotten less applications if I’d been making a drama. Look out for a post in the next few days – I’ll show you how I wrote my character breakdowns and which characters got the most applications.

Keep it brief. If you only take one piece of advice away from this post, make it this. And I think this applies to ALL pitching. You never know how much time the person you’re pitching to (whether it be behind a computer or in front of your face) has, so keep it clear, concise and to the point. Don’t show all your cards, but do give enough information to spark a bit of interest. Cover the main points and then let the pitch speak for itself.

My last piece of advice for setting up your casting call is this:

Keep an open mind. You’ve got nothing to lose but a bit of time when you’re auditioning people. And auditions are often held when you do have some time to spare, so you may as well ask as many people as you can to come in – regardless of whether they match the character in your head or not. Don’t be afraid to look where you wouldn’t expect because you never know what you might find.

Good luck!

Pre-Production: Auditions – Part 01

I am delighted to report that regardless of any qualms or nerves expressed in previous posts, the auditions for With A Little Help From Our Friends went mind-blowingly well.

I’ll break down the process during the week, but in summary (at the beginning, I know, it’s a bit weird) we had:

– Roughly 100 applications for roles
– I asked 20 people to audition
– 18 booked spots on the day
– 14 of those 18 showed up.

Of the four who didn’t show up, every single one of them sent apologetic text messages or emails.

The auditions themselves went great. I always get a little nervous that someone will come in and be a terrible actor and I’ll have to bluff my way through five minutes of awkwardly playing around with the material so that they don’t feel too shafted, but every single actor who came to meet Jack and I was really really great.

Which, of course, has made my job a lot harder to try and choose who my Max, Des, Abby and Lucy are.

It’s frustrating when auditions go well. I now wish I could write extra parts for other actors I saw so that they’re still included in the film, but with a short, that’s nearly impossible. It’s tough because each actor brings something different to the character and it’s all about figuring out if that dynamic will work with another actor’s dynamic and really bring out the best in the script and look arresting on screen.

The one thing I am pretty terrible at during auditions is my poker face. I remember having discussions about this at university when we would hold auditions for our student films. If you’re auditioning someone, should you give them the satisfaction of reacting favourably to their performance? I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve never been ‘taught’ the ‘right’ way to hold auditions, so I just hold them how I think they should be done. A director I worked with once wouldn’t let me be the reader (read the cue lines of dialogue in a script for an audition) because I was ‘acting’ them too much. He was of the opinion that you should read them as flat as possible to test the actor’s ability. I tend to disagree with that – surely you want to get the best out of your actor so you give them the safest and most comfortable space to perform in?

With that mindset, I’m fairly positive that I had very little poker face-ing skills on Sunday. For one, actors were genuinely enjoying performing my dialogue which is more than enough to bring a smile to my face. But when the acting is spot on in a comedy, when the timing is right, keeping a straight face and resisting the urge to laugh is slightly tougher than you’d think.

Right, enough procrastination. I’m off to giggle at my dialogue and deliberate over my cast once again. Her and him? Do they make a believeable couple? Do those two look like best friends? Or maybe them. But he was a stronger actor.

Gah. Wish me luck!