How to Write a Casting Call or Notice: For Filmmakers
How To Make It Look Professional
So you're a film student or independent producer/director with a screen or theatre project coming up? Auditioning actors for your leads and supporting roles? Planning to put the call out for actors on Starnow and Facebook Audition Pages, or even send your casting notice to some acting agents?
Great! Make sure you write a great casting call!
It doesn't matter if you can't afford to pay your actors, or that you're just starting out in the industry, or if you're still at film school - there's absolutely NO good excuse to write a terrible casting call! You will look unprofessional, repel experienced actors, and potentially tarnish your name and reputation with actors and agents alike.
Don't do that.
Instead, learn how to write a professional looking casting call or notice, and reap the rewards of better actors AND a better reputation.
Here are some simple tips to get you started!
- Include all relevant details in the original notice/casting call.
Don't make actors and agents email you with 100 questions about shoot dates, audition dates and locations, payment schedules, or your previous work. Put all the information an actor or agent will need in the notice straight off the bat. You'll save them, and yourself, heaps of time and annoyance.
- Unpaid/Paid/Profit Share/Expenses Covered
- AKA Stop selling 'exposure'
Be up front about payment. Don't talk about 'experience' or 'a great opportunity'. Actors are sick of hearing about how short films and webseries will be great 'exposure' for them even if they won't be paid. If they're responding to unpaid casting notices, they already know all about that exposure you're promising. Unpaid is (arguably and within reason) fine - everyone has to start somewhere and build up a resume. We get it. Let's not sell it for more than it is!
- Sell your product and your team
While actors may be tired of hearing about supposed exposure, they DO want to know what's special about your project and what the team has done before! If the Director of the project has had their short film accepted into a small film festival; won any awards; or directed a music video they might have seen, DO mention it! Better yet, name the key team involved and make sure a google search will lead any interested parties to their resume or recent work!
- Sell your plan
If you DO have a specific plan for your project - particularly a short film, indie feature, or webseries - then share it. If you plan to run the international festival circuit, or if you're making the project to enter a specific competition, then include that in your casting notice.
- DO respect the talent
If you're asking actors or talent to be involved in your project, especially if it's unpaid, then remember that they are professionals with a passion for what they do - just like you are. They have trained and committed lots of time and effort to learning their craft and want to be treated like humans with something worthwhile to offer. If you're Steven Spielberg you can probably afford to treat your actors a bit crap. But if you're not, try to be respectful and appreciative of EVERYONE that offers their talents to your projects.
What To Include in A Casting Notice
Format (beyond common sense) doesn't really matter here, since you might be posting this notice in a lot of different forums. What DOES matter is content.
You can go into as much detail as you like, but keeping it to a reasonable length means it's more likely to be read!
You absolutely MUST include:
Title: Name of the Project (Even if it's a Draft)
Production Type: Is it an independent feature? A student short film? Basically who are you? (Student, independent professional, professional with a client/product to sell) And what are you making? (short film, funded feature film, independent feature film, competition entry, music video, commercial, etc.)
Key Team: Director's Name (and website if possible) and Producers Name
Key Contact: Name and contact details (Phone and Email) Who should they contact for an audition?
Shooting Location: Where is the project being made? Just the city is fine.
Roles: Roles that need to be filled - Character name (+ Gender) (+age demographic)
Key Dates: Audition Dates and Shooting Timeframe (so actors can check their availability BEFORE they apply)
Compensation: Paid/Unpaid/Profit Share/Expenses Covered, etc.
Project Synopsis: One paragraph about the film or project's storyline.
Character Bios: A few lines about the roles you are casting for
How to apply for audition: Let the actors/agents know what you want from them and how to get in touch. E.g. "Please forward a headshot, recent credits, and showreel to email@example.com. Please state which character you are submitting for in email title."
Apply by: Date for actors/agents to submit for an audition by. Don't forget to include this one!
Just to make things crystal clear, here's a quick example of a casting call!
TITLE: It's a Wonderful Poodle
Student Short Film (10 min)
(Weedles Film School - Masters Student Grad Project)
DIRECTOR: Dr Robert McDirector (showreel: www.drrobertfilms.com)
CONTACT: Dr Robert McDirector (Ph: 12345678) (Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
SHOOTING: Greater Auckland Region, NZ
ROLES: Sophie Poodle (Female) (30-40)
James Poodle (Male) (8-12)
KEY DATES: Auditions - July 3rd, 4th, 5th, 2016
Shooting - July 18th-30th, 2016
COMPENSATION: Expenses Covered (+ Footage provided for showreel purposes)
SYNOPSIS: 'It's a Wonderful Poodle'
'It's A Wonderful Poodle' is a short film about love, loss, and, you guessed it...poodles! Reeling from the dual loss of both her husband AND her poodle, Sophie Poodle is struggling to adjust to taking care of her young son James on her own... BUT with a visit to the local pound to adopt a new friend; one young poodle pup is going to teach Sophie and James how to love again!
SOPHIE POODLE (Female) (30-40)
A young mother with a lot on her plate. She is frazzled and frizzy (haired that is!). She loves her son James but is struggling to keep it together. An anxious, gentle personality with a soft spot for dogs.
JAMES POODLE (Male) (8-12)
A typical young boy who is struggling with the recent loss of his dad and his dog. He's withdrawn and moody, but reluctantly begins to come out of his shell again with some coaxing from his mother (and one special pup)!
POODLE PUP (Any) (Puppy)
A poodle puppy. Expressive eyes. Moist tongue.
SUBMISSIONS: Please submit to audition for either of the above roles by emailing Dr Robert McDirector at email@example.com. Please provide headshot, recent credits, and showreel (where possible) and please include name of the role/s you are submitting for in the subject title.
APPLY BY/SUBMISSIONS DUE: 27th June, 2016
What's the Most Important Thing To Include in a Casting Notice?
That's how to write a great casting call/notice for any project!
Let me know in the comments below if you've found my article helpful!