Filmmaking Blog Posts by Indie Film Factory

About those Casting Calls – Tips for directors and actors

casting tips

Casting your movie is more than putting out casting calls. 

Last year I had the splendid opportunity to direct Abigail Haunting. The movie has taken off and been more successful than we could have possibly imagined. And although I have to say that timing with the pandemic helped with its success, I cannot take away the high quality acting our performers rendered. But this journey started well before all of the casting calls we put out.  As I’ve mentioned in past posts, finding good talent is key to any movie’s success. The casting process is an area of this business that is often rushed and misunderstood. Although, as a DIY filmmaker, you shouldn’t be afraid to take on the process. Hiring casting agencies are great if you have the budget, but for many of us who have razor sharp budgets, this is cost prohibitive.

Online Platforms – Before the Casting Calls

With the advent of casting services like Backstage, filmmakers can access talent all over the globe and post casting calls. Moreover, you can see most of your options prior to starting the casting process. One of the great things about services like these are that you can review resumes and watch demo reels and self tapes. This can help you narrow down your search and make your casting more efficient.

The Audition Process – 

With today’s world of “non-contact”, I would suggest hosting initial auditions on-line, and have actors read along with each other. Use services like Zoom, or Google Hangout. The goal is to find actors that can work and play well against each other. You will want to use a platform that allows each actor to see and interact with each other. By doing this, you can read talent no matter their location. Plus you can save yourself a few bucks from having to rent locations to host auditions. However, please keep in mind, at some point you will want to make the investment in getting your actors in the same room prior to filming. This will build team spirit and make the dynamics much more easy on set. 

Auditioning Tips

Anytime you’re reading actors, you should look for the following qualities:
  • Can they keep things simple (not over-acting)
  • Do they take direction (simple things, “like try this” or “how about thinking of this idea on your next read?”)
  • Watch the performances for changes to see if they are listening and thinking about their direction
  • Are they punctual? Are they professional?
  • How could they play with other actors you are considering?

Group Reads

When reading actors together, ask yourself as the director: “Can you build chemistry, tension and truth between your characters?” What does “truth between characters” mean? This term basically means the ability for two performers to have natural emotional instincts when reacting with one another. For example: A WOMAN is pulled over by the cops and has a sack of weed under her seat. She is terrified that she will be arrested and go to prison. THE COP does what traffic cops do, right? They ask for driver’s licenses and registration. Simple right? But wait! It is not that simple. Oftentimes, actors go for the obvious. For THE WOMAN performer, she may try to play the emotion of being nervous. How does one play nervous? They can’t. Nervousness is not something that can be performed. It’s something that can only be delivered through the ether of emotion and truth. So rather than the actress playing fidgety, or suspicious, perhaps her emotion (her truth) tells her something differently. Maybe survival mode kicks in and it tells her to be overly friendly, maybe its simply not doing anything at all. For THE COP, he or she should be able to react to what they are seeing to help them find other natural emotional instincts to play from. “Why is this person so calm?” Why is this person so nice?” These are the questions that should be happening when your performers are in the scene together. Also, another thing to note: It’s not always how good people look together. In real life, opposites attract. Find people with good instincts, and those who are always listening and asking questions.


Some of us have heard the phrase, “The perfect type!”. That phrase is misleading and holds no meaning whatsoever. When casting your film, the biggest part of the process is looking for truth. You may have had a particular character type in mind when writing your script, but keep your ears and eyes open. Cast good actors, NOT TYPES! Keep your thoughts open and be willing to make dramatic changes to your script if you find a great performer with truthful instincts.


Take time to cast your film. Do not be afraid to post multiple casting calls and have your acting prospects do multiple meetings to make sure you have the right players for your movie project. And lastly, be sure to have some level of budget to pay your actors. Its time for the indie film community to elevate itself and start creating a more professional environment. That’s all I have. I hope it’s helpful! For more information on the process of indie filmmaking, be sure to check out my latest book, A FILMMAKING MINDSET, now available on Amazon. Keep Making Movies! -Kelly

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