I'm Glad I'm Not An Actor...30 Jan 2009
Casting is one of those things that is a joy and a pain in equal measure.
It's funny to work with the written word for so long, and one day, it just springs to life in front of you. A good actor can bring something to a script even the best scriptwriter didn't think of. If you're the writer, it's strange and wonderful to hear your own words coming back at you, filled with emotion. For someone to sit across the table from you, and create a performance before your very eyes is indeed special.
The down side though, is that you can only pick one actor for each part.
What's more, imagine putting your all into a performance for a director only to be told, "no thanks, we're going with someone else..." That's gotta be tough. What's more, it's not a reflection of talent. More often than not, it's because the director is looking for someone different. Let's say you're making Legally Blonde. Along comes Meryl Streep. OK, she can act, but we're never going to look at her and think "ditzy." Reese Witherspoon? Yes. She can do "ditzy."
Essentially we're looking for a shorthand. A way of getting the audience to think what we want based on their own preconceptions and typecasting.
So, we're looking for someone say, who is a college graduate, a guy who works in the city. We see a range of actors but we're looking for someone who could believably fit that role. We can only choose one.
Assuming all of the performances are up to the mark, we're looking for the performer who most resembles the writers or directors image of the character.
This means you don't get the part not because of your talent but because of how you look.
Sad, but true.
Some years back I cast a short film in Ipswich. Every day, the postman arrived with a wad of 10x8s with CVs and personal letters. It was disconcerting to read the cover letters. Each one, hand-written, sometimes on flowery letterhead, expressed a deep desire to work on the film.
Can you imagine what it's like to sit down with pen and paper every Monday morning and go through PCR looking for casting updates? Then to send your head shot and CV, along with the hand-written cover letter, only to receive an abbreviated "thanks but no thanks" letter?
Even if you're called for audition, the odds (assuming they're fair), are about one in ten or one in twenty. I should point out that I only ever call people to audition if I'm reasonably sure I'd hire them. Which means that I'll only audition around twenty (at most) for a particular role.
So, at least 90% of the people are going to be disappointed. I feel for them, I really do. Imagine that this is the Last Audition. You've tried and tried, and now you're about to give up. To take your Mother's advice and get a nice job in the civil service. Your last throw of the dice is an audition with Claddagh Films. It seemed to go well, but the next thing, I'm calling you to say "sorry, we decided to go with someone else..."
I do try to be positive. If I think someone really hit the performance but just didn't make the cut, I'd want them to know that. I feel like saying "don't give up, this is only one stupid audition." But I don't. It wouldn't be "professional," whatever that means.
So, you watch as they walk out the door, closing it behind them, thinking "that's it, then. Job Centre tomorrow morning, first thing." Meanwhile, I'm wondering if I can change the script to suit them, or maybe just rewrite the thing completely, just to cast that magical person who is now walking away thinking about a job in Supermacs.
But enough of the dark side of casting. It happens. I guess, on behalf of film-makers everywhere, all I can say is "persevere." That helps, doesn't it? Try that on the landlord when the rent's late - "I'm persevering!" To which she replies; "You're two weeks late is what you are!"
When it works though, it's like some sort of mythical blind date which ends well. That fictional character in your head suddenly has two legs. Your abilities to stretch the character to three dimensions have been sorely tested, and now that character is finally sitting opposite you. Speaking!