In July, I put together a list of the actors we needed for all of the roles, specifying desired age range, gender, race(s), and physique. Angel set up an audition sign-up sheet online for the people we’d choose to audition, and proceeded to advertise the casting call. Roger and I decided what parts of the script to use for readings and he prepared sides.
We received scores of resumes, fully half of which were from people with no or inadequate qualifications. I put together a form letter to send to these applicants that offered them an opportunity to be an extra in the film.
For the applicants with qualifications, I set up a shared folder on Google Drive for resumes and photos. I contacted some candidates of interest to ask for video samples and put these into the folder as well. Then Roger and I ranked them. When we both chose someone, they were an automatic invite. For others, Roger and I went back and forth a bit, leaning toward including people in the auditions if either of us had strong preference.
We’d scheduled a few days of auditions and had a lot of people coming in. For those out of town or unable to come on the days we were auditioning, we set up a process either to audition them via Skype, or to receive video.
A couple of days before we were to start auditions, Angel asked me who was going to be the reader for the actors—the one who’d say the lines in the script not being spoken by the person auditioning. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. I scrambled to find some young people who wanted to participate, but who had limited or no credentials. I found 5 who were excited to help with low pay. They were the readers as well as assistants in the process. I was happy that later one actually had a role in the film, another was a set decoration assistant, and another was an extra. Their willingness to take on a limited, small job led to some experience in film.
Another thing that I was glad I did was to make a rating sheet to record our evaluations of the actors. With so many people each day, it was difficult to keep them sorted in our minds. Even more important, however, was that Roger videoed each audition. We ended up relying very heavily on reviews of those, especially later when our first-choice actor was unavailable and we had to go to back-up candidates.
I was not expecting the wide range of capabilities. Some were so awful that it was hard not to laugh. Some were so superb that selection was open-and-shut. Overall, we found actors who were either very good or exceptional for all of the key roles and most of the auditions went smoothly, with us filling the roles fairly rapidly. I won’t report on all of the casting experience, but will cite two examples.
Two of the roles about which I was most worried were the leading man, and the really evil bad guy. For the former, I wanted someone not overly young, who fit my definition of handsome, and who could masterfully portray the range of emotions that his character would encounter. For the latter, we needed a tough guy who could project craziness coupled with craftiness, and who was versatile with a range of emotions.
We were well into the auditions and I was getting worried. Not only had we not found anyone for those roles whom I thought met Roger’s or my criteria, there had not been anyone who would even do in a pinch. I resolved that I was going to have to think about coming up with money to fly in someone from LA and put them up at significant expense.
In walked Chad Halbrook—handsome and young, but not too young; he was definitely a fit with what I had in mind. “Please let this guy be good,” I said to myself. As Roger proceeded to put him through his paces, it was hard to stop from grinning. Not only was he good, he was exceptional. I thought to myself, “This guy can carry the movie if he has to.” I liked him so much that I was constantly afraid we’d lose him and have to go to a distant, distant back up until the film was finally in the can.
The second role that I thought would be hard to cast was the bad guy. In particular, there is a scene where the character gets off on watching a video of violence. I asked Roger to have those who auditioned for the role do this scene, which entailed no dialog, just pure acting.
There was a guy from Austin who’d had a hard time reserving an audition spot online and he called me, irate about it. He was ready to give up, but I tried to be even-keeled about it and help him get in. I was ever so glad we persisted. When he walked in, I noted he had “the look” I was envisioning, but did he have the talent? I sat quietly, as I did with all the auditions, and watched Roger work with him. But at the end of the audition, when Roger hadn’t yet asked him to do the “getting off” scene, I spoke up and asked for him to do it.
When Tom Heard finished that part of the audition, I couldn’t restrain myself. I jumped up from behind my table at the back and rushed up to hug him. “Fantastic,” I said. He was sweaty and still breathing hard from the exertion of the scene, but I had to hug him one more time. Roger said, “Hmm, I never saw anyone hug an actor for his performance before.” But I could tell that he agreed with my sentiment.