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View Full Version : first short film, same old story: no budget =



gossamer
06-11-2004, 09:45 AM
I'm working on putting together my first short film, but i'm up against the typical obstacle: no budget.

But, i still need actors and crew. I know i can ask for volunteers but i have a few questions:

(1) what are the best sources to find them. I live in the midwest, all our "good" actors move out to LA and NY ;) so what are some good ways to find actors who might be willing to work for free? Is the "resumé builder" a viable carrot to dangle in front of them?

(2) what kinds of things must i ABSOLUTELY offer to talent and crew (food, references, etc.)?

Luckily my film only calls for three principal actors and maybe a few extras. The bigger challenge is going to be permits and avoiding those costs at . . . well . . . at all costs.

thanks in advance for any help.

Mike_Donis
06-11-2004, 10:00 AM
Normally on my insanely low budget shoots (which is ALL of them) I only offer what you've mentioned: food and references. Thing is, if they aren't professional actors, and they're willing to work for free, odds are you are doing them as much of a favour as they are you by giving them some exposure and experience. I've had *all* the actors I've ever used be willing to work as long as they're fed.

Stas_Tagios
06-11-2004, 10:02 AM
Meals and a copy of the finished project are a minimum for anyone involved in the project. You'd be amazed how much happier and productive people are working for free when they get fed. :) Just make sure you're not just dumping some chips and M&M's in a bowl and calling it a meal. A friend of mine crewed on a short film a while back and to this day, can only talk about how the director fed the crew stale candy.

As for finding actors, a good start is the drama department of any local schools, whether high schools (if you need younger actors), community colleges, or colleges. Also local theaters.

I'm sure that if you find people genuinely interested in their craft, whatever their level of experience, they'd be willing to work for free.

Here in L.A., of course, where everyone is either a would-be actor, screenwriter, or both, anyone who's not already a paid professional actor will usually work for free on a project just to have something to put on a reel and resume.

Josh_Boelter
06-11-2004, 10:11 AM
Where in the Midwest are you located? I'm in Michigan, between Detroit and Ann Arbor, and I'll be dealing with the same dilemma in a couple months. There's a lot of good local theater, so I know there are talented actors in the area. However, I doubt those folks will work for free, so I'll likely be using inexperienced actors as well. I plan to scout the universities for most of the parts and community theater for the roles that require older actors. I'll be doing the same thing: offering food and clips for their reels.

I hope all goes well with your casting. Keep us updated.

Kidster
06-11-2004, 01:37 PM
You could also try a "casting call" I produced a crime tv show that involved using actors with very little speaking parts. I held a casting call for various parts and I made it very clear in the casting call information that the gig was a no pay job. I had over 100 people show up that ranged from young to old, some with acting experience and some without..all types really. I even had a former local news anchor show up to be in the show. I will give you a good tip. Set up a camera..maybe even your DVX and tape em all..as home study of the actors will help tremendously when casting.

JonnyMac
06-12-2004, 06:38 AM
I've had *all* the actors I've ever used be willing to work as long as they're fed.
Yes, we [actors] will work for food ... and what we're really hoping is that the folks on the other side of the camera do their job well too so we have something interesting to add to our reel.

And don't forget the "deferred payment" contract. I'm working on a project right now where the only guaranteed payment is food, but if the project gets sold I will be paid; payment structured dependent upon method of distribution.

Mike_Donis
06-12-2004, 08:01 AM
And really, deferred payment is a fine way to set things up. If one *did* make money, I'd think you'd be GLAD to pay the people who helped you out! The only reason I know that I don't right now is because I haven't got enough money for much anything at all! :P

David Jimerson
06-12-2004, 08:04 AM
But you have your youthful exuberrance! ;)

I'd like to say that I'd rather have that than temperance and income, but, sorry, can't fake that one. 8)

THiNSPiRiT
06-12-2004, 10:04 PM
Another good source for free actors are people's parent's... it can be hard to pick up older people the way younger people are simply because of the eagerness of it. If you need someone who's 50+ example for a role, try asking some of your colleague's parents... many of them are bored of their same old routine and are willing to spend the time to do something a little interesting that is out of their routine.

Food is a MUST! As an actor/crew on a few films the movies that have ended up being better generally have good food that feeds the whole cast and crew... ones that don't end up making people tired and miserable...

Make it good food... it's really not hard... just stop by the grocery store before your shoot... get some coldcuts, veggies (those pre-cut veggie dishes with the dip work AMAZING), some bread, cheese, pickles, stuff like that... it's good for lunch and/or dinner, will make people happy, offer variety to picky ones, and won't dent your wallet too heavily... like $50 for all that... that's canadian too... american it'd be considerably less...

Barry_Green
06-13-2004, 12:16 AM
I have never had a problem getting older, more mature actors -- just establish a good relationship with a good talent agency or an acting coach, and let them know what you're working on and what you need.

Older actors are typically not in as much demand as the young, new ingenues. So you'll often have a wider selection to choose from, and they're frequently much easier to deal with because they're more mature, they appreciate the opportunity you're extending them, and, frankly, a lot of them need work for their resume/reel.

Work with some talent agents. Be honest, up-front, and sincere. Let 'em see that they're going to benefit too, because their actors are going to get some set training IN A SITUATION THAT WON'T EMBARRASS THE AGENT. See, agents are leery of sending out brand-new actors on a paying gig, without knowing if they know proper set etiquette, etc. But if they can get their feet wet with you, on a no-pay (or $20) gig "for their reel", it helps the agent out too because the agent gets to see if they can act, gets to hear your report about what the actor was like to work with, etc.

Mike_Donis
06-13-2004, 09:03 AM
But you have your youthful exuberrance! * ;)


You're never going to forget about that, are you David?
At least not for another ten years or so... ;D


Good ideas on the food, Thinspirit!


And Barry, I never thought of that before. This is why you're the Guru...

Kidster
06-13-2004, 09:55 AM
Food can be actually easy to get for free. I had a project that lasted just over a week. I wasn't paying the actors and I surely didn't want to have to feed the entire crew 3 squares a day out of my own pocket. I found a pizza place that also made chicken wings, a variety of subs etc. They were more than happy to bring out pizza and wings to the set everyday in exchange for a credit and product placement (which I worked in conveniently). Now I did hear complaints towards the end..everyone was tired of pizza and wings.

John C Lyons
06-15-2004, 10:38 AM
yeah i actually had a scene where two of the main characters are having some beers and chit chatting on the porch of a cabin. *i thought about ripping the beer labels off the bottles, then i thought i would just TRY and ask a local brewing company. *

they were MORE THAN HAPPY to help me out. *now they provide us with free beer for everything from meetings to actual scenes. *I never would have thought of this before but people want their product out there. *Small timers like us shouldnt expect Budweiser or Labatt or whatever to give product, but the smaller places seem to be more than willing, just make sure you thank them tons of times and put them in the credits!

This can go for equipment: worklights, bulbs, etc etc as well. *a BIG help! Just get out there and socialize. Don't be shy. Ask your parents and grandparents who they know that works at hardware stores or anything. The same can go for finding crew and cast. Everyone knows someone somewhere down the line that wanted to act, or did plays in high school.

Mike_Donis
06-15-2004, 12:31 PM
Networking is what it's all about!

David Jimerson
06-23-2004, 06:26 PM
Local coffeehouses which brand their own coffee are good places to try -- though remember, if it says "Starbucks," it ain't really local!

natob2
09-17-2004, 01:08 PM
If you feed your cast and crew well its one of the best ways to build your reputation as a producer. I learned this early from a mentor, and it was actually a critical piece of knowledge that helped me build my reel. Even in St. Louis, a fairly small market for film, I never had a problem getting big crews out for free...actually my crews often were too big!

I always gave my crews meals with two hot entrees, salad, fruit and various snacks on set...and I always had my production manager keep a watchful eye on craft services and gather feedback. When they are working for free that's the least I could do. It's pretty amazing how good morale increases productivity!

I challenge every aspiring filmmaker to become notorious for their craft service offerings.

Wicker_Man
10-01-2004, 03:30 PM
I have never had a problem getting older, more mature actors -- just establish a good relationship with a good talent agency or an acting coach, and let them know what you're working on and what you need.

Older actors are typically not in as much demand as the young, new ingenues. So you'll often have a wider selection to choose from, and they're frequently much easier to deal with because they're more mature, they appreciate the opportunity you're extending them, and, frankly, a lot of them need work for their resume/reel.

Work with some talent agents. Be honest, up-front, and sincere. Let 'em see that they're going to benefit too, because their actors are going to get some set training IN A SITUATION THAT WON'T EMBARRASS THE AGENT. See, agents are leery of sending out brand-new actors on a paying gig, without knowing if they know proper set etiquette, etc. But if they can get their feet wet with you, on a no-pay (or $20) gig "for their reel", it helps the agent out too because the agent gets to see if they can act, gets to hear your report about what the actor was like to work with, etc.


That's great advice, as I found that out myself when I advertised for a feature we're shooting here in the Carolinas. I discovered some local talent agencies with a plethora of actors willing to work on our project for free just to be a part of it and to add to their resumes. You'd be real suprised at what actors are willing to do for a copy and credit.

moe_snodgrass
10-02-2004, 11:03 AM
Another important thing that actors want is a tangible schedule and that you stick to it. I worked on a film (crew not cast) that was destroyed after 90% in the can because the director didn't stick to the schedule and the actor (working for free) quit.

THiNSPiRiT
10-02-2004, 02:54 PM
Yeah... that's BRUTAL... scheduling is probably one of the most important aspects of film making. It ensure that all of those people who are working on it or helping know exactly what they're getting into. Important for people helping you with locations, crew, and cast... let them know what they're getting into and stick to it and they'll be much more happy to help you out...

Jim Brennan
10-13-2004, 06:48 AM
I have had a great experience with the local acting community in Colorado. I found not only talented, enthusiastic actors, but people who were very gracious as well. I posted a casting notice on a local site, and I had more actors than I could effectively audition. I offered nothing but food and a copy of the finished product.

As far as crew, although I couldn't get anyone terribly experienced to help out with lighting and sound, I got a nmber of volunteers from my post who were willing to come down and PA. Some of the actors showed up at locations even when they weren't in the scene to help out. There are a ton of people who either enjoy or are interested in the process. Treat them with respect and you'll always have help.

The only other comment I got from one of my cast members was that he appreciated being kept in the loop, even when nothing had changed. It was six weeks between the day I had auditions and the day we started shooting. I sent out an e-mail about once a week with any updates in scheduling, requests for info on locations, etc. Even when there was nothing new, I still sent out a message reassuring them we were still on schedule and thanking them for their patience and enthusiasm. I meant every word of it, but my goal was primarily to keep the project at the front of their mind. I later found out that many of these projects fall through in pre-production, and the cast never gets notified. It just fades away, and many people have rearranged their schedules for it. They liked just knowing it was still on.

And you can never have too much bottled water on the set.

sojrn
11-19-2004, 03:17 PM
Ask every business you can for favors in exchange for credit, for the worst thing that happens is they say no. *Long, long ago I was making a film in college and needed a couple of automatic weapons, so I went to a gun store and told them on the up and up what I needed and wanted to do. *The owner showed up on the shoot two days later with an Uzi and a Mac-10! *:)


PS- "Meal and Copy" provided usually is all it takes. "Deferred pay" aka "no pay" is a no-brainer for most experienced actors.