Thread: Where to cast?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Spencer View Post
    Thanks for your reply. It reminds me ever so much of language I've heard from several inexperienced filmmakers I've known and/or worked with who subsequently produced laughably amateurish films.

    I hope this isn't your outcome, likely though it seems to me, if my instincts are worth anything. The world will certainly give you the definitive answer when you're done. When that day comes, if it's widely acknowledged as a brilliant film, I'd like to be first in line to shake your hand and congratulate you on proving my advice needless.

    Break a leg!
    lol

    Well, first off I'm not even understanding what "laughably amateurish films" means. You talked about the person you worked with on a short writing something that you felt was horrible. I know the writing isn't horrible from critical and audience feedback over the last 5 months. I did what turned out to be a beta test run online with the piece prior to having some associates of mine come in and match my proposed investment to do a more elaborate straight to DVD/blu-ray version.

    While there is a "no-budget" aspect to the piece in which I'm managing the film and consumer HD aspects, the additional more well-funded professional HD stuff does indeed have professional crew, etc on set (of course there is a blending between the two absolutes as it all regards the same piece).

    The thing that I think might be getting misinterpreted here is that I am not doing a feature. I'm not doing a short. Not doing a show or mini-series. I'm creating a specific format for this piece so I'm doing what I can to make sure that I can arrange each member of the staff and talent in capacities that they can handle and engage themselves in.

    If I was doing a feature, I still would not simply give away an entire script to random people online (or off). No professionals (none) would ever do this prior to having contracts signed. It's absurd.

    Whether or not I felt it was important for the actor to know how their character progresses would regard that specific scenario -- something between myself and the actor. For instance, if I have an actor walking through a house and I want the boogey man to jump out at them, I might not necessarily tell them where I hid the boogeyman. I come from a purely method approach as I believe that makes for the best action/reeaction in acting. If an actor has no interest in taking part in that kind of production, obviously we wouldn't be two individuals that would work well together.

    But, to your point, if I was doing a typical format, like a feature, there's a good chance I could take a more lenient approach. But on this specific piece (which is not a feature), the actors are largely on a need-to-know basis. Once everyone is cast, if I find someone incapable of rising to the occasion without the entirety of their future (not past or backstory) laid out for them, I'll take that on a case by case basis.

    But don't assume that because someone isn't traditional in the way they hold a paintbrush that they won't be able to paint a pretty picture. I'm not a category or a statistic, I'm me, an individual and an artist. I want to create what I'm compelled to create and I want to create it in the way that my vision dictates is best. Advice in the arts really only has any merit when it regards technical specifics, and even then there are still no absolutes. Just sayin'



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    #12
    Senior Member Ted Spencer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chamber005 View Post
    If I was doing a feature, I still would not simply give away an entire script to random people online (or off). No professionals (none) would ever do this prior to having contracts signed. It's absurd.
    Absurd? Hmm...

    Let's see here...a quick look at zoetrope.com's feature screenplay "hall of fame" page shows that people who posted scripts for review and feedback there (presumably properly copyrighted beforehand) accomplished the following things *within the last year alone*...

    -2 Semifinalist Nicholl Fellowships (Nicholl is arguably the most prestigious of all screenplay competitions, and has gotten countless very lucrative Hollywood script writing contracts for its top entrants)
    -Grand Prize Winner of the '09 Creative World Awards
    -Best Comedy Screenplay at the Thrill Spy Film Festival
    -Winner of the 2009 Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival’s WinePress Original Screenplay Contest
    -8th place - 77th Annual Writer Digest Competition (national, with over 17,000 entries)

    The page contains a total of about 600 zoetrope.com-submitted scripts that have won or advanced to the latter stages of various screenplay contest awards over the last several years, including *all* of the most prestigious ones. All 600 of them (and thousands more that didn't win anything - yet) were publicly viewable by anyone who wished to do so. Most of the people involved included enthusiastic thank-you notes to their zoetrope reader/reviewers who helped them hone the scripts before entering the contests.

    Certainly, (some), as opposed to (none), of these people are or have become full-time professional screenwriters. And no one (none) who read and reviewed their scripts was obliged to sign any contracts or 'keep anything under their hats'.

    So...absurd? I don't think so...
    Last edited by Ted Spencer; 12-12-2009 at 02:23 PM.
    "Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
    A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
    And though she feels as if she's in a play
    She is anyway"

    From "Penny Lane" by Lennon/McCartney


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    Senior Member rsbush's Avatar
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    Chamber005,
    I'm not going to tell you your approach won't work. Indeed, there are a couple of successful examples of directors working that way in Wong Kar Wai and Andrei Tarkovsky. But be aware, even they had to endure some very frustrated actors who were not used to playing without any idea of where they were going. This is uneasy ground for even the best among us.
    On a purely technical note, heads up: Every Americanized version of Stanislavski's technique that people call "method" emphasizes knowing "where the character is going" as an integral part of the actor's preparation. Implying that what you intend to do is some kind of "method" directing only makes it look like you are misinformed at best.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Spencer View Post
    Absurd? Hmm...

    Let's see here...a quick look at zoetrope.com's feature screenplay "hall of fame" page shows that people who posted scripts for review and feedback there (presumably properly copyrighted beforehand) accomplished the following things *within the last year alone*...

    -2 Semifinalist Nicholl Fellowships (Nicholl is arguably the most prestigious of all screenplay competitions, and has gotten countless very lucrative Hollywood script writing contracts for its top entrants)
    -Grand Prize Winner of the '09 Creative World Awards
    -Best Comedy Screenplay at the Thrill Spy Film Festival
    -Winner of the 2009 Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festivalís WinePress Original Screenplay Contest
    -8th place - 77th Annual Writer Digest Competition (national, with over 17,000 entries)

    The page contains a total of about 600 zoetrope.com-submitted scripts that have won or advanced to the latter stages of various screenplay contest awards over the last several years, including *all* of the most prestigious ones. All 600 of them (and thousands more that didn't win anything - yet) were publicly viewable by anyone who wished to do so. Most of the people involved included enthusiastic thank-you notes to their zoetrope reader/reviewers who helped them hone the scripts before entering the contests.

    Certainly, (some), as opposed to (none), of these people are or have become full-time professional screenwriters. And no one (none) who read and reviewed their scripts was obliged to sign any contracts or 'keep anything under their hats'.

    So...absurd? I don't think so...
    What does a contest have to do with a production? These people are all SO DESPERATE to see SOMETHING happen with their writing that they're joining contests? That's your proof that this is the way artists should behave? IMO the only artistic contest a person should ever be taking part in is the one their work was submitted to automatically or was submitted unbeknownst to them.

    What vane purpose does winning an award serve? How incapable is a person functioning in society that the only way they can make a dime is by whoring their art?

    Being financed, compensated and obtaining profit margins is one thing, but a contest, really? Did Martin Scorcese enter a contest this year? How about the year prior? Oh wait, that's right, he's a professional.

    How about this, when Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron start posting their scripts online prior to their movies being shot I'll agree with you. I still won't follow suit, but I think that's completely reasonable as we're talking about what professionals do verses non-professionals.

    Amateur people doing amateur things enter contests and give their works away freely to be judged (or not). The only reason to ever give anything away for free as a professional is if you're doing so for marketing reasons.

    We're not only talking about features vs contests but we're also talking about artists vs money-seekers.

    I personally don't support the idea that artistry should be used as a bargaining chip for money matters/fame/awards, etc. That's my own personal position. Everyone is entitled to their position. I simply choose my position to be in the same vicinity as other professional, respected artists, just as creators primarily concerned with money matters/fame/awards are welcome to group themselves with the persons inspired by that pursuit.

    It's all good. We all have our own ambitions and create our own paths to achieve said ambitions. My path does not have me devaluing my art by giving it away unfinished nor does it urge me to create things in hopes of fame and fortune. Millions of people do, though -- they're just not the ones I was referring to when I wrote about writers. Maybe we need a different phrase to distinguish between the types of people who enter writing contests and people who simply write?

    Since all the contests already bear the name, I vote to give all the contest-goers "Writer" and the rest of us will just call ourselves Storytellers. Of course, a storyteller wouldn't care what anyone else calls him/her because it's of no consequence to their craft so the point's all moot anyway. ;)

    As an actor you disagree with my methods and so assume my work is some wretched, vile thing. But don't you see how *absurd* that assumption is? I'm left handed so I'm a lesser architect? Really?

    And if this were a philosphical debate, my presumption that a person who is primarily using their art in the pursuit of awards, monies and accolades is probably not much of an artist at all is undoubtedly a more sound one.

    In the end it's whose works are being read and watched 100 years from now, that's all that matters. No amount of personal triumphs and experience in life or monies won or earned can save us from our works true nature being revealed long after we're worm food. That's all art is -- everything that does not pertain to us personally; the very definition of being a vessel. What we create is for others to experience. Once we release it back to the universe, it's not in our control anymore. The only question left is whether or not you gave everything you are, every last breath and ounce of will to asserting the vision of the piece that was originally intended.

    There's lots of layers a storyteller has to deal with -- things far more important than worrying about some idea being stolen or winning some contest. There's a whole other pursuit happening that has very little to do with credits or applause. The Storyteller defines and sometimes even creates entire social structures. The Storyteller invented the human as we've come to understand it.

    So please, enough with the "Look what those financially well-off award winning hacks do!" It doesn't pertain to me or my knowledge of what I am or the art I create. I already made all my money and won all the plaques I'll ever need in business. I don't need my art to pay my rent.


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    Quote Originally Posted by rsbush View Post
    Chamber005,
    I'm not going to tell you your approach won't work. Indeed, there are a couple of successful examples of directors working that way in Wong Kar Wai and Andrei Tarkovsky. But be aware, even they had to endure some very frustrated actors who were not used to playing without any idea of where they were going. This is uneasy ground for even the best among us.
    On a purely technical note, heads up: Every Americanized version of Stanislavski's technique that people call "method" emphasizes knowing "where the character is going" as an integral part of the actor's preparation. Implying that what you intend to do is some kind of "method" directing only makes it look like you are misinformed at best.
    Method is about motivation. I'm not even an actor and I know that. The "intention" is the motivation. And it's not the actors' need to know true motivation, all that matters is what is captured or shown. Thus, if I tell the actor that he is desperately thirsty and wants the glass of water behind the woman in front of him but that he is not allowed to look around her or move her aside, he may then inhabit the purpose of the scene which was to show lust and disdain for the woman (who just so happens to be standing in front of a glass of water).

    But again, this is only a minor aspect of my reasoning. Again, if I were doing a feature, a typical format, I may very well deal with each actor according to how I feel they will give their best performance (including perhaps even giving them the entire script, front to back). But as it pertains to this piece I believe I WILL be giving the actors that I HIRE enough of the script and information for them to be able to effectively enact their personal craft. My point was that for this piece it wouldn't be pertinent to give every actor the script as the script does not pertain to what I need from them and their piece in the whole. That's all. I'm not 100% against giving an actor a script if filming a feature. I personally would probably try anything and everything prior to doing so, but if the actor was especially cebrebral and I trusted that they wouldn't have any additional questions to things not mentioned in the script, I'd consider it.


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    Senior Member rsbush's Avatar
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    The method is not about motivation. Motivation is one aspect in a very comprehensive technique. But I'll give you this. It's the one aspect that the general public knows. So you're just proving your ignorance in your response. Start with Stanislavski's 'An Actor Prepares" before you go throwing around terms you know nothing about.


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    Quote Originally Posted by rsbush View Post
    The method is not about motivation. Motivation is one aspect in a very comprehensive technique. But I'll give you this. It's the one aspect that the general public knows. So you're just proving your ignorance in your response. Start with Stanislavski's 'An Actor Prepares" before you go throwing around terms you know nothing about.
    You're right, I put myself in a position where I started talking about "method" opposed to "my method approach" thus finding myself defending my interpretation of someone else's established method as a way to better articulate what it is I do with actors. I shouldn't have attempted to define and defend a methodology that I'm not personally specifically employing in my own art, even if the methods have some similarities.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Chamber005 View Post
    That's all. I'm not 100% against giving an actor a script if filming a feature. I personally would probably try anything and everything prior to doing so, but if the actor was especially cebrebral and I trusted that they wouldn't have any additional questions to things not mentioned in the script, I'd consider it.
    I just have to chime in and say that again this does not seem like a very good idea - your talent does need to understand the script and where its going, at least in regards to their own character so they can take it all in, process the character, and become that character.

    Performances in a film, yes, while they are individual stand alone scenes, need to add up to more than the sum of their parts in order to be really, really good, you're going to lose out on a lot of the actor's subtlety of performance, little things that would come out in every scene because the talent knows who the character is and understands him or her, just the way the talent moves, the way they blink, minor facial expressions, nervous ticks, tendencies, infinitely many things.

    Not only that... but "trust that they wouldn't have any additional questions?" Seriously? You think that's a good thing? Questions are good, obviously, within reason and in a way that's effective and workable...but *no questions* at all? If they *are* cerebral they will have questions.

    I don't disagree that you can direct each scene individually, and probably get decent performances, but those performances will lack something, and something that you won't see right away, in my estimation, and in the end something is just not going to add up quite right.

    You're also going to miss out on good feedback and ideas that the talent may have for the character, and of course, while you don't have to accept the ideas or advice, the talent may have good ideas and/or insights that they can bring to the role that are worth integrating and will make the film better than it would have been otherwise. You can't escape collaboration in filmmaking, as soon as you're working with someone else (anyone) you're collaborating, and if you insist on micromanaging things at every level (really, who is going to want to work with you if you tell them that they can't read the script because they won't understand it? You seem to have a great deal of disrespect for just...people in general here), you are going to be a difficult person for others to work with, you're going to have a hard time retaining talent for the duration of the film, nobody is going to have any fun, and you'd better be a super-genius.

    You're taking a lot of heat on this thread because nearly everything you are saying comes across as extraordinarily amateur, know-it-all, and (and I don't know if this is the case or not) it all sounds very much like it is coming from someone with either very little, or zero professional writing experience...and you're talking to people on this board who do. Writing and editing go hand in hand...everyone (yeah, even the great writers...especially the great writers) gets edited, and with good reason - when you're the writer, you're too close to the writing and you lose the ability to see it all objectively, a good editor will take your writing to the next level, guaranteed.

    It's not necessary that you put your screenplay on the web for advice, but talking to folks about it, getting feedback, and showing it to smart people, good writers, good editors, and getting their feedback is a good idea - it will help.

    However, in this case, I think what I might be most concerned about is that someone who "devoutly" reads your material only comprehends 10% of what you're trying to do here. Either you aren't being honest about that, don't really grasp what 10% means, or...well, I really don't know, it sounds like ego to me.

    My honest guess is that this problem is not about your reader's ability to comprehend, this is a problem with your ability to present what you want to do in either written or spoken form that makes sense to people - you seem to be of the mindset that nobody else is "cerebral" enough to "get it." While it's not a 100% perfect approach, if you can write a 15-second "elevator pitch" that's compelling, chances are you've got something worth doing. If you can't, chances are you don't.

    The fact of the matter is that most people are probably smarter than you give them credit for, and if they're not "getting it," you might want to think about your approach...and if nobody gets it, who's going to watch it?


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    Quote Originally Posted by thisisapocalypse View Post
    I just have to chime in and say that again this does not seem like a very good idea - your talent does need to understand the script and where its going, at least in regards to their own character so they can take it all in, process the character, and become that character.

    Performances in a film, yes, while they are individual stand alone scenes, need to add up to more than the sum of their parts in order to be really, really good, you're going to lose out on a lot of the actor's subtlety of performance, little things that would come out in every scene because the talent knows who the character is and understands him or her, just the way the talent moves, the way they blink, minor facial expressions, nervous ticks, tendencies, infinitely many things.

    Not only that... but "trust that they wouldn't have any additional questions?" Seriously? You think that's a good thing? Questions are good, obviously, within reason and in a way that's effective and workable...but *no questions* at all? If they *are* cerebral they will have questions.

    I don't disagree that you can direct each scene individually, and probably get decent performances, but those performances will lack something, and something that you won't see right away, in my estimation, and in the end something is just not going to add up quite right.

    You're also going to miss out on good feedback and ideas that the talent may have for the character, and of course, while you don't have to accept the ideas or advice, the talent may have good ideas and/or insights that they can bring to the role that are worth integrating and will make the film better than it would have been otherwise. You can't escape collaboration in filmmaking, as soon as you're working with someone else (anyone) you're collaborating, and if you insist on micromanaging things at every level (really, who is going to want to work with you if you tell them that they can't read the script because they won't understand it? You seem to have a great deal of disrespect for just...people in general here), you are going to be a difficult person for others to work with, you're going to have a hard time retaining talent for the duration of the film, nobody is going to have any fun, and you'd better be a super-genius.

    You're taking a lot of heat on this thread because nearly everything you are saying comes across as extraordinarily amateur, know-it-all, and (and I don't know if this is the case or not) it all sounds very much like it is coming from someone with either very little, or zero professional writing experience...and you're talking to people on this board who do. Writing and editing go hand in hand...everyone (yeah, even the great writers...especially the great writers) gets edited, and with good reason - when you're the writer, you're too close to the writing and you lose the ability to see it all objectively, a good editor will take your writing to the next level, guaranteed.

    It's not necessary that you put your screenplay on the web for advice, but talking to folks about it, getting feedback, and showing it to smart people, good writers, good editors, and getting their feedback is a good idea - it will help.

    However, in this case, I think what I might be most concerned about is that someone who "devoutly" reads your material only comprehends 10% of what you're trying to do here. Either you aren't being honest about that, don't really grasp what 10% means, or...well, I really don't know, it sounds like ego to me.

    My honest guess is that this problem is not about your reader's ability to comprehend, this is a problem with your ability to present what you want to do in either written or spoken form that makes sense to people - you seem to be of the mindset that nobody else is "cerebral" enough to "get it." While it's not a 100% perfect approach, if you can write a 15-second "elevator pitch" that's compelling, chances are you've got something worth doing. If you can't, chances are you don't.

    The fact of the matter is that most people are probably smarter than you give them credit for, and if they're not "getting it," you might want to think about your approach...and if nobody gets it, who's going to watch it?
    Well the discussion certainly evolved, for sure. My original point was with regards giving the script to people I hadn't hired yet. That, to me, is unprofessional and an altogether bad idea for several reasons.

    And yes, during the course of a collaberation, the people who you trust and work with in the editing and reconfiguration of a given piece grows beyond your typical range of people whose opinions and critiques you seek out (I have two in my everyday life, people who are not piece-specific).

    The "comprehension of only 10%" really is not an exaggeration as I am not doing something of a traditional format. I can certainly (and have) given the elevator pitch. I can reduce it to its fundamentals so that people can understand the theme and purpose. I, personally, do not believe in or work with notions of "plot", so I don't pitch that aspect.

    I've certainly given some extreme examples in my effort to explain my style of working with actors (which is extremely collaberative btw, just not in the sense that we're collaberating on the story or character, we're collaberative strictly in the sense of what is present -- what I give them to understand and work with, which is quite a bit).

    The audience that experienced the beta test of the piece enjoyed it for what it was, though they had no idea what they were seeing or what it meant. The actors I worked with had a similar reaction. And, fyi, in the beginning I did take one of the lead actors aside and tried to explain to him some of the complexities of the piece and what its eventual progression would become and he had an extremely difficult time absorbing the greater picture and consequently it hindered his performance in the very minute, present situation that he as his character had to experience. He's since told me that he put it all from his mind and says he trusts what it is I'm looking to achieve, and that's it. He trusts me and that's all I ever need from the people I work with.

    I comprehend the whole of this piece as well as the numerous other stories I have because I've dedicated my entire life to this one thing -- existing for story. No matter what I ever write or show no one else besides me will ever really, truly be experiencing the totality of what it is I've personally discovered as anything I give to anyone else, no matter how strictly I adhere, will only be a representation of the truth.

    But to the actors and how much information to give them or not to give them, I can't be swayed on the stance that it's purely a case by case basis. Some actors will need more than others, some will have more questions (a good thing so long as you aren't in the presence of the entire piece, as any questions ARE indeed bad. Any questions that have not been answered within the piece are meant not to be answered), but as a rule of thumb I feel that each actor needs really only understand their own character's nature and the nature of that character's relationships in the past and present, the now. To think that Sally knowing what Ben is doing in a sort of omniscient perception and then further knowing what she will be doing tomorrow and next week is a good thing is, IMO, difficult to accept.

    Actors are human. Once they know the answer to the question, I believe it is much more difficult to conceal the truth. By keeping the truth from them it gives them the FREEDOM to exist as things are, not as they may or may not become. I feel actors are like children. They need to feel free to explore, change, reacte to situations and new information. An actor attempting to construct a performance based on a script is doing my job. If you choose to be a director everything in the film is your responsibility. If the make-up isn't right, that's not the make-up person's fault, it's your fault. Sound? Lighting? Set design? If any of these things fall short of your vision it's your fault, period. So it's the director's job to make sure that everyone has the opprotunity to do their job to the best of their abilities. For the technical side of things that very much means having a shot list. For the performers, though, I think when the performance itself is evolving, the actors need to be able to create the performance in the now, in the knowledge only of what is two inches in front of them.

    But again, it's not like I'm giving an actor 10 pages and saying "See you tomorrow!" It's just a matter of maintaining a certain level of secrecy for things that may hinder their ability to exist in truth, that's it.
    Last edited by Chamber005; 12-12-2009 at 05:19 PM.


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    Senior Member rsbush's Avatar
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    Chamber005,
    Here is some information from Tarkovsky's writings that I think you will find useful. http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/...On_Acting.html
    I personally am not trying to dissuade you from your approach. I just thought I'd point out what you will undoubtably be up against with your actors. And if you talk about "method" acting without a firm grasp of the technique you may scare away some people who would be happy to work with you otherwise. Check out the link above, I think you'll like it.


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