#casting

Casting Breakdown

The casting breakdown should begin with general information about the production:

  • Title and show number
  • The name of the director and producer
  • Shooting date(s) and time(s)
  • Brief description or logline that includes the genre

It should then continue with character breakdowns for all lead and supporting roles:

  • CHARACTER NAME (in all-caps)
  • Gender (if it matters)
  • Size of the role (Lead or Supporting)
  • Age range. It is how old someone looks on camera that counts, not how old they really are. Give a range. However, the younger the person needs to be, the smaller the range should be.
  • Ethnicity (if it matters)
  • Sexuality (if it matters)
  • Pertinent facts about the character: What are the given circumstances that shape this character? This can also include physical qualities that are necessary for the part but cannot be fudged on camera, like height for a basketball player. Remember, beards, tattoos, and hair color can all be grown in, glued on, or changed.
  • Distinguishing characteristics: What makes the character special or different. What drives them as a character? Never use the words ordinary or generic!
  • Special requirements of the role: If there will be any kind of nudity or sexual intimacy, it must be stated and described. If the actor must work with pets, babies, children, potential allergens, or adverse conditions, they must be described. Also, if the actor must perform any physical feat that is “out of the norm,” it must be described.

At the end of the casting breakdown, list any smaller roles and extras. You do not need a full breakdown for bit parts or extras, and in most instances a simple list will suffice. Only include additional breakdown information when appropriate.

Sample Casting Breakdown

THE WIZARD OF OZ (18F1)

Victor Fleming, dir. and Mervyn LeRoy, prod.

Shoots Friday November 18th from 8AM to 9PM.

The Wizard of Oz is a musical based on the book by L. Frank Baum that follows the journey of a Kansas farm girl as she and her dog Toto are swept up by a tornado to the magical Land of Oz. There she makes unlikely friends to battle the Wicked Witch of the West, expose the great Wizard, and find her way back to Kansas. There’s no place like home.

Roles available:

  • DOROTHY GALE: Female lead, early teens. Dorothy is a well-scrubbed, polite farm girl from Kansas with an active imagination. She must balance a sweetness of temperament with a sense of justice strong enough to propel her into potentially dangerous situations. Must be comfortable working with small dogs.
  • PROFESSOR MARVEL: Male supporting, 50-70. Professor Marvel is a traveling carnival magician with a dubious past. He tries hard to mask his insecurities with bravado in the hopes he will not be discovered. He is nevertheless a kind-hearted, teddy bear of a man and means no real harm.

Smaller roles and extras:

  • MAYOR OF MUNCHKINLAND
  • MUNCHKINS
  • FLYING MONKEYS

Sample Audition Email to Actors

Below is a sample email to send to potential actors during the casting process. Be sure to also attach a character breakdown and a copy of the script (or sides). Also be sure to copy the show’s Producer, so that they have the email for their records.

Dear (actor’s name),

My name is (your name) and I am a film student at the FSU College of Motion Picture Arts. I am casting a short film entitled (film’s title) that shoots on (shooting date). It is the story of (describe the film).

I saw your audition on our casting website and I would love it if you would consider auditioning for the role of (character name). I have attached a casting breakdown and a working copy of the script, along with the pages I would like you to prepare for the audition.

I am hoping to hold auditions on (audition date). If you are unavailable at this time, we can schedule another time that works for you. Please call me at (your cell phone number), or reply to this email if you are interested in auditioning for the role.

Thanks so much for your interest in working with the film school.

Regards,

Your full name
Your crew position
Your email

Your cell phone number

Sample Regrets Email to Actors

Below is a sample email to send to send to actors who you auditioned but did not cast in the film. Do not send regret emails until you are sure that the actor you have cast is 100% locked for the role. Make sure you also copy the Producer of the show, so that they have the email for their records.

Dear (actor’s name),

Thank you so much for coming to audition for the FSU film, (title of film). We appreciate the time and effort given for this project. Unfortunately, we will not be able to use you at this time, but we hope to see you again soon as we enjoyed meeting you and seeing your work.

Sincerely,

Your full name
Your crew position
Your email
Your cell phone number

Auditions

To set up an audition, actors should be contacted by email (see sample email) and sent a copy of the script along with the role you would like them to read for. Five-to-seven actors per role. You should then follow-up with a phone call to make a personal connection and make sure there is no confusion about your expectations. Let them know what pages of the script you would like them to prepare for the audition.

How to Choose Sides for Auditions

  1. Sides should ideally have two characters, but no more than three.
  2. The best sides give the actor a chance to act and react. Therefore, exposition is not a good choice.
  3. Do not choose scenes that are primarily action. If you must see an actor move, give them an improv that is directed (called out).
  4. Sides should be no more than two minutes, preferably closer to one minute.
  5. Sides may be from a script that is not your own if it contains similar characters and situations.
  6. Sides may be specifically written for audition purposes to satisfy the recommendations above. For example, if your character does not speak, you could write an interview of that character for sides. This is a good way to verbalize how a character is feeling. Or, think about if you were making your film into a longer form piece. What scenes do you wish you could write? Write them for sides!

Rehearsals

Preparation

Prepare to work with your actors by clarifying your choices and jotting down possible objectives and strategies (active verbs) in your script. Actors want to respect their director. After all, they must put a lot of faith and trust in them. The director is the eyes and ears of the actor. This is true much more in film than it is in theater. The easiest way to lose their respect is to be unprepared and not know what the film is about or what you want from the actors. So do your homework!

The Rehearsal Process

Step 1: Table Read (Intellectual Preparation)

  • This is the time to share your directorial vision (and those of your creatives) and the only time you should speak intellectually about the script.
  • Make sure the actors know what your vision is and how the other creative elements will be handled as well as how you see them fitting in to the overall theme (spine).
  • Discuss backstory, motivations, objectives, obstacles, etc. with the actors and listen carefully and respectfully to their input. It is their job to contribute creatively. Ask the actors to work on preparing their roles based on this information.

Step 2: Second Rehearsal (Emotional Preparation)

  • This is the time for experimentation. Try different approaches with your actors and ask them to take risks. This is a time to try improvisation and trust exercises to build up the relationship between and with your actors. Keep an open mind. You may be surprised.
  • Don’t ask for film worthy performances. This will make your actors stale when they get to set and not allow them to make discoveries.
  • This is the time for emotional exploration and connections (relationships). It is also a time to get to know your actors and their process so that you can determine what directions and approach will work best for them. You can also identify any quirks they have that will need to be addressed on set.

Step 3: On-set Rehearsals

  • Forget it all and make sure your actors are listening and making connections.
  • During the shoot it is very important to make sure your actors feel safe and supported. They must feel that you are in control and since they put their trust in you, they rely on you to be their eyes and ears.
  • Actors need feedback! And they don’t want you to accept less than quality work. It is their face up on the screen and they want you to help them be great. You should speak with them before every take to remind them of their scene objectives and what happened the moment before. This is especially important when you shoot out of sequence. You should also give them feedback after every take even if just to say, we messed up sound so we need to do it again. Otherwise, they will think they did something wrong and spend the whole next take worrying about it. Also, let them know what the next shot is so they can relax.
  • The most important thing for the actor on set is for them to really listen to their partner and respond in the moment. Your job is to make sure they do that, and that they do it within the technical considerations of the shot.

Toolkit For Directing Actors

Action Verbs

An action verb is transitive and requires an object. It is something you do to someone else. The following list is a starting off point for you to develop your own list of active verbs. “To be” is NEVER an action verb.

to accuse
to admire
to admonish
to adore
to amuse
to annoy
to apologize
to appease
to applaud
to attack
to avoid
to bask
to beg
to belittle
to bestow
to boast
to brag
to brood
to brush off
to buddy up
to butter up
to cajole
to caress
to celebrate
to challenge
to charm
to check out
to coax
to comfort
to command
to confess
to confide
to confront
to congratulate
to convince
to cuddle
to defend
to deify
to demand
to destroy
to dis
to discard
to discover
to dismiss
to distract
to elicit
to embrace
to entertain
to entice
to erupt
to escape
to examine
to explode
to exult
to flatter
to flaunt
to flee
to flirt
to gloat
to grieve
to hide
to idolize
to ignore
to impress
to incite
to inspect
to instruct
to invade
to invite
to lead
to lure
to manipulate
to mimic
to mock
to mother
to mourn
to ogle
to overpower
to patronize
to perform
to persuade
to pester
to plead
to ponder
to pounce
to preen
to prepare
to primp
to probe
to protect
to provoke
to put down
to question
to reach out
to reason with
to reject
to rescue
to retreat
to ridicule
to savor
to scold
to scrutinize
to search
to seduce
to seethe
to shock
to show off
to sneak
to soothe
to stalk
to startle
to strut
to surrender
to tantalize
to taunt
to teach
to tease
to tempt
to test
to threaten
to toss off
to triumph
to ward off
to warn
to welcome
to withdraw
to worship
to yearn

Refer to Marina Calderone’s Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus (book/app) for more examples.

Other Directing Strategies

Acceptable directions for actors that are not clarifying a beat objective through the use of an active verb include:

  1. Do this scene AS IF you are __________ (e.g., in a funeral procession, on the floor of the stock market, at a prayer meeting, in a bread line, in front of a firing squad, etc.) Events are dynamic and spur the imagination, and actors’ imaginations are the best tools they have. Ask an actor to use “the magic if” and to find an event or relationship from their own lives they can connect to the character or situation imaginatively and emotionally. It is not necessary that you know it or that they share it with you.
  2. Asking the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, HOW, and WHEN questions. These questions clarify the circumstances, the super-, scene- and beat-objectives, the motivations, and the strategies of the character in an easy-to-understand format.
  3. Directing the actor to “Keep it simple,” “Think it, don’t show it,” or “Listen to them. Really listen.”
  4. Use FACTS. Facts are objective and help to clarify circumstances.
  5. Use SENSORY IMAGES (sight, sound, feel, taste, smell). Images allow the actor to use recall to make a situation real to them.
  6. Use PHYSICAL TASKS. Physical tasks are kinetic (energy in motion) and allow the actor to create a multi-layered approach as well as provide focus.
  7. THE MOMENT BEFORE. What just happened before this scene takes place? How does that impact what is about to take place?

Don’t Ever…

  1. Ask for moods or results from an actor. Instead, clarify objectives and give active verbs to work with.
  2. Ask an actor to “bring it up.” Instead examine whether the stakes are high enough to motivate the behavior, and if not, raise them or use the “as if” scenario.
  3. Ask an actor to “bring it down.” Instead ask them to listen to their partner and not anticipate what is coming next or to keep it simple and respond truthfully.
  4. Give line readings to an actor. Remember, the line is unimportant. The motivation for the line is important. Make sure the actor is clear on what the motivation and objective is for the line and ask them to only think of that.
  5. Tell an actor how their character should be feeling or give character judgments. Remember, all characters’ actions are justified to them, even and especially, “villains”!
  6. Use adjectives or adverbs when giving directions. Always use VERBS!

Minors & Infants

Minor Labor Agreement

If the production is to include a child actor, the Producer must honor the State of Florida statutes, which outline a policy that is intended to “ensure that minors are not employed under conditions that are injurious or detrimental to their health, safety or education.” (State of Florida 61L-2.006 Employment of Minors by the Entertainment Industry)

Coordinator of Child Labor

The Producer shall designate one individual on each set where minors are employed to act as Coordinator of Child Labor. The coordinator shall respond to all communications from the Head of Production regarding the employment of minor(s). The employer shall provide the name of the coordinator(s) to the Head of Production, the minor, the minor’s parent(s), guardian, and/or chaperon.

PARENTAL NOTICE OF TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT

Producers shall notify the minor’s parent(s), guardian, or chaperon, of the terms and conditions of employment, including the activities required of the minor, the place and duration of location work, any and all “adult oriented” material to either be performed by or viewed/heard by the child, and the names of the producer and stunt coordinator (if applicable). These terms will be spelled out in the Performance Agreement, the Minor Labor Policy Agreement, and, if applicable, the Minor Labor Policy Exemption Request.

AUTHORIZATION FOR MEDICAL CARE

Prior to the minor’s beginning employment, the Producer shall obtain written authorization from the minor’s parent(s) or legal guardian to consent for medical treatment on behalf of the minor in case of an emergency. This must be signed and documented on page two of the Minor Labor Policy Agreement.

TIME LIMITATIONS

  1. Work Day. The work day for a minor shall begin no earlier than 7:00 a.m. and shall end no later than 11:30 p.m.
  2. Work Week. A minor shall not be required or permitted to work more than six (6) consecutive days.
  3. Work Hours, and Maximum Hours at Place of Employment per Age Group. Working hours, and hours spent at the place of employment may not exceed the following time limitations in a twenty-four (24) hour period unless the Production Supervisor grants a Partial Waiver.
  4. Meal Periods. All work hours are exclusive of the meal period. The work hours shall be extended by a meal period not longer than one-half (1/2) hour.
  5. Rest Period After Dismissal. Twelve (12) hours must elapse between the minor’s time of dismissal and call time on the following day. The same applies for returning to school. For example, a minor returning to his regular school at 8:30 a.m. shall be dismissed from employment by 8:30 p.m. the previous evening.

MINORS UNDER TWO (2) YEARS

Employers of minors under two (2) years of age shall not require such minors to remain at the place of employment for more than four (4) hours per day, subject to the following limitations:

INFANTS AGED 15 DAYS TO 6 MONTH

Infants aged 15 days to 6 months may be at the place of employment for one period of two consecutive hours, which must occur between 9:30a.m. and 11:30a.m. or between 2:30p.m. and 4:30p.m. Actual work may not exceed 20 minutes under any circumstances. Infants may not be exposed to light exceeding 100 foot-candles for more than 30 seconds at a time and no more than one (1) minute in every fifteen (15) minute period. A studio teacher and a nurse must be present for each three or fewer infants aged 15 days to six weeks. A studio teacher and a nurse must be present for each 10 or fewer infants aged six weeks to six months. A parent or guardian must always be present.

MINORS AGED 6 MONTHS TO 2 YEARS

Minors aged 6 months to 2 years may not be exposed to camera lights for more than two (2) minutes every fifteen (15) minute period. They may be at the place of employment for up to four (4) hours, and may work up to two (2) hours. The remaining time must be reserved for the minor’s rest and recreation.

MINORS AGED 2 YEARS TO UNDER 6 YEARS

Minors aged 2 years to less than 6 years shall not be required to remain at the place of employment more than six (6) hours per day, and shall not be required to work more than four (4) hours per day. The remaining time must be reserved for the minor’s rest and recreation.

MINORS AGED 6 YEARS TO UNDER 9 YEARS

Minors aged 6 years to under 9 years shall not be required to remain at the place of employment more than nine (9) hours, the sum of six (6) hours work, one half (1/2) hour of meal time, and two and one half (2 1/2) hours of rest and recreation.

MINORS AGED 9 YEARS TO UNDER 16 YEARS

Minors aged 9 years to under 16 years shall not be required to remain at the place of employment more than ten (10) hours, the sum of seven (7) hours work, one half (1/2) hour of meal time, and two and one half (2 1/2) hours of rest and recreation.

MINORS AGED 16 YEARS TO 18 YEARS

Minors aged 16 years to 18 years shall not be required to remain at the place of employment more than ten (10) hours, the sum of nine and one half (9 1/2) hours work, and one half (1/2) hour of meal time.

OVERTIME

A parent or guardian may sign a release for one (1) additional hour of work for a minor of 6 years or older in any one (1) given day.

SAFETY

If minors under the age of 18 years-old are involved in the production as cast or crew, the production should perform an initial review of their physical activity prior to rehearsal or filming. This should include:

  • the age, height, weight and maturity of the minor;
  • the physical fitness, coordination, expertise in the planned activity, and film experience of the minor;
  • the amount of additional information and movement the minor will be asked to consider (e.g., camera positions, acting, looking over shoulder, waving arms, etc.);
  • how wardrobe or props will affect the actions and/or vision of the minor;
  • the amount of rehearsal and preparation time which has been provided;
  • the appropriate amount of protective gear or equipment necessary to safely perform the activity;
  • the area around the minor during the activity;
  • any other factors affecting the minor.

Prior to rehearsal or filming the physical activity, key production personnel, such as the Director, First Assistant Director, Stunt Coordinator and safety professional, should confer with the minor and the minor’s parent/legal guardian to review and discuss the activity.

Rehearsals and filming of the physical activity should take place with the parent/legal guardian and the First Assistant Director present. If the situation warrants, a stunt coordinator or a person qualified to administer medical assistance on an emergency basis must be present (or readily available) at the rehearsal and filming of the activity.

If any aspect of the activity changes, a new discussion and/or meeting should be held and a new rehearsal should be considered.

If a consensus regarding the physical activity is not established, the minor, the minor’s parent or guardian, the stunt coordinator, the First Assistant Director, or the safety professional may request a re-evaluation of the activity in its entirety. If the planned activity is determined to be safe, but the minor expresses apprehension about performing the planned activity, he/she may refuse to do it.

Infant actors

Special safety precautions must be taken for infant actors who are fifteen-days to six-months old:

  1. Hands should be washed before and after handling infants and after changing diapers.
  2. Applicable laws and regulations pertaining to tobacco smoke must be followed.
  3. When using special effects smokes the producer should take steps to prevent exposure of the infant to the smoke.
  4. When substances are used for altering an infant’s appearance, provisions should be made for bathing the infant.
  5. Foods which commonly cause allergic reactions should not be used to alter the appearance of the infant’s skin, unless their use is specifically approved by a medical doctor.
  6. Once wardrobe and props have been issued by the production for use on/with an infant, the wardrobe and props should not be reissued for another infant without laundering wardrobe and disinfecting props.
  7. Infant accessories should not be exchanged from one infant to another without first having been sanitized. Bottles, nipples and pacifiers should not be exchanged between infants.

Safety bulletins