CONGRATULATIONS! You have been cast in an independent production!
Well done, you’re awesome!
Whether it is a short film, music video or web series, here's how to make sure the director and producer will want to cast you again, and again.
Unless they turn out to be complete assholes, you want to make good connections with your fellow cast and crew.
ALWAYS be nice to people who you meet on your way up. They can pass on personal recommendations and get you more work.
And of course, you never know who is going to make it big one day... Friends in high places are absolutely invaluable in the media industry.
Having a good time on an indie film set relies on everyone working together as a TEAM.
Without people looking out for each other, tensions can spike and the process becomes stressful. You want to have fun and build friendships. Try your best to make everyone’s lives easier; be easy to get along with and contribute wherever you can. Do this and people will remember you for being a GREAT actor to work with.
As I’ve said before, the little nuggets of information I'm about to share with you aren't ‘digs’ at actors, they’re mistakes others have made that you can learn from, so you never have to make them yourself and suffer the negative effects.
Top Tips To Get Cast Again! (How Not To Mess Up On Set)
Let’s get started.
1. You’re Not Just An Actor, YOU’RE CREW.
On small productions, there are a limited number of bodies to help out.
This makes things very difficult at times. You need to think of yourself as a crew member as well as an actor on set.
When you're not in a scene, going and making a cup of tea or coffee for the director and producer goes a long, LONG way.
And what if you bring them a plate of biscuits too? They will love you forever.
The real secret to small low budget film-making is time; it's a precious commodity. If you can do anything at all to save time, this means that the director will be able to spend longer on your scenes and make you look even more awesome.
PRO TIP: If you go above and beyond, you’ll have a director friend for life. An actor in one of my projects came on set on days he wasn't required just to help out. He held a reflector, acted as a stand in, fetched and carried; he was brilliant and it was so kind of him to give his time.
Another actor went out of his way on a filming day to pick up all of his fellow actors and drive them to set so they could rehearse together. One actor brought his professional camera kit and took behind the scenes photographs between acting in his scenes.
These guys understood that they could make a film stronger and more successful in ways other than just employing their acting abilities. They gave us extra time, extra content and took some of the pressure off. I’d work with all of them again in a heartbeat.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
This is taken from a personal experience.
If you aren’t in a scene, do not disappear and wander off around the location.
Not only can some parts be off limits, the crew would appreciate your help. Make cups of tea! Fetch and carry!
If you’re really not needed on set, stay in the designated place you’re supposed to be in and make sure you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. We need to be able to find you and get shooting quickly; we don’t have the time to search a whole location for you then wait for you to finish your hair and make-up.
I know it’s boring, but waiting around is part of the filming process at every level.
The whole production doesn’t revolve around you. You need to be considerate and think about all the other members of your filmmaking team; it makes the process more fun for everybody!
2. Be Creative!
Filmmaking is a collaborative process.
As a director, I want your input!
I want to discover how we can make a film the strongest it can be, so if you have any ideas, tell me. I might not use every one, but I take them all on board.
I remember one actress who was acting a scene in which her character was tied up and being questioned by the bad guy.
In the script, it’s written that she is afraid of him and passive.
However, she felt that the character would try and seduce the baddie, using any method possible to try and escape the situation.
We tried it and it was brilliant; the words were the same but the context of the scene was completely changed, it was way more engaging.
Please don't be afraid to suggest things, and don't be offended if the director says no.
3. BE ON TIME
Yes, I know I said this in the previous article, but it’s just as important here.
Do not be late to set!
If you have a call time, BE THERE.
Indie films usually have to be in and out of a location without enough time to shoot as it is. If they’re sat around waiting for you, not only will they think you’re an arrogant, egotistical asshole, but they will be seriously stressed out trying to shoot everything in even less time than they had before!
Also, don’t be too early.
"Hang on; being early is good isn't it?" I hear you cry. Yes!
Being early by 15 minutes is great.
But when you’re an hour early, I'm not ready myself.
I have camera kit to sort, scripts to go through and my breakfast to eat; I need a bit of peace before I start my day to get my head together.
If you arrive too early, go get a coffee somewhere and wait.
Whatever you do, DO NOT call me at 6.30am to say you’re outside when I'm not expecting you till 9am. I WILL still be in bed.
Yes, this really has happened.
4. Don't Be A Diva
Many years ago, I was directing a little indie film and cast an actor who was going to play a dual role; a doctor and a police officer.
He was an amazing actor and he had the perfect look!
But between takes he was the biggest dick ever.
He constantly complained that things were better on the Edward Norton film he'd just done (No shit! They had $20 million budget!), he insulted everyone on set and was rude and nasty to the point that he made the producer burst into tears.
We cancelled the next day's shoot and recast him.
If you're a diva in any way, shape or form, that indie director won't work with you again, no matter how talented you are.
Be nice to EVERYONE on set, because chances are that all of the crew are friends with the director and producer and they will tell them if you’re nasty and disrespectful.
That runner is just as important a part of the team as you are, so be friendly and polite!
5. Don't Method Act!
This is a controversial one.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for actors getting into character... But only for 10-15 minutes before they’re required.
This all depends on the director so if you're considering method acting, check with the director and get their opinion on it first.
I'll give you an example of method acting I've experienced and why it causes so many problems on set.
I'm sure the actor in question won't mind me recounting this story as I've worked with him many times since then!
He changed his ways and is now one of my go to leading men.
This actor was cast as a villain in a period fantasy film.
His character wanted revenge on the hero, by way of a savage sword fight.
When said actor turned up, I could tell something wasn’t right... He wasn't his usual happy-go-lucky self. He was in character, and he remained in character all day!
This cast a dark, depressive mood over the whole shoot.
Introducing your two lead actors and having some of the first words out of one of their mouths be, "I’m going to hate you today," doesn’t get you off to a good start.
It was made especially difficult when he disappeared off into the forest angrily, leaving me or one of my tiny crew to go and search for him before a take.
Not only was he not there to lend a hand when he wasn’t on camera, he delayed our shooting as well.
So for me, having a foul, angry person on set all day affects my crew and the rest of the cast in purely negative ways.
I try to keep my sets light-hearted but focused at the same time, creating a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.
This produces the best work, every time.
But by all means, if you need 10-15 minutes to get yourself into the zone before a take, just let the director know and he’ll figure out something else to shoot while you’re away.
If you can tell him this at the start of the shooting day when you’ll need some time, even better!
It helps us plan our day.
6. Promote, Promote, Promote!
It's hard enough making a film, let alone getting people to watch it.
Anything you can do to help promote it is always greatly appreciated.
Remember that it’s also in your best interest that the film gets as much visibility as possible.
Tweet it, Facebook it, contact websites and try and get local press attention; the director will be over the moon that you’re so enthusiastic.
Don't be afraid to suggest film festivals and screenings.
Do you have any friends or family that could help with this? Get them involved!
PRO TIP: Make sure you clear everything with the director or producer first. And don't post your behind the scenes pictures on Facebook without permission, it might give away the big final twist!
7. Stay In Touch
So you’ve been awesome and helpful on set, now make sure you stay in touch with the people you’ve impressed.
Make the effort to become friends with the cast and crew not just on Facebook, but in real life.
Get together, hang out and ring them up to see how they are with no ulterior motive.
The film-making world is really quite small and people talk; the best way to get on your next production is through a recommendation.
And that’s it!
I hope these hints and tips will be of some help to you.
Get out there and be lovely, helpful, invaluable teammates.
You might even make some lifelong friends.
Good luck with everything, I wish you every success!