Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day #2: How To Get 1,000 Casting Submissions

Great news! Late last night, I got an e-mail from Cheryl, our casting director, reporting that we had just received 1,000 casting submissions for Another Life. And hundreds more are pouring in!

I've never had this much success with a casting notice before. And to be honest, I think this is because of two reasons: I have a fantastic casting director and great loglines and character descriptions. Which leads me to my two next lessons...

Film Prep Lesson #3
Find a great casting director. And Cheryl is a dream to work with. She's had years of experience in the industry with tons of great connections. She came from acting, dancing, and choreography, so she knows all the pain and hard work that actors go through when it comes to auditions. What's great is she's willing to work with students like us because of her work with actors -- she's seen so many reels that are just a collection of "featured" roles of men in uniform on CSI or weeping mothers on SVU. And she's excited to help find talented rising stars who are hungry for the challenge of a full, meaty role!

And with a great cast and crew, I think we have a great shot at the big league film festivals. And what casting director doesn't want their film to win "Best Ensemble" at Sundance?

Film Prep Lesson #4
Spend far too much time crafting good loglines and character descriptions. I don't mean just scratching your chin, sipping a coffee, then giving it a good, college try and being done with it. I spent an entire weekend working only on the title. I spent a full week wrestling down a 14-page script and transforming it into one sentence -- just the first draft of the logline. Then I spent every free moment over the past month turning it into the best possible logline. You know you've done the hard work when you spend hours looking up just the right words in the thesaurus to describe a character. Then, you need to write slightly expanded version in just three sentences. And you start rummaging through the thesaurus again...

But to get it right, every logline has to have irony. A contradiction. Something you don't expect -- but you can believe. A family man settles down to become a police chief in small island town -- but then has to protect it from a killer shark. Believable, inevitable surprise.

Just as important, every logline falls into an archetypal pattern: a) a character who b) has a particular status quo, then c) has a sudden turn of events, and d) struggles to choose between change and her status quo, and then give a hint of e) a thrilling climax.

But most importantly, can you see your movie in that logline? What are the key scenes in your film? What are the moments that the audience will never forget when they leave the theater? Those moments have to be in your logline!

If you want to find a great logline to learn from, open up a TV Guide or go to any movie tickets site. They have to sum up a whole two hour movie in a few sentences and convince you to pay those $10 and get out of your house and (gasp!) away from your computer! That's a lot to pack into less than 30 words!

To see what's been working for us so well, check out our loglines and character breakdowns at our film's website:

But the daily grind goes on...

We had a great production meeting today with Jay, our cinematographer. Not only is an extremely talented and easy-to-get-along-with filmmaker, he has lots of connections to camera and equipment houses that are more than willing to cut him (and our film) a deal. We're so blessed!

But most of the meeting was logistics (and they should be! So we can be creative all week long!). Jay and the producers will be calling up equipment and camera houses to get more accurate quotes for prices on rentals so we can update the budget with real figures. Mitsuyo, one of our producers, has recently come back from a long out-of-town gig and is working hard on finding our locations. And all producers are putting their feelers out there for a 2nd AD, make-up and hair, stunt coordinator, prop master, and art assistants.

I'm meeting with two potential costume designers on Friday and Jill, the production designer, on Saturday. So I will be up late tonight finding, collecting, and organizing pictures of costumes, set design, and props.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I show you how I'm planning to woo a talented costume designer to join our crew with a limited budget!

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