Ready to Cast?
Here’s what you do:
1) Make a breakdown of all the talent you will need for the script, noting age ranges and other specific requirements, and write a 1-2 sentence description of each character.
2) Uses sites like Breakdown Express, NY Castings, Casting New York, and Mandy to post free casting notices. You’ll be able to see actors who are interested in auditioning, view their headshots and comp cards (an actor’s résumé), and book them an audition time.
If you are looking for actors ON-CAMPUS, you can e-mail CUFP (firstname.lastname@example.org) to put a notice on our site and in the listserv. You can also e-mail the Undergraduate Film Department’s Graduate Assistant, Alexeis Reyes, and get in contact with Columbia University Performing Arts League (CUPAL).
3) When posting a breakdown, be as specific about your production as possible. If you are not paying actors (like most student filmmakers), you are expected, at the least, to offer a copy of the film under “payment” or “compensation” and include free meals and cover their transportation. IMPORTANT: Make sure to specify online that this is a non-union audition. It is incredibly difficult as a student to cast SAG/AFTRA actors or obtain a waiver for them to work for free!!
4) Find a small 1-2 page scene from your script (or from another script, but which evokes similar character traits) for each part, and send these pages for the actors to prepare for their auditions (these pages are called “sides”). This is how to find out how well your prospective actors prepare for their roles.
5) When you hold the auditions, it is very important to have a camcorder on hand to record them — without this, it is very easy to forget the subtleties of their performances, and you may not realize that you missed something the first time. When holding them, have each actor read the scene once with someone to back them up as a reading partner (either you, one of your friends, or a PA for your film). Then generally you should ask them to read again and give them directions to approach the scene in a different way (either to test their limits by changing up how they should do it in a radical new way, or with subtle directions that point them more in the direction of what you want to see).
6) Make sure to let every actor know when you will be letting him or her know the results. Once you have made your decisions, make sure to notify every actor, regardless of the decisions.